Online training can turn dreams into reality

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Matt Holbert, a network engineer turned restaurant entrepreneur, has some big dreams and is working hard to make those dreams come true.

He knew he would need some help in making that happen, so he turned to Advantage Valley, the regional economic development agency, for assistance. He says the help he has received has “been nothing short of phenomenal.”

Born and raised in Clendenin, Holbert graduated from WVU Tech in Montgomery with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, then went on to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he earned a master’s in telecommunications.

Over the years, he and his wife, Nikki, traveled the world as he worked on defense contracting projects. At each stop along the way, they took note of the local restaurant scene — everything from the ambiance of the room to the menus themselves, which they carefully collected to bring back home to Charleston, where they dreamed of some day opening a restaurant of their own.

That “some day” arrived in 2015, when the couple opened Bricks and Barrels on the ground floor of the Park View Lofts building next to Appalachian Power Park.

The building was once used as a furniture warehouse. When the ballpark opened in 2005, the ground floor served as a sports-themed bar and grill. That eatery closed in 2013.

Last year, the Holberts purchased the Lucky Dill Deli and Axes and Ales, an axe-throwing bar. Both are located at 122 Capitol Street in downtown Charleston.

Since they opened Bricks and Barrels, the Holberts have learned a lot about how to run a business. They’ve also learned that there’s a great deal they don’t know.

When they shared that dilemma with a long-time friend, Advantage Valley Director Terrill Ellis, she urged them to start work with a business coach and sign up for the Kauffman FastTrac online training offered at BridgeValley Community and Technical Center as part of Advantage Valley’s FASTER WV initiative.

The couple took advantage of the training as a team, Holbert said. “We both have watched the videos together. Although I’ve done most of the writing but Nikki makes sure to review everything I write before it’s posted.”

Taking the video training has been a smart move and no doubt will help he and his wife avoid some likely problems down the road, he said.

Holbert gives business coach and instructor Robert Parker’s instructional abilities high marks. “He makes the hard stuff seem easy.” And he reports that, with Parker’s help, he’s completed about 80 percent of the business plan he will need when he goes to the bank seeking a loan to fund his next dream — a small craft brewery located in his native Clendenin.