Small Business Resource Guide now available

The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has developed a Small Business Resource Guide that provides information on many of the items that new or expanding small businesses and entrepreneurs need. This includes financing programs, grant programs, business development resources and training opportunities, as well as university entrepreneurship programs that are available to the public.

The guide is a living document, so it will be updated often as new programs and resources become available or we are made aware of appropriate available resources. The guide can be found on the Resources and Reports page of the Virginia Main Street blog, or click here for a copy.

If you know of a great resource – federal, state, regional or local – that should be added, please let us know!

Fostering Successful Businesses in Your Community

How can Main Street organizations create a supportive, business-friendly community? 

What are the elements of a community that make it viable to attract business and expansion for the existing ones? 

And what are the trends that best produce the desired entrepreneurial advancement? 

These are some of the questions driving Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Appalachia, a recently published suite of research reports and resources supporting entrepreneurial ecosystem development in Appalachia. However, the findings are beneficial to more than the southwest corner of Virginia. They are broadly applicable to encourage entrepreneurship and increase the probability of a successful business in your community, too.

The report makes clear that the development and maintenance of robust regional entrepreneurial ecosystems involves a complex mix of culture, history, markets, policy and environmental factors.  Referenced in the report, the Kauffman Foundation has developed “Seven Design Principles for Building Entrepreneurial Ecosystems” that provide excellent guidance and actionable ideas to support the ecosystem:

  1. Put Entrepreneurs Front and Center: Effective ecosystems are led “by and for” entrepreneurs.
  2. Foster Conversations: Effective ecosystems engage multiple partners in conversations that are focused on hope and action.
  3. Enlist Collaborators. Everyone is invited: Effective ecosystems engage partners from all walks of life, multiple disciplines and multiple sectors.
  4. Live the Values: Effective ecosystems do not have a “leader.” They are built on an invisible social contract of shared values.
  5. Connect people bottom-up, top-down, outside-in: Effective ecosystems bridge social boundaries and build tribes of trust.
  6. Tell a Community’s Authentic Story: Effective ecosystems champion role models and create stories out of strength.
  7. Start, be patient: Effective ecosystems take time to build.

The report is part of a larger project entitled Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Appalachia. Additional project materials can be accessed at www.arc.gov, as well as the project’s website: http://arceco.creconline.org.

For a Main Street-focused guide, check out Main Street America’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and the Role of Commercial Districts >>

Autonomous Transit Shuttle Service to Launch in Crozet

The Downtown Crozet Initiative, a DHCD Commercial District Affiliate community organization, is embracing cutting-edge technology to help make visiting downtown a convenient, zero-emission experience, shuttling customers from a parking area into the commercial core.  While it may sound more Jetsons than Main Street, this is the real deal.

Crozet’s Perrone Robotics, Inc., JAUNT, Inc. and Albemarle County just announced a partnership to develop, test and operate the autonomous transit shuttle service pilot. The pilot program will start March 2019 in Crozet with hopes to expand toward Charlottesville, allowing riders to embark and disembark along a fixed route.

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Chair Ann Mallek shared, “Albemarle County has long supported vibrant communities, and an autonomous, zero-emission transit service brings the promise of reduced parking needs and greater use of green technologies in our urban centers – allowing our community to continue to flourish into the future.”

This is one customer-oriented innovation to watch.  Learn more >>>

Makerspaces: Coworking spaces with Cool Stuff

Makerspaces, much like coworking spaces, are on the rise in the United States. There are now over 500 such spaces across the country, and that number is expected to continue to grow. They can be located in schools, libraries, community centers or as their own for-profit or nonprofit organizations.

Makerspaces are basically shared working spaces that include tools for members or participants to use. These tools can range from letter presses, sewing machines and 3-D printers, to CNC machines and other high tech machinery such as laser cutters that allow people to design, prototype and manufacture products they wouldn’t otherwise be able to at home.

Many makerspaces provide training and education in the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) subjects. Most have classes for both youth and adults that provide a revenue stream for the business, and collaboration is at the heart of what most makerspaces are about.

Makerspaces also foster entrepreneurship as new businesses are locating in and doing work from makerspaces. An example of this is in Richmond, where Build, RVA has created a foundation that helps entrepreneurs understand the patent process, support intellectual property ownership and provide financial assistance for product-based business development.

Makerspaces require different planning and more extensive resources than simple coworking, as space and equipment specific to makers are more expensive and specialized. Fab Lab estimates the cost of the recommended equipment for a makerspace at $100,000-125,000. It is important to create a business model for any makerspace so you can determine if it is something viable for your organization and community. This article is a good resource for what you need to think about when creating a makerspace.

Want to see a makerspace in action in Virginia? Try:

Hacksburg – Blacksburg

HackCville – Charlottesville

FredWorks – Fredericksburg

Lexington Collaboratory – Lexington

Vector Space – Lynchburg

757 Makerspace – Norfolk

Nova Labs – Reston

FACTORY – Roanoke

Staunton Makerspace – Staunton

 

 

Recognizing the Hard Work on Main Street: Sandwich Sampler Competition

At the recent 2018 Downtown Intersections in Harrisonburg, we continued the tradition of acknowledging outstanding achievements in comprehensive downtown revitalization efforts through Merit Awards.  They recognize the hard work, dedication and success of Virginia’s Main Street communities and their achievements across the four point of the Main Street Approach®.  This is the third in a blog series to highlight each of the seven awards.

Promoting Main Street takes many forms, but the ultimate goal is to position the downtown as the hub of the community and economic activity, while creating a positive image that showcases a community’s unique characteristics.  This next award honors the best downtown restaurant promotion designed to generate foot-traffic to local eateries within the district.  Downtown Blackstone Inc. Executive Director Zachary Whitlow accepted the 2018 Best Downtown Restaurant Event award for the first annual Sandwich Sampler Competition.

This past spring, the first Sandwich Sampler Competition was held in downtown Blackstone’s Town Square.  The community was invited to sample signature sandwiches from participating local restaurants and take part in the voting for the best sandwich, crowning Blackstone’s Sandwich King or Queen.  The event was designed to showcase the quality of local cuisine and entice visitors to dine at the downtown eateries.  Downtown retail also gained exposure and amassed return customers through a cross-promotional campaign of special-offer coupons.

For the inaugural year, only 100 tickets were available for purchase, and it was a sell-out crowd! With a fine selection of local sandwich options, the competition was fierce, but the winner was quite clear. The Corner Kitchen won with a distinctive house-made strawberry ice cream sandwich.  While the inaugural event generated a small amount of revenue, it has the ability to become a profitable signature event. Given the vast amount of positive reviews, the competition will become a bigger and better annual event.

Congratulations Downtown Blackstone!

Visit downtown Blackstone for the upcoming Regional Rev Up: Opportunity Analysis – Effective Design, Oct. 17, 2018.

Accelerators: Taking Businesses to the Next Level

There is much confusion about the difference between incubators and accelerators, as the prevalence of both types of spaces has dramatically increased over the past 10 years. While both may provide entrepreneurs with similar services such as office space, capital, mentorship and other resources, there are several differences between the two.

Incubators generally do not have a competitive process to select the businesses that they serve, while accelerators do have a competitive process to develop “cohorts” of businesses, and they are typically selected on a cyclical basis. Also, the length of time that a company is located in an accelerator is less than an incubator, as most accelerators want the businesses to graduate within three to six months. Therefore, the assistance provided is very intensive and allows entrepreneurs to learn at a rapid or accelerated pace.

Accelerators also frequently work with angel investors that will take an equity stake in a company once it graduates from the program. This provides the business with capital to take their product to market quickly. Investors are also more interested in businesses that are involved in an accelerator program as they have had a more stringent vetting process as part of the cohort selection.

The benefit of an accelerator program for the business owner is the vast amount of resources that are provided by the accelerator. Accelerators are run by professionals who have helped new businesses overcome many of the stumbling blocks that startups face, as well as the presence of peers that are in the same phase of development. A potential drawback for some businesses is that they generally will need to exchange equity in their company for participation in an accelerator program.

There are several accelerators located in Virginia, including Lighthouse Labs in Richmond, RAMP in Roanoke and Ignition in Williamsburg.

Recognizing the Hard Work on Main Street: CenterFuse Co-working

At the recent 2018 Downtown Intersections in Harrisonburg, we continued our tradition of acknowledging outstanding achievements in comprehensive downtown revitalization efforts through Merit Awards. They recognize the hard work, dedication and success of Virginia’s Main Street communities and their achievements across the four points of the Main Street Approach®.  This is the first of a blog series to highlight each of the seven award winners. 

Historic Manassas Inc. Executive Director Debbie Haight accepted the Outstanding Business award for CenterFuse Coworking.  Years in the making and the first in historic downtown Manassas, CenterFuse is both an incubator and co-working space that provides new and emerging businesses with an environment that will support their start-up phase and increase the likelihood of success.  It functions as a for-profit business, but was created by and is under the auspice of Historic Manassas Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation and pioneer of the local Main Street program.

CenterFuse focuses on science and technology while cultivating other compatible businesses in the district.  The facility offers flexible leases, shared-use, and common office equipment, direct business assistance, mentoring, networking and access to capital.  The 3,800 square foot space includes a mix of offices, dedicated workstations, and open space for networking.  It also provides a roster of entrepreneurship education and mentorship programs, among others.

Since opening in May 2017, the incubator is seeing steady growth in the participating startup’s business development who will soon be ready to expand or move into vacancies downtown. While rising businesses are in the space, they contribute to an entrepreneurial culture in downtown and to the economic vitality of other local businesses and residential properties.

Congratulations Historic Manassas Inc. and CenterFuse Coworking!

To learn more >>>