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.


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.


Virginia’s Craft Beer Scene is Booming

Governor Terry McAuliffe recently announced that Virginia is now home to 206 licensed breweries, a 468% growth since 2012, when the tasting room bill, SB604, passed the General Assembly. A newly released economic impact study shows that Virginia’s booming beer industry contributes more than $9.34 billion annually to Virginia’s economy.

“In addition to the direct economic impacts of manufacturing, the industry generates increased tourism-related revenues, provides new production and sales opportunities for our agricultural producers, and enhances community revitalization and development efforts in both rural and urban areas of the Commonwealth”, said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore.

This success story is close to home on Virginia’s Main Streets. One of the latest brewery additions is Sugar Hill Brewing Company in St. Paul, opened fall 2016.  The brewery added a much needed restaurant that is now a local favorite, a tourist destination, and a big economic boost to the small town. It complements the economic development strategy as an ecological and commercial hub – connecting downtown to hiking trails, off-road recreation, and summertime tube floats and kayaking on the Clinch River.

A frothy wave is crashing into our Main Street communities; one that is having a favorable impact on local opportunity, character, and spirits.  Check out more Virginia craft brewery offerings here >>

Discover What’s “Wythein:” Downtown Wytheville’s Vibrant New Website

DiscoverWytheinMain Street program websites come in many shapes and sizes.  The challenge is to create a simple and fresh website that promotes the Main Street organization and local brand while showcasing the unique charm of downtown and all it has to offer.

Downtown Wytheville Inc. recently updated their online presence with a website refresh that provides an informative, enticing and interactive experience for the user.  The site offers useful tools and information to its visitors, such as an easy to navigate, interactive map with a wide variety of filters from dining and shopping, to local community resources.  It appeals to entrepreneurs looking to locate in downtown by delivering a welcoming message, business investment guide and information on incentive programs.  It showcases the Main Street program, its mission, and ways to engage in support of downtown; and with mobile devices accounting for an increasing percentage of web traffic, Downtown Wytheville’s website can attractively acclimate to any screen resolution.

Learn more >>



Virginia Main Street Regional Rev Up: Advancing Main Street Momentum with Good Data

On November 1, 3, and 4 in Wytheville, Culpeper, and Farmville, the fall edition of the Regional Rev Up promises to load your downtown revitalization kit with the tools you need to develop market-based revitalization strategies.  

The business of Main Street is constantly evolving.  New challenges and opportunities are always presenting themselves. If we know where to look, we can anticipate these changes and adapt to meet the new programmatic needs.  Market awareness as to which businesses are opening and which are closing; the jobs that are being created and the jobs that are going away; buildings undergoing development and those waiting to be redeveloped is essential to understanding who is using your downtown and where the resources are best spent.  It is imperative to know which metrics are important, how to track them and how to interpret and utilize the data.

Three regional trainings will center on how to understand market data for strategic focus and how to identify milestones to communicate forward momentum.  Join the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development and Dr. John Accordino with VCU’s Center for Urban and Regional Analysis (CURA) to:

  • Utilize the refreshed Main Street Approach and Transformation Strategies
  • Learn how to apply market knowledge to revitalization strategy development
  • Identify measurable outcomes that communicate revitalization progress
  • Explore case studies that translate to real world application

Registration is free.  Lunch will cost $15 and is only payable by cash on site at the event.  Registration for each Rev Up session closes one week prior to the event, so register now to reserve your spot!

Register now >>



Overnight Success, 20 Years In The Making

Guest Blogger Ken Heath, Director of Community and Economic Development, has been working for downtown revitalization since 1994 with the Town of Marion. Read his inspirational words and how it has taken over twenty years to get where the Town is today. Working hard at revitalization every day, and the job is never done. 

It’s nice to be in the catbird’s seat.  I remember starting as Marion’s first Main Street manager in November 1994, when none of us had a clue what we were doing – especially me!  My board was great.  They had drawn the proverbial line in the sand, decided our downtown was worth saving, set up the fledgling finances, and, crazy as it sounds, they put their faith in me to figure out how to turn things around.  Virginia Main Street was a Godsend!  The training, networking, resources gave me a channel for my unbridled passion for my hometown, and we thought we were off to the races!

Downtown Marion. Photo credit: Ken Heath

Downtown Marion. Photo credit: Ken Heath

But reality was waiting on our Main Street.  Almost daily, another mom and pop shuttered their doors, closed shop.  We were on the ropes, staggered by the national economy and our own community’s tendency to take what money we had out of town to shop.  Marion, as we knew it, was circling the drain.

We survived, thanks to a lot of hairdressers and folks like me who didn’t know better but were willing to give it a try.  We programmed special events – not because we loved grilling hot dogs, but because we needed the community to come back downtown for ANY reason at that point.  We believed if we could get our community to love downtown again, we could get business back downtown again. And then we could get visitors to come, and more businesses.  But we had to first stem the tide, help us believe again.

By good luck, by providence, by stumbling into it, Marion has held it together through the dark times.  We – our community – celebrate our successes, share our heartaches, and wear our passion on our sleeves.  We take audacious dreams and help foster them, incubating them with our energies and resources.  We don’t say no, we say “how can we help make this happen”.  And through it all, we believe.

When folks come to visit our downtown for “Song of the Mountains” or to come back for a class reunion, we’re flooded with such nice, kind compliments about our town.  Our downtown is nearly full.  Soon, we’ll be a beehive of activity, with another round if Streetscape improvements, new private reinvestment to repurpose historic buildings into new downtown living, new shops and restaurants, summer concerts and farmers market and shows at our Lincoln Theatre and classes at our Wayne Henderson School of Appalachian Arts and another semester of college at our downtown Summit Center for Higher Education.  Folks compliment us on doing it “overnight”.

Anything but.

Marion’s success is part training, part providence, part luck, and part stubbornness.  We didn’t know better.  We didn’t know not to dream big.  We took the tools and resources and blessings offered and went to work, only pulling our noses away from the grindstone long enough to set our sights toward the next mountaintop we wanted to climb.  We worked together, sweated together, cried together.  And through to all, we learn, we strengthen, we come together.  And we dream.  Audacious dreams.  Bold dreams.  Crazy dreams.

For everyone believing in the overnight success, keep on believing.  It’s dawn again in Marion.  And the sun keeps coming up, every day, to something else new and exciting.

If it can happen in Marion, it can happen in your town.  It takes faith, pride, believers and schemers and dreamers.  It takes a strong constitution, a hard head, a bulldog’s tenacity to never let go.  It takes a team.  And it takes a leader.  Someone who’s very life and breath and soul is in your downtown.  It’s somebody who can shoulder the criticism, listen to the complains, nurture the ideas and hopes and dreams, orchestrate it all to be a beautiful symphony while helping each musician believe it to be their own idea.  Maybe it’s your mayor, your Main Street director, your shop owner.  Find your spoon.  Give them the training and resources, share your audacious dreams.  And support them.  With time, finances, vocal support.  Make it happen.

And come see us in Marion.  Come back often.  Good times are here.  But the best is yet to come.  (And always will be!)

Small business training resource

Noon Knowledge series being recorded via Live Stream

Noon Knowledge series being recorded via LiveStream

Sometimes our downtown business owners are busy minding their shop and cannot attend in-person training. Sometimes they have just an hour during lunch break to take advantage of a short class. Knowing these challenges, the Virginia Highlands Small Business Incubator has teamed up with the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (SBSD) and Washington County Virginia Chamber of Commerce to create the “Noon Knowledge” professional development series.

Each week classes are taught by regional experts on a variety of business-related topics ranging from marketing, business management, technology and more during the noon lunch hour. Sandy Ratliff, business services manager with SBSD, also uses the LiveStream service and the new Facebook Live feature to allow participants that cannot attend in-person to watch live via their own computer, tablet or smartphone. There is also an archive of the videos on the Noon Knowledge YouTube channel for viewing by anyone in future, at their convenience. This is an excellent resource for your businesses who may want to catch a specific topic, but do notalways have the time during work hours. For more information about upcoming trainings, visit http://events.vastartup.org.

Seek the Unique and shop Downtown Bristol!

Bristol-Who knew you could support your local businesses from the luxury of your own couch? Don’t let that stop you from shopping in person in one of America’s most charming towns.

Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia has been named ShopOnMain’s most “Charming Town” in America and will now be featured in an upcoming episode of the TV series “Small Town, Big Deal.”  More than 100 cities were part of the competition with more than 20,000 votes cast.

Believe in Bristol Executive Director Christina Blevins is thrilled that Bristol is being recognized nationally.

“Shopping in downtown Bristol is truly blossoming, from antiques to clothing stores and art galleries and so much more, Bristol really has it going on.  Seek the unique!  Believe in Bristol thanks everyone for their support downtown, and we hope to continue with this type of success!  Congratulations downtown Bristol!”

Along with being featured on “Small Town, Big Deal,” Bristol also is featured prominently on ShopOnMain’s website, a new online shopping experience where you can discover local shops all over the country and support local communities.

Congratulate Bristol!