RevUp ShenCo kickoff draws county-wide interest

WOODSTOCK – About 25 men and women who own or manage businesses in Shenandoah County came to hear Dr. Vincent Magnini, a professor at Virginia Tech and veteran of the hospitality business, deliver tips and tricks for interacting with customers.

“We were very pleased with how the event went this evening,” said Michelle Bixler, Strasburg’s economic development and marketing manager. “We were pleased with the turnout and the interaction, and we can’t wait to see what comes of it.”

Magnini stressed the importance of surprising customers to keep their full attention. The interactive workshop included breakout sessions where Magnini asked groups to come up with creative ways to surprise customers at their restaurant for $3 or less.

Creativity was key for Magnini, who stressed the importance of not only being creative as a business owner but expecting creativity from employees.

“You all are passionate about what you do, or else you wouldn’t be here at 5:30 p.m. on a Wednesday,” Magnini told his audience. “But when you go in the back to place an order, does the person interacting with your customer know how to surprise the customer?”

The Department of Housing and Community Development and Magnini have presented this workshop, Creating Memorable Experiences Downtown, all over the state.

Despite the name, the lessons are applicable for businesses without a storefront.

Jeanne Russell, the owner of Shenandoah Wine Tours, was among those attending.

“I thought it was really helpful and maybe more helpful than I thought it would be,” Russell said. “It said downtown businesses, and of course we don’t have a storefront, so I wasn’t sure how the focus would be. But I learned a lot.”

Wednesday’s training was just a taste of the types of training business owners who decide to take part in this year’s RevUp ShenCo competition will have access to. Last year, winners received $20,000 to help implement new marketing plans. This year’s focus will drill into digital marketing specifically.

Susan Haynes owns Clementine Vintage and is the co-owner of Skyline Paintball. She said she enjoyed Wednesday’s training and appreciates the opportunities Shenandoah County gives small businesses.

“Anytime the county has offered any kind of help with marketing and small business-related subjects, I always make it a point to come,” she said.

Haynes is a veteran small business owner who said she learned a lot from the workshop.

“Things like this help me to refocus and get motivated and stay on track,” Haynes said. “I really liked when he was talking about how to make a positive out of a negative experience. When you’re dealing with customers, that is something you do face from time to time.”

Both Russell and Haynes competed in last year’s RevUp Marketing competition, and both say they plan to compete again this year.

Bixler said Wednesday’s training session drew attention to RevUp ShenCo and most of the businesses present planned to participate in the competition.

“People were glad they participated,” Bixler said, “and they are looking forward to the next training coming up.”