Longwood graduates in the school of education are entrepreneurial adventurers. Two former Longwood graduates, Kelley Bennett Frakes (class of 1989) and Jenney Bennett Walters (class of 1995) have taken the discipline applied to the classroom to buying property with two other women in Dinwiddie County in order to build a multi-purpose gym. The vision for this new fitness facility emphasizes cheerleading, gymnastics and dance for children and adults.
Kelley and Jenney had been conducting cheerleading training, competitions and activities in the Dinwiddie County schools when they saw the need for more space and an interest to expand their course offerings. In addition, they saw a need in dance and had an opportunity to partner with friends Jane and Jannabeth Mann to form Star Factory, LLC . By partnering with the Manns, this made the large project more affordable to all parties and the program offerings comprehensive. This multi use facility would be used by both businesses, Cheer Stars and Starlight Studios.
Diane Howerton, director, received a call from Mrs. Frakes based on a recommendation from their local banker, Mark Stevens, First Vice President from the Bank of McKenney. All four women were in the education field in some capacity, and had not had a need to develop a business plan, much less pro forma projections. This transaction was more intertwined than most because of the structure of the LLC which needed to be reflected in the cash flow projections. A key requirement from the bank was to see how the financial projections were going to be structured particularly with the operational expenses the responsibility of both businesses.
At the initial April meeting, everyone realized what needed to be done and did their fair share. There were several follow-up meetings, emails and lots of communication for two months. Comprehensive business plans for Cheer Stars and Starlight Studios were presented to the bank in June 2007 and the ground breaking ceremonies were held in late July. They were on their way and have had outstanding success in meeting the demand for training and acquiring more equipment.
Kelley Frakes commented, “It was a daunting task to try to relate what we wanted to do on paper. Diane Howerton made this project so much easier. It was still challenging, but it would have been almost impossible without her. She helped us birth our dream to reality.”