Small Businesses (May)

May 13, 2021 | Four Rivers Psychological Services | Dr. Patrice Berry

Woman standing in front of brick building.Dr. Patrice Berry has been serving Fredericksburg families for over a decade. Her passion for mental health stemmed from her own experiences in middle school, which led her to pursuing a career as a psychologist. In addition to owning Four Rivers Psychological Services, Dr. Berry brings her colorful and fun personality to social media, to help showcase the importance of therapy and de-stigmatize mental health. We had the opportunity to interview Dr. Berry about her dedication to serving the community, her experience starting her own practice, and why mental health is no different from your physical well-being.

What made you decide to become a psychologist?

Dr. Berry:  I had a bad experience in middle school with a guidance counselor, before that I actually wanted to be an accountant! After that experience I realized that I wanted to help people, give them a safe space to talk about what’s going on, not judge them, and have them feel heard. 

What made you take the extra step to starting your own practice?

Dr. Berry:  I used to run a school-based therapy program in Spotsylvania County Schools. With the schools closing this past March, I was no longer needed. I was already planning to launch my business because there were changes in Medicaid programming, and financially I knew a change was coming. In March, my student loans were placed on hold and it was the perfect time to launch my own business! 

What is the meaning behind ‘Four Rivers’?

Dr. Berry: Four Rivers Psychological services came out of a name that my mom had started. My mom has a business, Four Rivers Consultants, and when I was thinking of a practice name in the midst of planning everything else, Four Rivers represented the four different services I offer: psychological testing, therapy, coaching, and speaking. 

There is a big stigma around people who go to therapy. Can you talk about the different clients you serve?

Dr. Berry: Since launching my own practice and being able to market myself, I really had an increase in marginalized groups, working with people of color, and working with more adults. I used to work a lot more with kids and teenagers, but with only doing services online, it’s a bit easier to work with adults. I work with people who have been through a lot, I’ve worked with foster care, and with adoption. I am an adoption-competent therapist and I work with people that have been adopted throughout their lifespan. I also work a lot with people who have anxiety and depression. I really wish people didn’t stigmatize mental health and just viewed it like going to your medical checkup. Nobody looks at you silly when you go in for your annual medical evaluation, but if somebody goes to therapy they think, “Why are you in therapy?” The mental and physical health are connected. There are certain mental health conditions that cause an increase in physical symptoms or physical symptoms that can affect our mental health. Being able to provide a safe space for people is really important to me. 

Speaking of de-stigmatizing, you have an AMAZING social media presence that helps normalize mental health!

Dr. Berry: A client of mine recommended back in September that I join TikTok! I was already on Instagram and YouTube, but I hadn’t gotten into TikTok yet. Being able to normalize mental health in a way that organically reaches so many people is incredible. I answer people’s general questions, but I make it fun and I dance a little! 

Can you talk about the podcast you do with your mother?

Dr. Berry: I have a podcast called Legacy Moments with my mom. We have authentic conversations all the time on my drives home from work. I wanted to start a podcast, but I wasn’t ready to invite random people on it just yet. I trust her and we have a really good relationship. She has over 50 years of business experience and we are able to just talk and it ends up being really fun. The goal is to start conversations that people can then have with their family, and model a healthy mother-daughter relationship, because not everybody has that.

How can therapy be beneficial in someone’s life?

Dr. Berry: Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I will share that therapy was very helpful for me. Any good therapist has done their own therapy. It gives you a space to talk with somebody that doesn’t have an agenda. When you talk to your family, they may tell you what you want to hear or what you don’t want to hear, but when it comes from a stranger, it just feels a little bit different. To have a safe and validating space is so important. 

You’ve been servicing the Fredericksburg area since 2009. What do you find most rewarding about helping this community for over a decade?

Dr. Berry: The Fredericksburg community is so diverse! There are rural parts, suburban, and the city, there’s so much in this one area. The people are so welcoming and I’ve really enjoyed serving the military population and all the different people I’ve gotten to meet in the past 10 years!

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May 24, 2021 | Outlaw Enterprises | Rashida Outlaw

Woman standing in parking lot.Rashida Outlaw has spent the last 15+ years giving back to others through her role as a teacher. Now, she wants to give back to small businesses and sustain a company that will create lasting change for future generations. We had the opportunity to interview Rashida about her shift to becoming a business owner in Fredericksburg, her time in the Peace Corps, and the importance of supporting other small businesses in your community.

For the last 15 years you worked in education, what made you decide to become a business owner?

Rashida: When you sit back and you create a vision for your life, remaining in that same position may not be the path to fulfilling that vision. My whole mindset shifted in terms of money and how to acquire wealth. Up until that point, I had this idea about working, moving up the ladder, and increasing your salary. I started reading things that challenged this notion, and the best thing I read that disrupted my thinking about “the rat race” was a CNBC article from 2019 that was titled, “How to Turn 100 Dollars into a Million Dollars” and I thought, “this is something worth looking at!” I was exploring this possibility of acquiring existing businesses, but I got another idea to build a business from scratch. I thought this was more exciting than walking into somebody else’s dream and instead I wanted to be there from the beginning. I would like to acquire wealth not so I can live lavishly, but so I can pass it on to future generations. I want to be someone who can endow an institution or a charity. Right now as a school teacher, the most I can do is give a quarterly donation, but I want to be able to do something more substantial. People like Mackenzie Scott and Reed Hastings donated massive amounts of money to historically Black universities, and I would love to be able to do something like that. I want to leave a legacy behind. 

When did you start Outlaw Enterprises? Can you talk a little bit about what services the business offers?

Rashida: I formed the business entity almost a year ago and I did it through the Small Business Development Center Office based out of the University of Mary Washington. My original intention was to acquire a home care franchise through Outlaw Enterprises, but for a number of reasons such as funding and COVID, it fell through. I decided to repurpose Outlaw Enterprise to offer merchant services. We offer personalized and competitive merchant processing solutions, more than what a lot of our Fredericksburg businesses are experiencing. Many businesses go for the easiest options that get them started the fastest, like Square or PayPal. However, there is an instability that comes with partnering with options like that. We partner with all sorts of merchant banks and are able to lower the card processing rates that businesses have to pay. 

Your business emphasizes the importance of supporting other small businesses. Can you talk about why that’s so important, especially in the Fredericksburg community?

Rashida: I lived outside of the country for 10 years and when I came back, I was very specific about the area I chose to live in. You can go to a big city very easily and live that urbanite life, but deep down inside I know that’s not me. I prefer smaller towns and a slower-paced life. I really love supporting small businesses because they offer services that you cannot get from mainstream corporate stores. I see small business owners as working people and I feel I have an obligation to support them. It’s why when the Fredericksburg farmer’s market opens, I go every Saturday because I know they’re working hard, they’re trying to be self-sufficient, so I want to do my part to support them! Small businesses really are the backbone of our country.

You spent two years in the Peace Corps in Bangladesh. What did that experience teach you?

Rashida: It taught me so much about people, culture, and working with others. The biggest thing is learning to not be what I call America-centric, where you only think about your own country and people. It showed me to broaden my perspective and see things from other people’s perspectives. One of the goals of the Peace Corps is that you understand the country you’re working with, and they understand you. I have taken that with me wherever I go.

You are a relatively new business, so what do you hope to see for Outlaw Enterprises in the future?

Rashida: I hope that this business is known throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, while still being based in Fredericksburg. I like the idea of being able to promote Virginia businesses. I’d like to be well-known in Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and some of the other surrounding states. I would like to be able to have those connections that extend beyond Fredericksburg. I’d like to still be a small business but be able to expand what I have to offer to different markets. I love that idea!

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May 25, 2021 | SUP Yoga Virginia | Kolbie Rosser

Women doing paddle board yoga on river with bridge in background.When Kolbie Rosser graduated high school, she had no idea what would come next. She knew she loved paddle boarding, she loved yoga, and she loved adventures. After teaching a trial run of a SUP Yoga class on the Rappahannock River, she decided to turn her passion for SUP Yoga and the outdoors into a business, SUP Yoga Virginia. Seven seasons in, we had the opportunity to interview Kolbie at City Dock and learn about her inspirations, business journey, and plans for the future.

Which came first, your passion for paddle boarding or your passion for yoga?

Kolbie: My passion for paddle boarding definitely came first. The first time I went out I was 12 years old, my grandparents took me to the beach, and ever since then I’ve been in love with it! I got into yoga around the end of my junior year in high school as another form of exercise to get into, but it turned into so much more than that. After I graduated high school, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, so I got my yoga certification. I work at Dragonfly Yoga Studio on Caroline Street with Anne Kemp, and she’s amazing, she’s very supportive of SUP Yoga Virginia!

SUP Yoga is a relatively new practice, how did you get into it?

Kolbie: I had my own board when I was 18 and I was looking for another way to challenge myself physically and mentally with yoga, so I started doing some yoga poses out here on the Rappahannock River. I had seen a few people around the world doing SUP Yoga, so I thought I’d give it a shot and figured I could teach it. I started with some trial run students one summer and it went great! I started six years ago and this is my seventh season teaching it. Six years ago, no one in the area was really doing it and we all thought it was going to be a yoga fad. A lot of people gave it a shot and now they’re hooked! 

When you graduated high school you said you had no idea what you wanted to do next. Did you ever think that one day you would be a business owner?

Kolbie: In high school I thought it would be so cool to have my own paddle board business with my own fleet of boards, but it seemed like a wild dream that was unreachable because it’s expensive and requires a lot of external factors. I slowly started working towards it and over the years it’s just kind of come together!

What would you say is the most challenging part about your job?

Kolbie: The most challenging part for me over the past couple years is running the back end of the business. I love getting out on the water, doing yoga, and meeting people. Everyone is amazing and we have such a good time, but the challenging part is sitting down and scheduling people, paying bills, and working out the logistics.

What services does SUP Yoga Virginia offer and what skill sets do you cater to?

Kolbie: We take out everybody of all ages! The youngest that I’ve brought out was six years old all the way up to people who are retired and looking for something new and fun to do! I bring out all levels, people who have never paddle boarded before and people who have done it for years. Everybody is very welcoming to all levels! We do simple lessons on just paddle boarding, we do yoga on the boards, and throughout the summer we do free paddle meet-ups and enjoy the river with other people!

Who is your biggest inspiration?

Kolbie: I don’t have a specific person, but over the past year as a younger business owner, it’s the group of younger people who don’t necessarily have it figured out and they’re just following their dreams bit by bit and doing the best they can. They have gone down a different path than what everyone else is doing. They’re not just doing things that they think they should be doing, they’re doing things that make them feel alive and following their passions!

Since it’s National Small Business Month and you’re a one woman show, what would you like to see for SUP Yoga Virginia in the future?

Kolbie: I want to continue to grow this community of people and get more people out here to try new things. I personally travel all the time, I have this van that I travel around the country in, I’m building it out myself right now, but my plan is to bring people with me on these adventures. I’ve done a few trips to Virginia Beach, but my first out of state trip in Wrightsville, North Carolina will be in September. A group of people from this community here are coming with me to paddle, do yoga, and spend the weekend there. My goal is to continue doing this here, but also giving other people, who otherwise might not have done so on their own, opportunities to come out and travel with me around the country.

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March 26, 2021 | Mondays | Ashley and Carmelo Sanchez

Couple standing on city street.Mondays, the plant studio and garden center that’s closed on Mondays, is Caroline Street’s newest addition. Ashley and Carmelo Sanchez opened up shop this month with a modern twist on the traditional house plant store. We had the opportunity to interview Ashley and Carmelo in their stunning space about their tips for new plant parents, their passion for design, and their business partnership.

Where did your passion for house plants and gardening come from?

Ashley: That started with me when somebody gave me a clipping of a Pothos! I watched it root in the cup and then I took it home and planted it in dirt and named it Petunia. Next thing I know, our house is full of plants! It just kept growing from there. 

What made you decide to take that love for plants and turn it into a business?

Carmelo: Ashley started selling plants online to locals, but when COVID-19 happened and our kids started online learning, we started looking for a storefront. We were driving down Caroline Street one day and saw this building for rent! We were nervous though, we didn’t know if we wanted to move forward or not. As a family, that was never really in our plans to be business owners.

What pushed you to move forward?

Ashley: I was the push behind it. I thought, “We won’t know how this will be unless we try. Let’s go for it!” 

Why did you choose downtown Fredericksburg for your business?

Carmelo: We knew we wanted the foot traffic of downtown and the college nearby. Downtown needed something more modern. We are a mom and pop owned place, just a younger mom and pop! I thought our store may be a culture shock to downtown, but we were hoping it would be a positive culture shock, and I think that’s what this has become! 

What is the meaning behind the name, ‘Mondays’?

Carmelo: We visit all the plant shops in Virginia and out of state to figure out the good and bad things as customers. I kept noticing a lot of them were open seven days a week like regular retail. When we go out of town it’s usually a Sunday, and one day when we were driving home I thought, “Let’s name it ‘Mondays’ and we’ll be closed on Mondays!” Our hours are limited to remain exclusive. We know that most Millennials are at work between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm and they enjoy boutique shopping, so on Saturdays we make sure we’re open nine hours, 11:00 am to 8:00 pm. It’s a huge day, we always have t-shirts, new plants to purchase, and a new project release that we’ve been working on! 

This is a beautifully unique space! What’s the thought process that went into designing the store?

Carmelo: I’m in real estate myself, so I’ve always been into home design and decor, but mostly I love art. Ashley has the decor mindset so we collaborate with what art we can incorporate and what colors we put up. We just decided to model this after our house: industrial and modern! 

Who would you say your biggest inspirations are?

Carmelo: It depends what field we’re discussing. In terms of fashion and marketing, I love Chinatown Market because they do everything in-house, which means they can release a capsule of clothing within a day. I also enjoy the simplicity and design of Supreme- they only release things on Thursday mornings and then they’re closed for 3 months. A lot of that mindset came into this. I also love to look at a lot of locals who are minimal with their design and love black and white photographs.

Ashley: I love Pinterest! I created a whole house board on Pinterest that these ideas came from. I get my inspiration from browsing and looking at certain things that I end up falling in love with. 

Do you feel like you make a good business partnership together?

Carmelo: Oh yes! I learned the legal aspects of business and Ashley is more of the “people person.” I help with the foundation of the business, but she keeps it going! It works really well and it came about very naturally. 

When people went into quarantine, so many people got into having house plants. What tips would you give new house plant parents?

Ashley: Be patient with them. Some people smother their plants, which is ok, but some plants don’t like that. Love your plants, talk to them, pay attention to them and they will speak to you and tell you what they want! Don’t get discouraged by them. Some of them will die or their leaves will die, it happens! Not every leaf will be perfect on a plant and you can just snip it off and keep it growing. 

What is your favorite plant?

Ashley: I love Pothos because that’s what I started with and they’re so forgiving. They grow to be super long!

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March 28, 2021 | DSS Inc | Sarah Degen

Woman standing behind counter holding sign.DSS has been a part of the Fredericksburg community for over 30 years. They’re a family business that is now run by third-generation family member, Sarah Degen. What began as a surveying and drafting supply company in 1971 has evolved overtime to providing digital graphics, signs, awnings, and more! We had the opportunity to interview Sarah about her journey to owning the business, the evolutions of DSS, and what she enjoys most about her business and the community.

DSS is a third generation family business, correct? 

Sarah: That’s true! My grandfather was a partner with some other gentlemen back in 1971 when it started. My father got in in the 1980s and bought everyone out and I started to take over in 2011. 

What is the origin story of the business? 

Sarah: Oh, well here’s my dad [Mike Degen]! Dad, can you tell the business origin story? 

Mike: The company was started in 1971 with my father, my uncle, and a few other partners. It was mainly a surveying supply company with some drafting supplies, but in the mid-80s we added blueprinting when I took over. Now we’ve moved to more digital and more signage but we still do the drafting and surveying. We’re just so much added things as opposed to taking things away. We currently have two locations: one here and one in Fairfax. 

Where did you go to school?

Sarah: I went to George Mason in Fairfax and I got my bachelors degree in Psychology there, then I came home and decided to get my MBA at University of Mary Washington.

When you were growing did you know that eventually you wanted to be working here?

Sarah: I have been working at DSS since I was five years old- I would go around picking staples and rubber bands off the floors! Growing up and working here actually funded my college education, but I really didn’t think this was the direction I would go. I was working in our Fairfax location when I was at George Mason and I just gave it a shot. I thought, “I want to grow this into something different!” We were kind of stagnant when I started, I could see that blueprinting and surveying was going away and I knew we had to do something new. That’s where the digital graphics and signage arena came in.

We started out with the big flatbed printer that I bought from Canon. I got into the real estate arena that way, I did lots of banners, but I was really limited. I ended up meeting an individual about helping me put up a banner and he just asked me, “I know this is going to sound really weird, but would you be interested in buying an electrical sign company?” I said, “Okay! Why not?” That’s how we purchased Beacon Signs.

Was there a big learning curve in adding signage to DSS?

Sarah: You have to learn design and how to take in an idea that someone has in their head and bring it to life. You need to understand how construction works, you have to do permitting, installation, and you need to know what the building is made of to make sure that it will be structurally sound. There’s a lot that goes into signage that most people don’t think about and I didn’t know until I got into it. The skillset is extensive and the learning curve is high, but I love it! I love starting an idea in my head, putting it on paper, and having the customer be happy with the finished product. Because when the sign is finished, then their business can start! You know there’s a saying, “A business with no sign is a sign of no business!” 

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

Sarah: Something happened yesterday that was really illuminating. A gentleman called me about a project he was working on for his mental health. He is a veteran who suffers from PTSD and struggles most days. It helps him to look at his accomplishments to know that he has done good in the world, so when days are really hard he wants something to look at so he can feel better. He told me what he wanted and let me do my thing. I got him the proof the next day and he called me to tell me that I blew him away and he thinks it’s really going to help him a lot in his journey to happiness. That doesn’t happen very often in the sign industry, most people aren’t really moved by signs, but to have someone tell me that I changed their world, that was amazing. 

What do you enjoy most about Fredericksburg as a community, now that DSS has been here for 30+ years? 

Sarah: Fredericksburg is home for me. I can’t go out without seeing someone I know, which is sometimes a good thing! This place is comforting to me and the people are very kind. 

Because it’s National Small Business Month, and your business helps service  the small businesses of Fredericksburg, can you talk about why you think it’s important to shop small and support local?

Sarah: Supporting small businesses is important because you’re not giving a CEO that makes millions of dollars more money. You’re helping fund family soccer tournaments and helping families grow. I don’t have any children, but I always see it that way. Each person who owns a small business is trying to become successful in their own way. I’ll put it this way: I’m a small guy, so I want to help other small guys.

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May 30, 2021 | Premier Eyecare | Dr. Angela Tsai Robson

Woman and man standing in front of building.Premier Eyecare has been serving the Fredericksburg region since 1945. Dr. Angela Tsai Robson has been the current owner of the practice for the past seven years. Her passion for ocular disease, pediatrics, and technological advancement has pushed the optometrist practice to keep up with the 21st century. We had the opportunity to interview Angela about her passion for business and leadership, what excites her about optometry, and her love of skydiving!

What made you decide to become an optometrist?

Dr. Tsai Robson: I was actually working at my optometry school in the binocular vision and pediatric clinic in undergrad and I loved it so much! After undergrad I did an early acceptance program to Indiana University and went to optometry school there. I love it! I’ve been doing optometry for 15 years here in Virginia.

Did you enjoy going to the optometrist as a child?

Dr. Tsai Robson: Optometry is a little different now than what it used to be. When you’re younger you don’t really know what to expect, but my optometrist was very friendly, they were actually a family friend. It was just like going to the dentist for me, you went because you had to. There’s a lot more technology and advancements now that make it really friendly.

How did you become the successor to Premier Eye?

Dr. Tsai Robson: My brother actually introduced me to Dr. Smart who was working here before with Dr. Powell. Premier Eyecare is a well established practice that’s been here since 1945. They were looking for the next person to come in and buy into the practice and then eventually purchase the entire practice. I came in 2006, became partners in 2009, and then I bought the rest of the practice in 2014 after Dr. Powell’s retirement. My big passion is making sure we’re up to date with the 21st century and I love pediatrics, binocular vision, and ocular disease. 

What about this field most excites you? 

Dr. Tsai Robson: The field of optometry is always changing. If you look at where it is compared to where it was 20 years ago, it’s very different. Before it was just, “Can you see with glasses? Can you see with contacts?” Now, we can figure out why patients have things like dry eye and treat it appropriately. The technology we have now is much different so we can treat diseases more quickly as opposed to just giving someone glasses. 

I’m also very passionate about visual therapy. If you have a child that has a lazy eye or decreased vision, then we’ll rehabilitate those people, and we also do it for traumatic brain injuries, stroke victims, and concussions patients. It’s rewarding to see if they have tracking and focusing issues then see therapy resolve it. 

What do you find most rewarding about your profession?

Dr. Tsai Robson: Giving sight is instant gratification! Once you get done with visual therapy or you get your glasses or contact lenses, people can see. There are many cases where people didn’t know they had any issues, then when we do their dilation or their photos, we find that they have a cancer in the back of the eye that requires treatment, or there’s a bleed that would have caused them to lose their sight. So you can treat it really quickly and make sure they don’t lose their vision or pass away from something they didn’t even know they had.

You are an active member of a lot of organizations like The Chamber of Commerce and the Next Generation of Business Leaders. Did you always know you wanted to have your own practice and be a business owner?

Dr. Tsai Robson: I am better as an employer and not an employee, because I like to formulate ideas and see if they work. I love to be on the leadership side, so that’s where I like being part of the community and with business affiliates. Being a woman in business is also huge because it’s really changed throughout the decades where it used to be a man’s world. Women are now rising in the industry and rising as business owners, so I like being able to elevate that for our profession.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Dr. Tsai Robson: I love anything that gives me adrenaline so I’ve gone skydiving quite a few times. I go in Orange County and Warrenton. I was trying to get my pilot’s license for quite a few years and I was putting my hours in before COVID happened. Eventually I want to get back into it because I love adrenaline. When you’re in the sky, you feel like a bird!

Can you talk about the other community service work you do in Fredericksburg?

Dr. Tsai Robson: The biggest one we do is The Chamber of Commerce because they bring businesses together and it’s the fighting force for policies needed in the Fredericksburg area. We usually try to sponsor the Chamber of Commerce Galas well. We do a lot of the Lion’s Club evaluations and examinations, and we’re also a drop off center for all glasses! 

What do you enjoy most about Fredericksburg?

Dr. Tsai Robson: I am from a little town in Indiana, so when I came to Virginia I was looking for something that felt like home where people are friendly, and that’s what drew me to Fredericksburg. Fredericksburg is unique because it has its history but it’s always evolving. People are very friendly here and care about each other. Businesses want to elevate other businesses. Everybody knows everybody here, which is really great because I’ve met a lot of my friends from some of my patients. Being in Fredericksburg lets me grow with my patients. Some of them have been coming here since they were 5 years old and now they’re going into college!