Small businesses face a myriad of challenges and often don’t have the time to research and sift through all of the resources available to help them not only survive but to the thrive. Even if small businesses are able to find those resources, they may not be able to afford services. This is where a network of community financial partners or nonprofit agencies, possibly even trade groups, come into play, providing free training and services to help small businesses build sustainability, resiliency and scale appropriately. Read on to learn about a few of the resources that small businesses can tap into now!
1: Virginia Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)
Did you know that Virginia’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) offer a comprehensive training and resource program for main street (and Main Street) restaurant and retail businesses? Welcome to STAMP! Webinars, workshops and one-on-one sessions are available to tackle topics such as inventory control, marketing and merchandising. The team at Virginia’s SBDCs are passionate, knowledgeable, and creative and can point to success stories across the Commonwealth.
“The SBDC is one of, if not the, greatest asset in our county. Not only did I receive practical help, I felt like Margie was my own personal cheerleader, and it truly helped me on the days I was feeling down about the process of starting a business.” – Bond Strong, Tazewell County Mercantile
2: Virginia Community Capital (VCC)
Virginia Community Capital (VCC), a Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI), hosts a series of virtual Lunch and Learns that bring industry experts to you through targeted, bite-sized topics. Hands-on Quick Books training, marketing, social media…there’s something for everyone, businesses of all sizes and sectors. Pro tip, they also have an extensive selection of previously recorded training sessions so you can catch up on your schedule and at your own pace. Take advantage of this treasure trove of information to build your small business chops and grow your enterprise!
3: The Future of Retailing: Creative Approaches to Place Based Entrepreneurship
Recently, the National Main Street Center (NMSC) did a study on retailing trends resulting in their publication, The Future of Retailing: Create Approaches to Place Based Entrepreneurship. The insights provided can help merchants think through small pivots that will have big returns, such as expanding product lines, creative marketing or adding small scale production capabilities. As the national decline in brick-and-mortar retail sales continues it is more important than ever to diversify revenue streams, to consider experiential retail and to provide an amazing customer experience that keeps people returning. Main Street is all about R&D (rip off and duplicate) so these are ideas that merchants can implement now!
4: Resources for Rural Entrepreneurs: A Guide to Planning, Adapting and Growing Your Business
Our federal friends at Rural Development also have a publication to help entrepreneurs and merchants do business better! The Resources for Rural Entrepreneurs: A Guide to Planning, Adapting, and Growing Your Business is a guide book to help you start or grow your business, along with links to both technical and financial resources from across the country. Read about how other entrepreneurs have leveraged these resources and built successful businesses, and keep this guide handy as a source book!
5: Local Main Street Programs
Many local Main Street programs have programming to help entrepreneurs, business owners and building owners identify and utilize the resources that they need to be successful. Hopewell Downtown Partnership (HDP) offers one-on-one consulting for those looking to start or expand a business in their district, while the River District Association (RDA) offices in Danville host an SBDC representative regularly to make those technical assistance resources more accessible. A number of organizations, like Main Street Lexington (MSL), host regular merchant round-tables or meet ups so that small business owners and entrepreneurs can meet one another, crowd source problems and solutions and work together as a collective. In Fredericksburg, the Main Street program provides an online retail training series for merchants that covers hiring, selling, customer service and operations. To connect with your local Main Street program, check out our list of Advancing Virginia Main Street (AVMS) and Exploring Main Street (EMS) communities!
If you know of a free small business resource that we should highlight, let us know! Have you used one of these resources? Tell us about it! Keep supporting your local businesses!