Entrepreneurship is creating something from nothing.

Entrepreneurship is creating something from nothing.

At least that’s how Andrea Saathoff sees it. When the pandemic wiped out 90 percent of her business, Albemarle Limousine and Travel Service, she reinvented and doubled down by adding multiple new offerings and buying another facility.

“I think of entrepreneurship as an adventure, and the pandemic required much of the same thing,” she said. “Being rapidly responsive to changing conditions on the ground. Evaluating opportunities. Understanding capabilities, taking risks, making quick decisions, usually without having full vision of all the information you’d like to have.”

The transportation industry may have grinded to a halt, but Albemarle Limousine’s management team hit the pavement and put a new business plan into gear. Just before the pandemic, Albemarle Limousine decided to leverage the needs of its growing fleet to expand its mechanic shop to serve its own fleet and the vehicles for the public.

“We decided that one thing we could do was to continue trying to grow the mechanic shop,” she said, “because that would continue to grow while tourism and travel dried up.”

And grow it did. By the fall of 2020, they had the opportunity to buy a 10-bay service center, and they went for it, establishing ACE Auto Center Express. Throughout the process, the Central Virginia Small Business Development Center team was there for Andrea.

Andrea Saathoff has been a one-on-one advising client of SBDC’s Dillon Franks since 2018. When the opportunity to expand the mechanic shop came up, they enlisted the help of SBDC Director Rebecca Haydock to help frame the decision points around the expansion and ensure it was aligned with her long-term goals. Advisor Greg McFetridge helped her secure the capital to make it happen. And as she made the transition to the larger space and larger team, Dillon Franks continued to support her in HR and operational matters.

In addition to the growth of ACE, the pandemic led to another new profit center for the business– a bicycle repair shop.

“Two of our employees were worried about the economic situation at the height of the pandemic,” she explained. “They were passionate about cycling and bicycle repair. We saw a growth in cycling due to the pandemic, since it was an outdoor activity that could be done in a socially-distanced way.”

The bicycle repair and ACE joined Virginia Auto Detailing as a strong cohort of ventures operating in support of the core business, Albemarle Limousine. Its fleet of 22 vehicles features larger passenger carriers and the vintage vehicles that started it all.

“We founded Albemarle Limousine somewhat on a lark,” Andrea said. “We thought we’d do vintage cars for weddings. We had no business background.”

A great idea, a willingness to learn and grow, and a ton of hard work have earned Albemarle Limousine success beyond what they ever expected. And the support of the SBDC helped them along the way. 


We decided that one thing we could do was to continue trying to grow the mechanic shop, because that would continue to grow while tourism and travel dried up.