Sarah RoddenThe Lizzy Lou Boutique in Danville’s River District started with a plan Sarah Rodden made while she was a student at Virginia Tech.

“I was taking a small business class my last semester, and we had to write a business plan for opening a small store front,” Rodden says.

Rodden, who graduated with a degree in communications and apparel product development, remembered that plan after she graduated when she realized how hard it was to find a job.

Rodden started small with an online boutique she operated from home on nights and weekends.

“I did a few trunk shows, and my customer base grew,” she adds.

In 2015 Rodden opened her storefront on Main Street in Danville.

“The building was an empty shell — I put up the racks and lighting and planned the layout,” she said. “I still sell online, but most of my business is in-store. I’ve found that customers prefer to touch and feel — and try things on.”

From the start Rodden’s goal was to bring the latest style in women’s apparel and accessories to Danville at an affordable price.

Her business plan is working well.

“My business grows every year,” she said. “It keeps getting better and better — I have two part-time employees now. The River District Association has also helped our downtown. Just in the last two years since I’ve been here, it’s grown tremendously.”

It was through the River District Association that Rodden made a connection with Lin Hite and Marc Willson from the Longwood Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Danville.

The Association recently contacted SBDC to work with downtown merchants in Danville.

“We each got an hour to spend with Lin and Marc and bounce ideas off them,” Rodden added.

The small business consultants have been back several times to meet with Rodden, discussing marketing strategies and even social media marketing.

“It has all been helpful,” says Rodden.

Rodden also sees a strong downtown association as a definite plus.

“It helps when we all work together,” she noted. “If all the stores decide to stay open at night, for instance, downtown becomes more of a shopping destination. We try to emphasize the shop local aspect.”

Customers, Rodden found, appreciate the individual attention a small business can provide.

“The people I meet in my store make this job fun — I have amazing employees and customers,” Rodden says.  “I’m glad I took a chance and opened my business in Danville. I feel blessed to have this opportunity.”