Kristen Gusler’s business started with a dream.
“For as long as I can remember, I dreamed about opening my own business,” Gusler says. “I’ve always had a love for art and knew at a young age that I wanted to make it a career.”
That dream came true in 2009 when Gusler opened KG Graphics in Danville.
In searching for a career choice, Gusler chose graphic design. The Longwood University graduate had earned a degree in fine arts with a concentration in graphic design in 2007.
“Everyone needs graphics,” she explains.
Another dream, Dream Launch 2019 to be exact, connected Gusler to the Longwood Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
Kristen and her husband Ryan Gusler participated in the six-week entrepreneur boot camp program organized by the River District Association of Danville. During those six-weeks, local entrepreneurs created business plans and pitched their ideas in hopes of winning part of $75,000 in grant funding.
SBDC’s Western Regional Director Lin Hite taught the six-week course.
“We connected to SBDC that way,” Gusler says. “Before that I didn’t really grasp all the SBDC has to offer.”
Hite presented a different topic each week.
“We studied different aspects of business such as finance, marketing and social media,” Gusler notes. “There was a lot of emphasis on writing the business plan.”
It was a valuable learning experience for the Guslers who had never created a formal business plan.
“We did things backward,” Gusler says of their initial venture into the business world. “My husband and I knew what we wanted to do; we just never put it in writing. The plan we wrote for Dream Launch was an extension of what we were doing already.”
The Guslers learned their lessons well. KG Graphics, one of four Dream Launch winners, received a check for $15,000.
“We were able to expand our product line with the purchase of a wide format printer,” Gusler explains. “That opened a whole new division of revenue for us and allowed us to do work faster and in-house.”
Following the Dream Launch program, KG Graphics continued to work with SBDC.
“Lin Hite dropped in every now and then to see how we were doing and give us pointers,” Gusler notes.
When the business scene suddenly changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, KG Graphics continued a slower but steady rate of business. That allowed the Guslers to offer support to other nearby business owners.
“We introduced a T-shirt fundraiser with a different design each week,” Kristen comments. “Proceeds go to a local business selected by the person who buys each shirt. In four weeks we raised $3,000. We want other business owners to know that the community has their back.”
During these uncertain times Gusler is thankful to have SBDC backing her business.
“The advice we received from SBDC increased our business,” she concludes. “Now we know we can go to SBDC if we have questions. With everything that’s going on right now, that helps a lot. ”