Innovative Models for Main Street Businesses

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Airstream Beauty Boutique, Harrisonburg, VA

In August of 2016 a local beauty boutique opened in Harrisonburg’s Main Street district in an unusual and fantastic location, a 1975 Airstream Land Yacht.  Airstream Beauty Boutique owner Irina Dovganetskiy needed a small space that would allow her to test the market and grow her business – handmade beauty products using natural and toxic-free ingredients.  She wished to belong to a community of small businesses on Main Street but, without an available downtown storefront, Irina had to dream up a new way of doing business.

Clever entrepreneurs have an opportunity to think outside the box and inside a truck, trailer, or any space with a critical mass of customers and a growing market.  Recently on the Orton Family Foundation’s Cornerstones blog, rural economy expert Becky McCray shared six ways for small businesses to consider doing business in small towns:

  1. Pop-ups – temporary businesses that may last from just one day to several months.
  2. Trucks and trailers – not just for food businesses any longer, service and retail businesses are catching on.
  3. Business-in-a-business – sharing space with several different businesses under one roof.
  4. Tiny business villages – extra-small businesses in tiny buildings located together as a temporary village in an empty lot or green space.
  5. Rural-sourcing – an online marketplace offers business owners to live in rural communities, but reach a global market.
  6. Omni-local – local bricks-and-mortar shops can use e-commerce to take orders online and on-the-go mobile sites, and even monthly subscription boxes.

Could a mobile business set up shop in your downtown district without delays?  What trends can your Main Street program embrace now to nurture a thriving market place?

Shop Local, Support Local with HuTerra and Virginia Main Street

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Travel Planner Ad, Southern Living, December 2016

There’s no better time to visit Main Street then the holidays. Winter celebrations bring revelers together to enjoy light shows, caroling and special shopping experiences with local merchants. There is a magic to shopping on Main Street that simply doesn’t exist at the mall. We can feel good about our shopping because keeping the cash register ringing at these local stores not only benefits the shop owner but the entire local economy.

This holiday season those benefits are multiplied. From November 15 to December 31, 2016, Virginia Main Street, in partnership with the HuTerra Foundation, will promote both shopping local on Main Street and supporting local nonprofits.  HuTerra is a great supporter of Main Street organizations with a goal to connect small businesses to the community by increasing customer traffic via their mobile app, My HuTerra, available for iOS or Android.

Download the My HuTerra app, pick your favorite nonprofit, and play the “Holidays on Main” game.  When you visit the local merchants at participating Virginia Main Street communities during the holidays, simply “check in” for a chance to win a gift basket or $5000 for your favorite nonprofit.  By shopping locally you can help HuTerra give away $50,000 to nonprofits throughout Virginia!

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another. – Charles Dickens

 Learn more and download My HuTerra >>

 

Make Your Downtown an Easy Target for New Business

Why should an entrepreneur choose your downtown for a new location? 

Selling your community to prospective entrepreneurs is challenging without the information they need to make location decisions. Throughout the last few years, Kansas’ Emporia Main Street refined an attractive and easily updateable business investment guide to help make the choice that much easier.  The guide sells the community and gives prospects the confidence to move forward quickly.

Executive Director Casey Woods, Emporia Main Street, says, “The Business Investment Guide has a tremendous impact on our ability to focus business and community development in a strategic, sustainable manner. Since the development of the guide, Emporia Main Street has been able to more effectively partner with a variety of individuals that now know how to invest in our downtown area, and the results of the implementation of the Business Investment Guide are significant. Downtown Emporia has had $48 million dollars in reinvestment in the last seven years (which is fairly significant for rural Kansas) and the Business Investment Guide played a significant role in the redevelopment and recruitment process.”

Emporia Main Street crafted a simple formula for the guide, Inspiration + Information + Presentation = Entrepreneurs and Progress:

BIG

Emporia Main Street, Kansas Business Investment Guide

Inspiration: Communicate current market opportunities with sales leakage and demographic information and support the data with the downtown vision, examples of successful Main Street projects and their economic impacts.

Information: Connect entrepreneurs to your local assets, like the available business incentives; maps showing pedestrian paths and business locations using color-coded maps; a full event calendar and statistics about attendance; facts about the local workforce; and professional resources and social outlets.

Presentation: Craft a sales pitch using clever titles that double as benefit statements and design the final guide to be attractive and inviting, then promote digital copies through social media and print customized versions for that target market entrepreneur.

Emporia Main Street wants your downtown to experience the same success attracting business investment, so they made a business investment guide shell available online, so you can get a jump start on yours.

Thank you, Emporia!

 

Three Steps to Refresh Your Main Street Strategies for Visible Results

How can your local Main Street program better use limited resources to create vibrant, people-centered places?

The Main Street Approach has been a successful model for NMSC06_WEBBANNER_F_APPROACHolder commercial district revitalization for more than 35 years and is used to revitalize and manage downtowns in more than 2,000 communities across the U.S.  The Four Point approach offers a simple guide to comprehensively address a complex and sometimes chaotic downtown environment.  While that is true, it is a challenge to get the equation just right to catalyze reinvestment, create jobs and create a better quality of life, and especially to do it just right.

Throughout the past few years, the National Main Street Center has conducted surveys, convened a task force of experts and engaged closely with the Main Street network to develop a revised framework.  This revision, called the Four Point Refresh, is the same approach, just sharpened, made more strategic and with a focus on visible results.

  1. Identify the Community Vision for Success – This essential step provides a foundation for outlining the community’s own identity, expectations and ideals, while building off of market opportunities.
  2. Create Community Transformation Strategies – Work together to identify strategies that provide a clear sense of priorities and direction.  These strategies align with the four key areas: economic vitality, effective promotion, quality design and a sustainable organization.  Typically communities will find two to three strategies to help reach a community vision.
  3. Implement and Measure – To succeed, the effort must be able to demonstrate the wise use of resources, which translates to real change on the ground: new jobs added to Main Street, new businesses open, buildings redeveloped and certainly other metrics of success.

Find out more about how to make your local revitalization efforts better, stronger and faster by coming to the next Virginia Main Street training. VMS offers trainings throughout the year, and there is sure to be one near you.

 

Three Upcoming Opportunities to Rev up Your Downtown Revitalization Efforts

Is your downtown ready for new businesses and residential investment?

Open Late - Fredericksburg, VA

Open Late in Fredericksburg, VA

In order to meet new challenges and ensure a strong Main Street, communities need ongoing training.  Whether the community is just getting started with Main Street activities or well-seasoned in managing a prosperous commercial district, staff and volunteers need different skills in different phases of the downtown revitalization process.  All in all, to keep attracting downtown investment, local leaders should stay current on impactful revitalization techniques and issues that affect traditional commercial districts.

Continue local program volunteer and staff development in the Main Street Approach by attending training as provided by Virginia Main Street, the National Main Street Center and other statewide partners.

Here are three upcoming opportunities in 2016:

Oct. 16-17:  Preservation Virginia Conference, Charlottesville, VA

Nov. 1, 3, and 4: Virginia Main Street Regional Rev Ups, Wytheville, Culpeper and Farmville, VA

Nov. 13-15: VA-1 Tourism Summit, Roanoke, VA

Tips for a Wonderful Experience at Downtown Intersections, Staunton, Virginia

Guest Blogger Julie Markowitz, director of Staunton Downtown Development Association, started with Main Street in 2006, armed with 10 years of experience in mall marketing and promotions. Staunton Downtown Development Association is delighted to host the first inaugural Virginia Main Street Downtown Intersections workshop in Staunton, Virginia on July 11-13, 2016.

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Welcome to Staunton, Main Street friends! I am so excited to have all of you here in our fair city. I hope you get a chance to enjoy shopping, grab a locally-brewed beer or a glass of wine or experience one of Monday’s field sessions, so you can enjoy all of the new businesses and cultural happenings that Staunton has to offer.

We tried to select some activities that will give you a chance to relax, wander aournd and get acclimated before the event begins.  Like most Main streets, Mondays are quiet, but there is still plenty to do in and around downtown. If you want to grab lunch or dinner on Monday, here are some options:

  • American Café (lunch only)
  • Baja Bean Company
  • Bricks Restaurant and Pub (dinner only)
  • Byers Street Bistro
  • Cranberry’s Grocery and Eatery (lunch only)
  • Clocktower Restaurant and Bar
  • Depot Grille, Mill Street Grill (dinner only)
  • Sorrell’s Lounge at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel
  • The Split Banana for locally-sourced gelato

There are several different areas for shopping and site seeing within our downtown.  You can start by checking out the train station, then climb the stairs to the Sears Hill Bridge for the best view of downtown.  After the view, wind your way down to the Wharf and the Byers and Lewis Streets shops, where you will find Sunspots Studios and Glassblowing. Walk a short block past Wilderness Adventure to the Lewis Creek Market, then double-back to Pufferbellies Toys and Books and the shops on Beverley Street. End your stroll by heading up Augusta Street to visit LTD 7, a unique, cooperative gift store.

You will get your exercise and along the way, you will find charming shops and restaurants, beautiful views and friendly people. I hope you enjoy your visit to Staunton!

Get the complete list of stores and a handy map here.

 

Crowdfunding for Main Street

Local CrowdAre you looking for new and exciting ways to raise funds for a civic project, your Main Street organization or entrepreneurs in your community? The Local Crowd is a new crowdfunding platform that has been developed to help communities raise support for local businesses and projects.

The Local Crowd can help you do several things for your community:

  • Support local small business capital needs
  • Raise money for civic projects
  • Provide needed funding sources for local nonprofits and charities
  • Connect the economic development resources in your community with the people that need the capital

The Local Crowd is a crowdfunding technology that can help businesses and organizations in your community gain access to the capital they need. The Local Crowd platform combines the power of internet crowdfunding with a strong educational focus, designed to increase the knowledge and sophistication level of rural entrepreneurs and financial contributors.

The Local Crowd is looking for communities that offer great networks for businesses, entrepreneurs, residents and community leaders that embrace the tenets of buying, shopping and investing locally. To learn more about the power of investing in community, contact the Local Crowd to apply for the opportunity to become a demonstration community here.