Sea Suite Cruises’ Naptown Tiki Club is a tiki boat bar that sails from from Nautilus Point Marina in Annapolis. (Sea Suite Cruises photo)

‘More than 100 members’

DRIPBaR, Crofton

When Katrina James and fiance Darryl Clausell opted out of corporate life to start a business, they bought a franchise that weds their mutual interest in wellness ― and it’s already proving to be a healthy growth opportunity.

They invested $500,000 in DRIPBaR to offer their burgeoning clientele a preventive approach to health via cellular-level advances in IV vitamin therapy. If you’re not very familiar with that concept, you’re not alone.

While “its popular in the west and the south, it’s new to the east coast,” said James. “There are other area infusion centers, but most are run by local doctors or nurse practitioners. We’re the company’s first operator in Maryland.”

Most drips cost $199, but can be 50% off on the initial visit; also, DRIPBaR members receive a discount. James said this approach is “good for people who have gastrointestinal tract issues, because they can easily absorb the vitamins this way, as well as for general wellness.”

Today, there are 50 DRIPBaRs in the U.S. “with 200 more in development,” she said, adding that the Crofton location “already has more than 100 members and is among the company’s top franchises.” What’s next for the duo? A location in Annapolis.

‘1,000 clients came through my doors’

Board & Brush, Columbia

Another local businessperson going the franchise route is Diane DeSantis, owner/operator of Broad & Brush, a do-it-yourself sign workshop in Columbia Gateway Plaza. She opened the business in 2019 with a franchise fee of $25,000.

The “paint-and-sip” operation can host up to 36 creators during its three-hour workshops, where they learn to make wooden signs and other home décor. Workshops for bigger signs range from $73-$78, while mini-sign classes run $35-$38. Corporate events, holiday parties and events for kids are also part of the mix.

However, since she opened in 2019, COVID-19 altered her approach. “I had been selling out every workshop, but then we closed for three months. When we reopened, we held outdoor events; when we came back indoors, about 1,000 clients came through my doors and no one got sick,” DeSantis said, noting that she garnered Paycheck Protection Program loans that totaled “about $5,500.”

Having been consistently busy since last fall, the pandemic also inspired new ways to operate: DeSantis now offers Broad & Brush Brought to You and sets up at retirement homes, community centers, schools, bars, etc., and also reaches out to the nonprofit community.

‘7,400% increase in revenue’

Sea Suite Cruises, Washington

When Jack Maher and Jack Walten cofounded Sea Suite Cruises in 2018 by investing $150,000 for one cycle boat, their idea was to get established in the Nation’s Capital, then cast their eyes toward Richmond, Va., Annapolis and Baltimore.

While the pandemic halted progress, it wasn’t for as long. “Once we reopened in June 2020, we did extremely well because people could go boating safely,” said Maher. “In fact, I think it sparked renewed interest the industry.”

That benefit has been so great that Maher, then a consultant at Deloitte; and Walten, who worked at a marketing analytics firm, quit their day jobs and went all-in on Sea Suite in January 2021. Today, the fleet is 10 boats, with one at Nautilus Point Marina, in Annapolis (for 8-16 people, $45-$55); and another at Baltimore’s Harborview Marina, on Key Highway (8-20, $39-$54).

While both just opened, Maher said the two locations “are already getting booked for the summer,” as are the now three locations in D.C. and one at Richmond’s Rocketts Landing. With the duo’s total investment now standing at “$1 million” and having achieved a “7,400% increase in revenue,” Maher said he and Walten are “expecting 2023 revenues to hit $2.6 million.” 

‘Better than ever’

Xanadu Botanicals & Design, Savage Mill/Laurel

Ginger Harwerth, the owner of Xanadu Botanicals & Design, had a good problem during COVID-19: after the company outgrew its warehouse in Laurel four years ago, it also had to lease a larger studio space and moved in at Savage Mill.

The company, which creates interior landscaping with live plants, has been in business for 35 years and has clients throughout the Baltimore-Washington region. They’re mostly corporations, such as Corporate Office Properties Trust, CBRE and Marriott, as well as management, office, residential and retail concerns.

Despite the move to Savage Mill, “We did lose business during the pandemic and received PPP loans,” said Harwerth, “but found that during that time many people fell in love with plants. That boosted our bottom line and now we’re better than ever.”

That’s also due to embracing a trend about five years ago called Moss Wall Art. “We cover walls with moss designs; our biggest is 192 square feet,” she said. “It’s a large part of our business. We’ve gotten a reputation for it and even offer workshops” on the subject.

Today, Xanadu is gearing up for spring and is “looking forward to the holiday season, which accounts,” Harwerth said, “for about 30% of our business.”

Program under new aegis

TEDCO’s Def/Tech, Columbia

Kim Mozingo knows the frustration of running a successful government program that suddenly loses its funding. Happily, she can also speak of the satisfaction of getting that funding back.

Mozingo, the director of federal programs at TEDCO, oversees DefTech, which engages small businesses in making federal government connections in TEDCO’s effort to convert scientific research into new businesses, thus new jobs. DefTech was founded in 2018 to support the Army laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Grounds; while the program was successful until 2021, Department of Defense funding disappeared and the program lay dormant for a year.

However, by that time Mozingo, a former consultant, had joined TEDCO ― and as luck had it, the state Department of Commerce located $422,000 in funding to run DefTech through TEDCO. Thus, the program was kick-started in January, with additional support from the DOD’s Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation.

Today, TEDCO is “in discussions with eight companies and has also contacted the 83 more” from the APG days. “We’re going through the vetting process,” she said, “so that we can prepare our small businesses to connect with the DoD labs. This kind of work is in our DNA.”