Geoff Hunt and Barb White are former schoolteachers who teamed up to open Bottleworks, a wine and craft beer shop in the Stony Point Shopping Center off Huguenot Road that caters to customers who love specialty, craft beverages.
They put a lot of planning into the business, meeting with SCORE mentor John Anderson to develop a business plan well before the store opened.
“We did not want to do this halfway,” White said. “We wanted to have a plan — that was the teacher in us.”
“We did a lot of research and visited other (stores) around the state,” Hunt said.
Hunt had some experience working in retail, but White had none. SCORE mentoring “really helped us with the logistics,” Hunt said.
“When we needed something done, John would point us in the right direction,” White said.
Their store opened in July 2016. No amount of planning, however, could prepare them for the crisis that hit next.
Two weeks after the store opened, White was diagnosed with lymphoma. She had to undergo six months of regular, intensive treatment at VCU Medical Center.
“When you are starting up a new business, it is hard enough,” she said. “I was basically taken out of the picture.”
At the time, they had no other employees, so Hunt worked at the store every day, and White assisted whenever she could. Technology helped, as the business partners were able to use Google Docs and other tools to do planning when she was in treatment.
White is now in remission. “I am doing well,” she said. To manage a small business during a health crisis, “you just have to work well together,” she said. “It takes a lot of communication.”
The store has gained a solid customer base, Hunt and White said. The choice of location was key. “We wanted to be a neighborhood type shop,” White said.
While it was initially planned as primarily a craft beer store, Hunt and White have expanded their wine offerings. They now sell about 600 beer brands and about 350 wines. Hunt said they have learned the importance of “buying smart.”
“It is a constant learning process,” White said.