Incubators: Hatching Ideas into Businesses

Many new entrepreneurs find the process of growing their business as a lonely trek that takes more work than anticipated. Over the past few years, business incubators have helped these entrepreneurs grow and scale their businesses by providing support such as office space, training, mentorship, networking and even financing, in some cases.

Incubators can be sponsored by several types of organizations including nonprofit corporations, for-profit ventures and academic institutions. The idea of most incubators is to help businesses grow and “graduate” out of the incubator and into their own space within one or two years.

Some of the benefits to entrepreneurs are:

1. Helping fledgling companies save on operating costs. The shared facility allows clients to share in the overhead costs associated with business operations. Incubators may also help link businesses to capital, whether that is venture capital or other financing vehicles.

2. Providing a mentorship program that pairs an entrepreneur with an established executive with experience to help guide them through the start-up phase of their operation. This experience can help entrepreneurs avoid some of the pitfalls associated with their new endeavor.

3. The clients within an incubator can also develop relationships with other entrepreneurs, and the networking that comes from those relationships can be invaluable to their business. They can provide encouragement to each other and help solve problems.

Incubators benefit communities by helping new businesses prosper, which can lead to stable jobs for locals. Many new entrepreneurs will stay in the community and grow, filling vacant spaces and providing a lasting impact.

The Virginia Business Incubation Association is a good resource to learn more about incubators and what is available in your locality, as well as information and events geared toward the support of entrepreneurs in Virginia.

Welcome to Downtown Harrisonburg!

Guest Blogger Andrea Dono, executive director of Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, has extensive experience in Main Street revitalization and community-based economic development, including 10 years at the National Main Street Center. 

Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance is thrilled to co-host the Virginia Main Street Downtown Intersections, July 16-18, 2018, and welcome you to our community in just a few short weeks! Hotel Madison is a brand new hotel that just opened at the southern gateway of downtown. Whew! We sure are glad there were no construction delays!

You can park in the garage next to the hotel and leave your car behind for a few days since it is a 10-minute walk down Main Street into the heart of downtown. If you want to skip the walk back to the hotel, hail our pedicab and cruise back without making any effort.

The Rooftop at Jimmy Madison’s Southern Kitchen and Whiskey Bar

Downtown Harrisonburg is Virginia’s first and only culinary district with over 30 restaurants and five breweries (three of which are award winning, two of which are new and hopefully future award-winning breweries), so scope out where you will eat and drink before you come.

Our happy hour on Monday will be at Jimmy Madison’s rooftop patio (don’t worry, there is plenty of shade). We’ll get some southern fare and refreshments while enjoying a view of Court Square. Some establishments are closed on Mondays, so if there is somewhere you want to go, check out their hours first.

Tuesday you are free to roam during lunchtime – only our authentic Indonesian café is closed since Boboko is open on Monday – but everywhere else will be open. Plus our farmers market will be open until 1 p.m. We’ll end the day with dinner and games at Ruby’s Arcade, where there are vintage duckpin bowling lanes, pool, shuffleboard and so much more. Stick around for bingo, which is unlike any bingo you’ve ever seen. Think “game show” instead of “retirement community.”

New Creation at Agora Downtown Market

Downtown is more than Main Street – slip down a side street and hop over to Liberty Street where you can continue wandering to find our beautifully restored train depot (that won an award last year), snap up a few human-grade dog biscuits (squirrel shapes are my…um…dog’s favorite) at Blue Ridge Dog, check out our old livery which is now Bella Luna – a fantastic wood-fired pizza spot – and yes, the gelato at their sister spot across the street is incredible.

We have tons of places to shop and a few galleries to enjoy. You can find original art from a few dozen artists in Oasis, check out several different shops all under one roof in Agora Downtown Market, watch jewelry makers use vintage tools and machines at Hugo Kohl’s boutique and museum, and so much more. All shops and attractions on our website, so get ready to explore!

With Simplicity Natural and Organic Beauty and Skincare Products

Creating Safer Streets with Demonstration Projects

How do pedestrians experience your Main Street?

Main Street’s were made for walking, but some of our Virginia downtowns are still not pedestrian friendly.  The National Complete Streets Coalition’s mission to increase safe, comfortable and convenient access to community destinations and public places – whether walking, driving, bicycling or taking public transportation.  To test out creative approaches to safer street design, NCSC recently launched the Safe Streets Academy.

They worked with three cities around the country to build skills in safer street design, creative placemaking and community engagement, then helped the cities put these skills to work.  Through three demonstration projects, localities in Florida, Kentucky and Indiana transformed their streets, intersections and neighborhoods into slower, safer places for people.

In an inspired approach to planning, each locality collaborated with residents by leading peer-to-peer engagement efforts on the front end, versus coming up with solutions, then bringing them to the public.  The residents took the lead pinpointing problems at targeted intersections and guided solutions to address them.  Because of this, the localities were able to implement much more effective, relevant projects that earned stronger support from the public.

You can learn from the stories of these demonstration projects to test out low-cost ways to create safer streets.  Find out more here >>

To see these pedestrian safety initiatives in action in a Virginia community, look over Staunton’s recently approved Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.

Also, click here to check out the new Main Street Approach Design Handbook, intended to help community leaders implement a people-centered design process.  

Starting a New Business: Where to Begin?

We hear from many communities that they have aspiring entrepreneurs who would like to explore their business ideas but don’t know where to begin. Here are a few great resources for start-ups:

Waynesboro used funding from a Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) grant from DHCD to create an online tool and one-stop shop to help entrepreneurs through the process. Their “GroWaynesboro” site helps entrepreneurs “Dream It. Plan It. Be It.” They have even developed an interactive guide to starting a business in Waynesboro.

Small Business Development Centers are a helpful resource for new and experienced entrepreneurs. The Virginia SBDC network provides customized counseling and education for small businesses. They provide one-on-one assistance for businesses, as well as small-group training on management topics that are important to small business owners. There are centers located in every region of Virginia, and you can click here to find the location nearest you.

“We have a wealth of tools with which to help entrepreneurs start, fund, analyze and grow their businesses,” says Sheri McGuire of the Longwood SBDC in Farmville. “We have a great team of consultants and staff who share a common experience in business and as entrepreneurs and will work with clients confidentially, one on one, to help them reach their goals.”

Mentorship is also important for start-ups, as seasoned entrepreneurs can help newbies by sharing experiences and lessons learned in starting and growing their business. Some localities have mentorship networks, like the Community Investment Collaborative in Charlottesville. They also received funding through the BEE program to expand their reach. There are also chapters all over Virginia for SCORE, which is the largest network of volunteer, expert business members who help small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship.

If your community has an innovative program to assist budding entrepreneurs, we would like to hear about it! Email us at mainstreet@dhcd.virginia.gov to let us know what is happening in your community. You may also contact us if you have any questions about these resources or others that may be available to entrepreneurs in Virginia.

Opportunity SWVA pilots Kiva loan strategy

Community development partners across Southwest Virginia are piloting the use of the Kiva crowdfunding loan platform to help small businesses expand and add jobs. Opportunity SWVA, the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem collaborative identified five businesses in need of small loans. Over the next two weeks, the businesses are working to raise a total of $43,000 in new capital.

Begun in 2005, Kiva is primarily known for global work connecting people to capital to alleviate poverty. With loans as small as $25, individuals can put critical resources in the hands of emerging entrepreneurs.

oppswvaOpportunity SWVA, comprised of more than 25 small business development support organizations, is working with businesses that have participated in community business launches or have an ongoing relationship with a partner organization. Opportunity SWVA acts as a Kiva Trustee, attesting to the character of the potential borrower.

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SWVA Kiva entrepreneurs Eva Beaule, Steven Harris, Beth Walker, Stephen Curd, and Jennifer Bailey with Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball (third from right).

The five pilot businesses are all creating jobs with loans of up to $10,000. Several directly support regional and community transformation strategies.

  • St. Paul Main Street business Sugar Hill Brewing Company is seeking a loan to purchase a food truck.
  • Glade Spring design house and manufacturer Garic Stephens is purchasing sewing equipment to hire additional workers.
  • Architectural steel detailing firm Appalachian Drafting is purchasing a software license to put an additional person to work creating 3D holograms of buildings.
  • In Norton, All Indoor Farm Store is expanding to create Stone Mountain Adventures, a business-diversification strategy supporting the outdoor recreation economy.
  • Advenuture Mendota is purchasing new kayaks to grow the capacity of the four-year-old outfitter, which began as a revitalization strategy in the Washington County community of Mendota.

Want to learn more about how Kiva works?  Try it out!  Support one of the SWVA loans. Then, as your region or community plans its own Kiva strategy, the Opportunity SWVA team will be happy to share with you what they learned.

Make a loan and watch videos of the entrepreneurs.
Track progress of Opportunity SWVA on Facebook.
Get all of the Opportunity SWVA Kiva tools at www.opportunityswva.org/kiva.

 

Webinar Series – Downtown Buildings: Tools for Revitalization

Virginia Main Street (VMS) is hosting a series of three webinars throughout June covering topics related to downtown buildings and tools for revitalization.  All webinars are FREE, however, registration for each one is required.


Virginia Rehabilitation Code
June 6, 2018, Noon-1 p.m.

Speaker: Jeff Brown, MCP, Director of State Building Codes, DHCD

The Rehabilitation Code can sometimes be daunting for downtown building owners to navigate when determining how to make property improvements.  How do you modernize an older building without breaking the bank to meet current requirements? This webinar will help you understand what code sections to reference and available tools to make discussing your planned improvement with your local official easier.


Virginia Main Street Financial Feasibility Studies
June 13, 2018, Noon-1 p.m.

Speaker: Kathleen O. Frazier, AIA, Principal, Frazier Associates

Do you have a large-scale downtown building that sits vacant or underutilized and you do not know what can be done with it? A financial feasibility study is one way to crack open new possibilities for the building and community.  This webinar will walk through the what, when, who and how of the feasibility study process.  With a completed study, your community and property owners will know what to expect and have the answers to attract potential developers, tenants or new owners.


Virginia Maintenance Code
June 27, 2018, Noon-1 p.m.

Speaker: Jeff Brown, MCP, Director of State Building Codes, DHCD

The Maintenance Code provides localities with the means to deal with, not only unsafe structures unfit for habitation, but also the means to reduce blight and maintain property values.  In this webinar, you will learn what the Maintenance Code is and is not, as well as how your locality can enforce it to insure a fair and measured approach is taken.  Topics will cover examples of blight related ordinances, roles of the local and state boards and technical support services available through DHCD.


FIND OUT MORE AND REGISTER FOR EACH WEBINAR HERE >>>

 

Increase Your Small Business Success During National Small Business Week

Lexington is celebrating the start up of four new downtown businesses!

Launch Lex Pitch Event

On the evening of April 11, more than 100 fans witnessed a group of aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their best ideas for new downtown businesses in a one-night version of “Shark Tank,” with $60,000 in grants awarded.  Main Street Lexington hosted Launch Lex, which provided an eight-week business training program and culminated with the competition. The room sizzled, and the community is still reeling from the excitement.  Congratulations, entrepreneurs!

On Main Street, small business support like this is essential for a vibrant downtown.  If you don’t currently have anything to offer, the U.S. Small Business Administration has you covered.

The U.S. Small Business Administration and SCORE Association will host a free, three-day virtual conference during National Small Business Week. The conference will take place Tuesday-Thursday, May 1-3 from 12:30-6:30 p.m. ET each day.

The virtual conference offers all the best parts of an in-person conference, but without the hassle of traveling. Watch 12 educational webinars, get free business advice from mentors, pick up free information and resources from sponsors and network with fellow business owners.

The webinars include:

  • Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers
  • Simple Steps to Choosing the Right Financing
  • Pop andPlay: How Opening a Pop-Up Shop can Help Launch Your Retail Brand
  • How to Get New and Repeat Business On Autopilot with Email Marketing
  • The U.S. Economic Outlook and its Impact on Small Businesses
  • Grow Your Business in 2018

Learn more and share with your community>>>