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.

Main Street Communities Partnering for Entrepreneur Development

This past spring, DHCD’s Virginia Enterprise Initiative awarded six innovation grants to help develop new and innovative techniques for cultivating and assisting micro-entrepreneurs. Three of the awardees (Bristol, Staunton and Waynesboro) are specifically targeting micro-entrepreneur development in their local Main Street districts.

Staunton Creative Community Fund, in Staunton, will continue to build off of its strong record of innovative entrepreneur development initiatives like Ignite Staunton and “Confessions of an Entrepreneur” by developing a local Hours Exchange Program, a networked community kitchen incubator and an online platform for sharing local Kickstarter projects.

Community Investment Collaborative (CIC) in Charlottesville will offer two 14-week entrepreneur development classes and will begin offering micro-financing to training graduates who want to start or expand their businesses.

United Virginia is expanding its micro-entrepreneur development services to southern Virginia. United Virginia will offer four 10-week entrepreneur development classes and will coordinate micro-financing for new or expanding businesses in southern Virginia.

Total Action Against Poverty (TAP) and its affiliate Business Seed Capital, Inc. (BSCI), working in the Roanoke region, is going to develop Virginia’s first solidarity lending program based on the Grameen Bank model. If successful, TAP and BSCI hope to establish the Virginia Chapter of Grameen America.

Believe in Bristol (BIB), Bristol’s Main Street organization, is going to develop and coordinate a micro-entrepreneur training and technical assistance program to encourage new businesses to fill up empty store fronts in Bristol’s Main Street district. The entrepreneur development program will be housed in BIB’s new offices.

The City of Waynesboro will work with nearby colleges and universities to develop a business competition program for new business graduates interested in starting a business in an empty store front in Waynesboro’s Main Street district. In addition to training and assistance in business start-up and micro-financing, the Waynesboro Downtown Development Inc. will help the three winners of the competition work with downtown landlords to find available rental space for their new businesses.