Richardson: Crossroads a 'lifesaver' for business

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Crossroads Success Stories

Some who know Leigh Ann Richardson would say her ability to succeed comes naturally.

But when it comes to business and education, Richardson credits Crossroads Institute for much of her achievement.

“I’m thankful there’s a place people can come and get constructive feedback about starting a business – about a plan and making that plan come true,” said Richardson, who also teaches nursing for Wytheville Community College at Crossroads.

Crossroads, now celebrating its 10th anniversary, first assisted Richardson in 2008 when she brought an idea to former Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Director Dr. Dallas Garrett.

“Dallas helped me turn my dream into reality,” said Richardson, 34.

That idea, based on Richardson’s nursing background, blossomed into Vital Supply on Main Street in Wytheville. She started the retail medical-accessory business with her husband Paul, selling uniforms, shoes, blood pressure cuffs and all manner of other medical supplies.

Garrett helped Richardson develop her business plan and acquire funding, just as the SBDC has done with hundreds of other aspiring Twin County entrepreneurs since the center moved to Crossroads in 2008.

Then, in 2011, another Wytheville business — Modern Shoes, which sells safety shoes and boots — was going to close. Richardson, in large part based on what she had learned from the SBDC, saw an opportunity.

So she and her husband purchased Modern Shoes, which had opened in 1925. They combined the two businesses in the Modern Shoes building across Main Street and continue to sell their merchandise in the store and on the road, visiting medical facilities and now factories.

“Compared to when we just had Vital Supply, our sales have tripled,” Richardson said. “With the start Crossroads provided, I gained the foundation. Without that, we wouldn’t have been able to do what we’ve done.”

This would seem like an ample achievement for a young woman from Fries, who graduated from Grayson County High School, earned her licensed practical nursing certificate from WCC in 2000, her associate’s degree and registered nursing credentials, also from WCC, in 2001, and her bachelor’s in nursing in 2014.

Along the way, she married her high school sweetheart. The couple now lives in Elk Creek with their three sons, ages 8, 5 and 3.

Prior to starting Vital Supply, Richardson taught nursing and was the school nurse at GCHS. Since 2004, she has also taught part time in WCC’s LPN program, teaching some classes at Crossroads since 2008. This past year, Richardson taught full-time at Crossroads while serving as interim head of WCC’s LPN program.

“I started in practical nursing; that was my base,” Richardson said. “It means a lot to me to be teaching in that program. Plus, I love watching the students as their knowledge and strengths grow. That’s inspiring to me,” she said.

This summer, Richardson returned to helping her husband run the business and to part-time WCC teaching, some at Crossroads. She also plans to begin her master’s degree to become a family nurse practitioner.

Richardson still attends Crossroads’ business workshops and seeks guidance from current SBDC Director Mandy Archer.

And in the family’s spare time, the Richardsons raise produce for the local market, mainly pumpkins, on their 63-acre farm.

“I work best under pressure, if you haven’t noticed,” Richardson said.

When she considers what Crossroads has meant to both her business and educational interests, Richardson doesn’t hesitate: “Opportunity.”

About educational opportunities, she said, “Students come to Crossroads with no self-confidence, no sense of self-worth, and they leave here with confidence, knowing how to succeed. “And not just in nursing, but all programs,” Richardson said. “It’s a life-changer for them.

“Having Crossroads to help people with business and education in the Twin Counties means you don’t have to leave to find opportunities,” she added.

“I hope Crossroads will be here for my three boys so they don’t have to go outside the Twin Counties to be successful.”