During the summer of 2020, nationwide events influenced many people to seek ways to support Black- and Brown-owned businesses in their communities. In response to that desire, the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber’s Diversity Business Council, which includes Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance (HDR), mapped out a strategy to grow Black- and Brown-owned businesses (B-Cubed) in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, launching their initiative in February 2021.
“We hope that this program will help us work with our economic development partners to encourage more startups and sustain more existing businesses so we can grow the diversity of business ownership.”
– Andrea Dono, Executive Director, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance
B³ seeks to create a welcoming culture that will attract new Black- and Brown-owned business ventures and will encourage increasing investment from existing Black- and Brown-owned businesses. It blends a combination of comprehensive business support, including business plan development or improvement, marketing guidance, technical assistance, micro-loans, small grants, mentorship and networking support, while utilizing a phased assistance approach, customized to each business’s current stage and needs. B³ is open to any existing Black- and Brown-owned business located in Harrisonburg or Rockingham County, and the business must be at least 50% owned by a Black or Brown individual. Also, B³ is open to any Black or Brown individual residing in and seeking to start a business in Harrisonburg or Rockingham County.
The B³ Process
Step 1: The business completes a participation form to outline who they are, how long they’ve been in business, what support they need, what their goals are, and what will help them achieve those goals (participation forms are accepted on a rolling basis).
Step 2: The participant meets with the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to develop a business plan or have an existing one reviewed.
Step 3: The B³ team starts making connections for the participant to their new ecosystem, depending on whether they are starting up or seeking growth. They may work with a cohort and/or advisor which could include the SBDC advisors, SBDC Growth Wheel, LAUNCH HARRISONBURG, Staunton Creative Community Fund Boot Camp, EMU’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship or the JMU Center for Entrepreneurship.
Step 4: Connect the participant with regional networks.
Step 5: Identify a business mentor for the participant.
Step 6: Identify the technical needs of the participant and find the best person to assist them (with a priority to connect the entrepreneur with a Black or Brown business owner/subject matter expert).
Step 7: Provide a mini grant of up to $3,000 to assist the participant in implementing some of the recommendations made by the technical assistance providers.
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Image Credit: Gloucester Main Street Association