Josh Blancas, founder of The Ground Floor Coffee ShopHow do you switch industries, move to another state and open a coffee shop in the midst of a pandemic? Former Houston Exxon executive can tell you — he did just that. To get his business off the ground, Josh wisely made the Martinsville office of the Longwood SBDC one of his first stops.

Today The Ground Floor Coffee Shop in Uptown Martinsville is a centerpiece for revitalization in the district. It has also achieved an important goal for Josh and his wife, Morgan. Bold block letters above the shop’s comfortable seating area state it simply: “Come as you are.”

“The aim is to create an environment where everyone’s welcome,” Josh says. “During the pandemic I reevaluated my life and decided to start a business that would make a difference.”

Making that difference would require knowledge and know-how. Fortunately the SBDC was there to help.

“I was introduced to SBDC Business Analyst Michael Scales,” Josh recalls. “He spent many months helping me write a business plan that was key to getting our funding.”

With funding secured, renovations began. The future coffee shop’s building, constructed in 1914 and owned by a friend, featured original hardwood floors and a vintage tin ceiling.

“We still did quite a few renovations,” Josh relates.

Renovations are also currently in progress in many areas of Uptown Martinsville.

Josh Blancas and SBDC Business Analyst Michael Scales“The upper floors of Josh’s building are filling up with apartments, as are other buildings in town,” Michael Scales says. “In three to five years the foot traffic for successful business will be here.”

“It’s an exciting time,” Josh adds. “A key motivating factor for us is the amount of hope we have for Martinsville’s future.”

Looking to that future, The Ground Floor is moving into the food service business. At Michael’s suggestion, Josh enrolled in the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce Grow Program that includes a four-week boot camp for growing companies.

“It’s a program for established businesses to introduce a need that will help grow their business,” Josh notes. “We’re requesting $9,000 to expand our kitchen, currently the size of a walk-in closet, for our food service plan.”

Josh looked to the SBDC before proceeding with his expansion plans.

“The SBDC taught me not to mix passion with feasibility,” he adds.

“The numbers and projections we made when the coffee shop opened are very close to the numbers now,” Michael explains. “Adding food service at the coffee shop will multiply those projections.”

Josh firmly believes that The Ground Floor’s future growth and success are a direct result of his relationship with the SBDC.

“I absolutely would recommend SBDC,” he concludes. “As a first-time entrepreneur, there are lots of times you just don’t know what to do. Having someone like the SBDC on your side can make all the difference.”