Bringing New Businesses to Main Street

Business opening in Marion's Main Street District.
Business opening in Marion’s Main Street District.

Retaining and growing existing businesses and encouraging the development of new businesses are primary goals of every Main Street organization. Here is how some of Virginia’s Main Street communities are working to strengthen and diversify their downtown business communities.

Marion Downtown Revitalization Association (MDRA) is wrapping up the third round of its “Pop-Up Marion” Small Business Boot Camp. Partnering with Wells Fargo, People Inc., Virginia Main Street and the Virginia Department of Business Assistance, MDRA’s boot camp includes a Business Basics 101, where budding entrepreneurs learn all the ins and outs of starting their own small business, develop their own business plan, and compete for up to $5,000 in startup grant funds to open their business in Marion. Grant funding is available to offset rent/mortgage and utility expenses for up to six months. Winners of this year’s “Pop-Up Marion” competition will be announced on Oct. 31. More than 100 area entrepreneurs have participated in Marion’s Boot Camp training and at least three new businesses have already received grant funds to help open their doors in Marion’s Main Street district.

For the first time, Farmville Downtown Partnership offered a four-week course this October designed to instruct new entrepreneurs about doing business in Farmville. Co-sponsored by Longwood Small Business Development Center, Farmville Downtown Partnership, the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce and the town of Farmville, the BBC: Business Boot Camp is a three-phase program that instructs, encourages and tests new entrepreneurs wanting to open their businesses in downtown Farmville. Following graduation from the four-week training course and the completion of a business plan, participants will be encouraged to compete for a space in next spring’s Pop-Up Downtown Farmville program. The Pop-Up program will provide a temporary space for the businesses to operate during April, May and June of 2014. After getting a chance to visit the Pop-Up businesses in action, a review board and downtown visitors will vote to determine the winner of the Pop-Up competition at the end of June 2014. The winner will receive a start-up grant from Farmville Downtown Partnership to help the business permanently establish itself in the Main Street district.

The city of Waynesboro, Waynesboro Downtown Development, Inc. and Staunton Creative Community Fund are co-hosting Jumpstart Waynesboro: Ignite® Your Business Contest on Oct. 22 and Nov. 12. These events will follow the Ignite format, limiting speakers to five minutes, 20 slides and one creative business idea. The audience will vote on their favorite ideas, while providing constructive suggestions, resources and networks to the presenters. In addition to a People’s Choice Award, each night the city of Waynesboro will award a $7,000-first-place prize and a $4,000-second-place prize to help launch Ignite-inspired business concepts in Waynesboro.

In addition to these initiatives, Believe in Bristol provides support to downtown entrepreneurs in its IdeaSpaceMartinsville Uptown Revitalization Association will soon finish its first Uptown Upstart Business Plan Competition. Lastly, micro-businesses are testing the waters on their Main Streets at the Luray Downtown Initiative  Market Collective and Altavista on Track’s Arts and Antiques incubator.