Fostering Black Business Ownership

The New Hill Development Corporation, a nonprofit in Charlottesville, Virginia, works to reclaim, rebuild, and revitalize their community by expanding economic opportunities for local Black entrepreneurs through BEACON.

Vinegar Hill, once a vibrant community and home to many African-American families and businesses, was demolished in the 1960s as part of the City’s urban renewal efforts. The demolition forced community members to relocate and many businesses did not survive—stunting the growth of wealth amongst Charlottesville’s Black community.

In 2019, the current Starr Hill community (previously part of Vinegar Hill) embarked on a vision planning process. More than 200 stakeholders participated in numerous community engagement activities. The adopted Starr Hill Vision Plan identified the need for an incubator for Black-owned businesses, creating a path for the BEACON Project.

BEACON, which stands for Black Entrepreneurial Advancement & Community Opportunity Network, provides services to startup and growth stage Black-owned businesses. The business incubator and accelerator includes co-working space, retail and office space rentals, and a shared commercial kitchen, along with training, technical assistance, and other wraparound services. By providing the right tools and teaching individuals how to use those tools to build their own businesses, BEACON breaks down barriers to entry and advances opportunities for Black entrepreneurs.

With many local Black entrepreneurs in the food industry, BEACON focused its initial attention on food-based businesses. Following Hatch Kitchen’s proven model, a culinary incubator, BEACON Kitchen, provides space and support to entrepreneurs who want to start and manage food service establishments and/or produce and package food products for sale. At the heart of the incubator sits a 10,000 square foot fully equipped, shared-use commercial kitchen that can accommodate up to 16 people at one time. Food entrepreneurs can access the kitchen 24/7, and, through a partnership with Culinary Concepts AB, a Food Business Bootcamp provides courses that lay the foundation for business success in the food service industry.

The BEACON Project leveraged state funding including $150,000 from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s Virginia Statewide Business District Resurgence Grant and $189,000 from the GOVA Regional Economic Resilience and Recovery Program. Funds supported the creation of the business accelerator boot camp, commercial kitchen, and co-working space.

The New Hill Development Corporation remains committed to reviving their community and overcoming pass suppression. BEACON provides a network of support and fosters wealth building opportunities for local Black entrepreneurs—creating needed change in Charlottesville.

Logos & Video Credit: New Hill Development Corporation