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TCC alum expands successful business

For the past four years, TCC alumna Robin Simmons has been warmly greeting customers and neighbors at her business, 17 Hands Coffee.

The coffee spot is a favorite for residents and is located in the Virginia Beach Kempsville area. Robin and her staff create and serve sweet treats, specialty coffees and teas, quiches, scones and cinnamon rolls that sell out by 8:30 a.m. on the weekends!

This month, the community gathered as Robin opened Robin Simmons Bakery adjacent to 17 Hands Coffee, expanding the business with the bakery, more espresso machines and additional space for gathering.

“I want this to be a gathering place for all backgrounds, ages, and religions,” she said. “I want everyone to come here and get to know their neighbors.”

Robin got the idea to open the business while visiting a friend in Los Angeles, California. “We went to one of her favorite coffee shops and it was amazing. That’s when the seed was planted,” Robin said.

Mayor Bobby Dyer helped celebrated the expansion with a ribbon cutting and some encouraging words.

“We are excited to see businesses thrive and grow like this one. We are here to celebrate your success and continued success,” Dyer said.

Dyer encouraged attendees to try the chocolate cake, the best he’s ever had, just as Robin presented him with a cake to take home.

Robin also spoke to attendees and thanked her team and family for their support.

“When I left my job at Inside Business to do baking full time, I never imagined this. It’s my dream and more,” she said. “I’m so grateful for my neighborhood and our customers and friends.”

She also thanked her vendors and partners and the Virginia Beach Police Mounted Patrol for being there. “We are all about horses here!” she added with a laugh.

Robin Simmons with Virginia Beach Police Mounted Patrol.

Robin earned a business degree from TCC and is using those skills to run her own business now.

“It’s helpful on the job to be able to speak to people with some knowledge under my belt,” Robin said. “And specific classes like accounting, business law and public speaking have been important for the journey.”

Her shop is located in a plaza that she lovingly calls “birthday corner” as there is a local creamery, the Sundae Scoop and gift store, DIY Treasures and Gifts, and of course, Robin has cakes for every occasion.

Robin has a vision for expanding to a second location on a five-acre lot with open-air seating and a drive-through for those in-demand lattes and cold brews.

“This has been a long-time coming,” Robin added. “But you can’t leave the earth without doing what you love!”

Father and dual-enrolled daughter graduate together

Marvin Fletcher and his daughter SaNayah Hill were surprised to find out they are graduating from Tidewater Community College at the same time.

“I never thought my daughter and I would be wearing a cap and gown together. I’m utterly speechless,” Marvin said.

SaNayah added, “I feel like it will be a fun experience and not something a lot of people can say.”

Marvin’s degree has been a decade in the making. He is earning an Associate of Applied Science in Management. SaNayah, a junior at Deep Creek High School, is a dual-enrollment student earning a Career Studies Certificate in Emergency Medical Service/Emergency Medical Training.

“As parents, we want a better start for our kids,” Marvin added. “To see SaNayah graduate with a certificate at 17, I’m really proud. A lot of kids don’t aspire to do all that.”

A military veteran, Marvin served in both the United States Marine Corps and the Army. He spent 12 years doing transportation and logistics, with overseas tours in Afghanistan and Kuwait. “Serving in the military slowed down my studies as I moved around the country and did multiple deployments,” Marvin said.

Marvin credits TCC veterans’ advisor Howard Darden for helping make his graduation possible. “I needed my official transcript from the military so I would get credit for my PE class, and he made that happen.”

He added, “The help I received from the start from TCC’s military center has been monumental to my success and has everything to do with where I am now.”

A native of Portsmouth, Marvin remembers his family living paycheck to paycheck. “My sister Sonya and I would go outside and cut wood, so we’d have a fire in the stove and heat in the house. We had a very humble childhood,” he added.

Marvin also remembers failing at least two classes every year since sixth grade and having no one invested in his education. He attended summer school annually to pass each class and graduated from I.C. Norcom High School.

“I wanted different for my daughter,” Marvin said. “And that’s happened largely because of her mom and my support, and because of her hard work.”

SaNayah decided to pursue the EMT certificate because of her interest in medicine. She hopes to one day be a general practice physician.

SaNayah’s program included ride-alongs with area firefighters, something she called “intense,” but worth it. “I craved the experience and wanted to get out there and do it,” she said. “People often doubt themselves. But I say get out there and do the work and see what doors will open.”

Marvin added that he found a good fit at TCC. “I liked the teachers and the challenge of it all,” he said. “I enjoyed in-person classes then being able to go to faculty and staff and get the help I needed.”

Marvin plans to use his degree to open and manage group homes for disabled adults and veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, something he suffers from as well. He says that it’s a confidence booster earning this degree and a motivator to continue to serve.

“Life isn’t about where you start, but where you finish,” Marvin said. “There were times when I thought I couldn’t do it, but the staff at TCC motivated me and my family support systems made all the difference.”

TCC alumna turns candle making hobby into a new business

Monica “Mo” Jones never planned on starting a business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today she is glad she did as everything is coming up smelling like roses. And a lot of other amazing scents.

Jones, 38, launched Divine Scentervention, a hand-poured candle company online in 2021. This month she also opened a shop and chandlery in Virginia Beach.

To date, Jones has 16 different candle scents and wax melts including Island Getaway, Love Spell and Pink Sugar. The candles come in three sizes and have a bit of mica powder in the wax to give the candles a shimmery effect while burning.

Monica Jones at work.

After losing her job in April 2020, Jones started making candles at home, turning a hobby into her life’ s work.

“With one less income, I needed to cut back on my spending, so I decided to see if I could make candles that would rival those at my favorite chain store,” she said.

After some trial and error, Jones says everything fell into place.

During that time, Jones was also pursuing an Associate of Applied Science in Management with a specialization in Small Business Management & Entrepreneurship.

“My classes have been a tremendous help in running my business. Especially the bookkeeping, contract law and financial management courses. That knowledge is keeping me on track with my small operation,” she said.

While at TCC, Jones fell ill with a rare autoimmune disease, neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder. She lost vision in her left eye, but that didn’t extinguish her desire to turn her newfound vocation into a business.

The mom of three was looking for work that would allow her to manage her children’s schedules and any health complications she might face.

“Every semester at TCC I faced some kind of health challenge, and my teachers were always willing to work with me and keep me going toward my degree,” Jones said.

Her favorite professor is Jim Roberts who taught micro and macroeconomics. She had to repeat the course, and credits Roberts with sticking with her until she passed the class during her final semester.

Jones hopes to expand her business with room sprays and body care products to mirror her favorite store, Bath and Body Works.

“I came to TCC the first time right after high school, but I wasn’t ready then,” Jones said. “Coming back as an adult was seamless and the online courses have fit my life.”

Jones says she now has work she enjoys and it doesn’t feel like a job.

“If you want to start a business, use your resources and find people who can show you the way,” Jones said. “I knew it was going to be a journey, and I’m grateful for the support I received at TCC.”

New leadership degree prepares students for careers in management

Tidewater Community College introduces a new associate degree in leadership this spring.

The 61-credit Associate of Science in Business Administration with a specialization in Leadership prepares students for organizational leadership and management positions.

TCC’s leadership degree is designed to meet the needs of working adults, military-related students, as well as recent high school graduates.

Courses include project management; principles of supervision; principles of management; business analytics; and communications management.

Students wishing to transfer to a four-year program in leadership will be well positioned to do so.

In addition, TCC has an articulation agreement with Old Dominion University enabling students to transfer all credits into ODU’s Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies Leadership degree.

Military members may be awarded academic credit for military education, training, experience and other forms of prior learning. In addition, most courses use online, open education resources, saving students money on textbooks.

Classes are available on each of TCC’s four campuses during the day, evening and online.

 Summer classes begin May 24.

For more information on TCC’s programs and services, email or call the Virtual Student Support Team at 757-822-1111.