Virginia’s small business owners

Published 7:48 pm Saturday, May 30, 2015

By Rep. Randy Forbes

From the shoemakers of Jamestown to the soda shops of mid-century Main Street to the tech startups and online clothing boutiques of today’s e-commerce community, American small businesses have been the backbone of our nation’s economy for centuries.

Today, more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business. Since the early 1990s, small businesses have created about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. annually. In whatever form they take, small businesses represent what is best about our nation.


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I recently asked constituents from Virginia’s Fourth District to share what they love about some of the small businesses in the Fourth District.

Most people recognized the valuable role these business owners play in strengthening our communities. They reminded us of values we can take from their business stories — reminders that small businesses fuel our nation in more ways than economics.

This week I share with you the faces and stories of just a few of Virginia’s small business owners and the inspiring lessons we can learn from their hard work and dedication.

Dream big, start small.

Tom Skordas immigrated to the United States from Greece in the 1960s in search of the American Dream. After numerous business ventures in the restaurant and hospitality sector, Tom opened Prince George Family BBQ in Prince George County.

Over the years, this family-owned and -operated restaurant and catering service has become a community favorite. Today, Tom’s restaurant employs 40 and has a second location in Chesterfield County. Tom’s story is a reminder of the importance of maintaining policies that support the fundamental principles of the American Dream.

Community starts when you focus on the individual.

Two years ago, Scott Newman decided to leave his job as a pharmacist at a national drugstore chain to open his own business. “I wanted to give each and every customer the very best personal care possible,” said Scott, “and I couldn’t do that where I was, since there was hardly ever the time to even look up from what I was doing.”

It wasn’t easy in the beginning, but, after two years, he is proud to be a small business owner and even more proud that it allows him to personally make a difference to people in the Chesapeake and beyond. Scott knows his customers by name. He knows their needs and can focus on providing them the best service possible.

Adversity carries seeds of opportunity.

Mary Schindel is a survivor in many ways. After her first bout with leukemia, she remained determined to start her own business. In the midst of adversity, she created “She Chester” boutique right in the heart of downtown Chester, which now employs 10.

Today, people who walk in She Chester say they feel right at home. Mary’s story as a cancer survivor has inspired her to become active in a number of cancer non-profit organizations, an encouragement to many who come into her shop each week.

It’s never too late to build a better life.

Rob Heare grew weary of the demands of a high paying corporate job in the insurance industry. It was taking a toll on his family life, and he felt his priorities were out of order. So Rob decided to leave the corporate world to become a small business owner.

Rob joined Ralph Thurston’s agency to co-found Thurston and Heare Insurance in Chesterfield. Their primary focus is auto, home, and life insurance, as well as business and church insurance. Members of the community praise Rob as an excellent leader and role model for families, and a reminder that it’s never too late to build a better life.

Small business owners bring incredible support to our local economies, but they play an integral part in our communities, too. Behind many business owners are stories of hard work, bold ideas and dreams to make better lives for their families and communities.

Our economy and our communities are healthy when small businesses are growing, thriving, innovating, and creating value and jobs. That is why I’ve made it a priority to support policies that empower small business to do what they do best.

Take a moment to simply say “thank you” to a small business owner in your neighborhood.

Congressman J. Randy Forbes represents Virginia’s Fourth District, which includes Suffolk, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Visit his website at