BY KENDYL HOLLINGSWORTH
One local businesswoman has proven that her trials won’t keep her down, and her success story has earned a spot on the radar of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
“It is truly an honor to have been selected by SBA to share my success story,” said Lisa Ditchkoff, owner of the Bottling Plant Event Center in downtown Opelika. “My business had tremendous struggles for the first six years and then again in 2020 and 2021 when COVID hit. Perseverance and determination helped us through.”
According to her published story, Ditchkoff’s dream of running her own event planning business and unique venue began to take shape in 2003 when she started a small event planning business from her home. A few years later, she saw Opelika’s old Coca-Cola bottling plant for sale and was struck with inspiration.
What began as a dream eventually evolved into the Bottling Plant Event Center, a versatile venue that now also boasts a wine shop and offers full-service, offsite catering.
But getting there wasn’t an easy task. Renovations for the bottling plant would be expensive, and in 2008, Americans were no strangers to economic adversity.
After facing rejection in her initial search for a loan, Ditchkoff was able to secure one through SBA.
“The U.S. Small Business Administration’s mission is help Americans start, grow, expand or recover their business from a disaster,” explained Megyn Rodriguez, an SBA outreach and marketing specialist who worked with Ditchkoff to share her story. “In Lisa’s case, she utilized one of our local resource partners, the Alabama Small Business Development Centers … to assist her in obtaining an SBA 504 loan, which ultimately helped her grow her business.”
In 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and so did another round of challenges for Ditchkoff and the event center. She managed to push through by diversifying her business and utilizing another SBA loan, the SBA COVID-19 EIDL, which seeks to help businesses recover from the economic impact of COVID.
From there, the Bottling Plant Event Center was able to recover and continue operating and growing.
Rodriguez said SBA does not endorse private businesses, but the organization does seek to highlight a few that have found success by taking advantage of their resources. In Ditchkoff’s case, she demonstrated perseverance and resiliency more than once.
“My whole goal has been to help others in regard to my business,” Ditchkoff said, whether that be by hosting nonprofits or bringing new customers to downtown Opelika.
“So often people give up on their goals and dreams of owning a business. But had they tried just one more time to secure funding or tried one more business expansion, it’s possible that would have changed the trajectory of everything for them. I just hope that the story helps someone out there.”
Read the full published story on the SBA website.