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!

How To Apply Workshops coming in January!

The Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) Community Development Division will be holding how-to-apply workshops across the commonwealth in January as several grant programs will open for application submissions on January 2, 2019.

DHCD’s grant programs offer flexible resources that allows communities and local/regional organizations do more to create vibrant communities.

The workshops will discuss several programs offered by DHCD, including:

The workshops will feature discussions regarding the application process for each program, successful projects that have been implemented by these programs, changes for the coming year and how you can best position your effort as you prepare to apply for a grant.

The workshops will be held on the following dates and locations:

  • Jan. 8, 2019 – Richmond
  • Jan. 10, 2019 – Newport News
  • Jan. 15, 2019 – Staunton
  • Jan. 16, 2019 – Wytheville (will include a CDBG overview)
  • Jan. 17, 2019 – Danville

To register for one of the workshops, click on this link.

Coworking Spaces: The new office space for the future of work

There has been a meteoric growth in the number of coworking spaces in the United States, from an estimated 14 in 2007 to more than 11,000 in 2017. The number is expected to balloon to over 26,000 by 2020! This growth has mirrored the growth of workers working in the “gig” economy, with an estimated 40 percent of the population to be engaged in some sort of freelance work by 2020. In fact, a coworking company is poised to become the largest user of private office space in Manhattan.

Coworking spaces are shared working spaces that have been created to allow entrepreneurs, freelancers, start-ups and work-from-home professionals a place to work without many of the overhead expenses associated with a traditional office space. Users can access shared or private office space, shared resources, networking opportunities and an environment that is conducive to productivity.

Membership levels are offered that can be tailored to any entrepreneur’s needs and budget. As the popularity of coworking spaces has increased, we are seeing more amenities being offered; from desk space to a private office, meeting rooms, private space to make phone calls, mail services and even storage space, most entrepreneurs can find a coworking space that will meet their needs.

We are also starting to see some companies add coworking space to their existing retail or commercial spaces. Cowork Cafe in Arlington is a coffee shop/cafe with coworking space available, as well. Even big box retailers like Staples and Office Depot are getting into the coworking market! In Staunton, the Innovation Hub was created with the help of a Building Entrepreneurial Economy grant and is a great example of all of the possibilities of this type of work space.

While it is unclear whether coworking spaces are here to stay, the prevailing attitude is that they are and will continue to disrupt the current model of how and where people work.

Vote Your Main Street!

Danville’s Main Street program – the River District Association – is a FINALIST for the 2018 Partners in Preservation: Main Street campaign! You are invited to #VoteYourMainStreet from NOW until Oct. 26 to decide which historic sites along 20 of America’s favorite Main Streets should receive $2 million in preservation funding from American Express.

Partners in Preservation is an initiative created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express to engage the public in preserving and increasing awareness of America’s historic places and their role in sustaining local communities. Since its inception in 2006, Partners in Preservation has committed over $22 million in support of more than 200 sites.

From the early 1900s through the civil rights movement and beyond, Union Street was first a thriving tobacco warehouse district, and then a mecca for black businesses and entrepreneurship. This project will restore two storefronts to foster continued entrepreneurship and create space for celebrating the area’s civil rights history.

 

 

 

The River District and the city of Danville have made North Union Street an area of particular focus for investment in 2018 and 2019. The city is matching funds received through a Virginia Main Street Downtown Investment Grant to provide grant funding for facade improvements along this corridor. In addition, the organization and the city have also partnered on a Community Business Launch grant through DHCD that will target business recruitment efforts in this area. The Partners in Preservation: Main Street would provide additional resources to not only preserve, but to revitalize this district!

Help Danville to win – Vote Early, Vote Often!

 

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.

Host a Finding Main Street book club

Finding Main Street Facebook Event
Singer-songwriter Dar Williams launched Virginia Main Street’s Finding Main Street book club at the 2018 Downtown Intersections with a performance and talk on “Thinking in Bridges.”

“We think we have so much divisiveness,” she said. “But the opposite of divisiveness is not unity. It is collaboration.”

Williams found plenty of collaboration in the successful communities profiled in her placemaking and community development book, What I Found in a Thousand Towns. These are towns she has seen rise and thrive over her nearly three decades of touring. Williams asserts that they created “positive proximity” by:

  • Creating spaces that foster loose forms of communication and connection across residents.
  • Undertaking collective identity building projects that override the differences of the individuals contributing to them.
  • Welcoming the contributions of all willing citizens.

Across Virginia, the Finding Main Street Book Club will explore the strategies at work in Main Street communities. A toolkit is available in a tab at the top of this page. It currently includes:

Beginning on September 4, videos will be added weekly to highlight chapter concepts at work in Virginia’s Main Street network. In spring 2019, follow-up videos will showcase community conversations resulting from the book clubs. For the 2019 Downtown Intersections Idea Pitch, communities will be invited to propose projects inspired by the book and compete for funding to support the projects.

If you’d like to talk about book club ideas or the benefits of hosting one, contact your Main Street representative or Doug Jackson at 804-418-9878 or douglas.jackson@dhcd.virginia.gov. Remember you’re never in this alone–reach out to your likely partners locally, including book stores and libraries, and see what you can get started.

The book club model was piloted in Roanoke in the fall of 2017, where chapter discussions highlighted local leaders and organizations undertaking strategies featured in the book. Find more information from the pilot, including press and session descriptions, at bookcityroanoke.com.

Finding Main Street is a project of the Virginia Main Street Program at the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development with support from Virginia Community Capital, Virginia Tourism Corporation, Virginia Humanities , and Book City ★ Roanoke.

What’s in a Name? The Different Types of Shared Work Spaces

We’ve all heard buzzwords such as incubators, co-working spaces and maker spaces. As the number of people working in the “gig” economy continues to grow, so will the places that support that industry. But what’s the difference in these spaces, and what do they provide not only to the entrepreneurs that use them, but the community as a whole? Over the next few weeks, we will discuss several different types of shared working spaces beginning with an overview of the most popular types.

Incubators – Incubators specialize in growing new and early-stage businesses. They typically provide resources like office space, legal counsel, accounting and other business guidance, possibly even funding opportunities. The types of incubators vary greatly from office/service-oriented businesses to high tech. There are examples of incubators in Franklin, Lynchburg and Norton.

Accelerators – Accelerator programs are more geared towards rapid-growth companies. Most involve a “cohort” of companies that have applied to the accelerator program, and the idea is to “accelerate” the companies to market within a three- to six-month period. Roanoke and Hampton both have great examples.

Coworking space – There are an estimated 10,000 co-working spaces in the United States. The co-working space allows entrepreneurs and “gig economy” workers to join together in a low-cost space instead of working in isolation. These spaces typically offer other services such as networking events, mentoring and learning opportunities, and the opportunity to develop partnerships with other businesses. Richmond and Harrisonburg have really been at the forefront of coworking.

Maker space – A maker space is a collaborative workspace that includes a variety of maker tools such as 3-D printers, laser cutters, letter presses, CNC machines, computers and other equipment. Maker spaces typically charge a monthly fee to members and are created for those who are creating products or who would like to learn how to “make” items. Next time you are in Lexington or Staunton, check out these great examples!

Stay tuned for more in-depth discussion about each type of shared workspace, including best practices, in upcoming posts.