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, as well as the project’s website:

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

Believe in Bristol Opens Downtown Entrepreneur Ideaspace


Believe in Bristol's Downtown Entrepreneur's Ideaspace

Believe in Bristol’s Downtown Entrepreneur’s Ideaspace

While caught up in the details of drafting board by-laws, choosing downtown bench designs, training volunteers or coordinating downtown merchant coffee hours, it is easy for Main Street board and committee members and staff to forget that the primary goal of the Main Street organization is the economic redevelopment and revitalization of the local historic commercial district.

That probably won’t be a problem for the folks at Believe in Bristol (BiB). BiB recently opened a new office/Downtown Entrepreneur’s Ideaspace. The ideaspace will provide downtown entrepreneurs access to technology, meeting space and training to help them establish and grow new businesses downtown. To celebrate the opening of the ideaspace, BiB provided a free entrepreneur basics workshop (taught by People, Inc.) and a mobile marketing workshop (taught by the Virginia Deptartment of Business Assistance).  Believe in Bristol’s new small business resource center was funded, in part, by a $20,000 Virginia Enterprise Initiative (VEI) Innovation Grant. Last year’s Innovation Grants also funded downtown business development initiatives in the Main Street communities of Staunton (including an innovative hours exchange program) and Waynesboro (which is developing the Waynesboro Innovative Student Entrepreneur Competition, which will help fill empty storefronts along Main Street). VEI Innovation Grant applications will be accepted in January 2013.

Cultivating an Entrepreneurial Downtown: Summer toolkit registration now open

Wouldn’t you like to have a downtown filled with energetic and forward thinking businesses? In today’s fast changing economy, success belongs to those nimble risk takers who understand that their job is to fill consumer demand; The Entrepreneurs. 

Join the Virginia Main Street network of downtown revitalization professionals and volunteers in Franklin on July 22 and 23 to learn the latest in successful business development strategies. 

Cultivating an Entrepreneurial Downtown, Virginia Main Street’s Summer Toolkit,  is designed to help communities focus the Main Street Four Point Approach ® to entrepreneur and local business expansion for a thriving, home-grown, downtown marketplace. 

The event will be hosted by Virginia Main Street and the Downtown Franklin Association, with support from the following local sponsors: Bronco Federal Credit Union, Franklin Southampton Economic Development, Inc., and Southampton Memorial Hospital.

To build on the momentum of the program, at the end of day two the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development Project Management Office will host a Southern Virginia Downtown Interchange to bring together the region’s fruitful minds and enterprising resources. 

For more information, download the full agenda, and then register online today.

April 1 luncheon focused on supporting local businesses

The Virginia Downtown Development Association continues its popular Hot Topics Luncheon series in Martinsville on April 1, with a focus on nurturing a climate supportive of local businesses. 

Eddie Bumbaugh,  executive director of Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, will present on incentives  instrumental to generating a strong business climate.  The session will address how a downtown can serve as an entrepreneurial incubator and include some tried and true business recruitment techniques and business retention strategies.

The luncheon begins at noon at the Virginia Museum of Natural History and will conclude by 2 p.m.  Register online at

 Call or e-mail the VDDA office with any questions at: or (804) 754-4120.