Helping our businesses get the financing they need

Many small businesses and potential entrepreneurs in our downtowns struggle getting the financing they need to start or expand their business. We asked guest blogger Christina Cain, executive director at Staunton Creative Community Fund, to share some strategies for how her organization has been able to help small businesses gain access to capital.

christina cain

The biggest obstacle to small businesses that want to start or expand is access to capital. The answer for many is not a traditional business loan. There are several common reasons traditional loans are not for all small businesses: cost, availability, too much current debt and fear of failure. As a micro lender, what do we do? Diversify how we get access to capital for our clients.  Here are three examples of how we are addressing diversification:

  • Our Virginia Individual Development Account (VIDA ), through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), provides a matched-savings program for individuals to save money and build better futures for themselves and their families. Upon qualifying, they will earn $2 for every $1 they save, for a total of up to $6,000, that can be used for post-secondary education or to start or expand a business. (Editor’s Note: VIDA funds  may also be used to purchase a home.) Additionally, they receive financial literacy training to help them save money wisely, create realistic household spending plans and set their saving goals and values. This program is a powerful combination of access to capital, education and support that so many of our clients need. This program helps people manage their debt and gives them the flexibility to take the risk of starting a business where they may not have done so before. Check out the info about our VIDA program at


  • Crowdfunding can be an amazing vehicle for micro businesses to get the dollars that they need. This can be great for the project that is being funded, but what about the backers? I have to be honest, crowdfunding is not a panacea for businesses that are tight on cash. SCCF has found a way to use the crowdfunding platform for small businesses that puts accountability on the owner and the backers get their money returned. Kiva Zip Loan enables individual lenders around the world to ‘crowd fund’ interest-free loans directly to small business owners and entrepreneurs in the U.S. SCCF is a trustee of Kiva Zip, meaning we have the ability to endorse borrowers who seek financing through Kiva Zip. For more information on this, visit


  •  SCCF’s newest venture allows us build a deeper community relationship, as well as keep our dollars local. SCCF, with support from DHCD, has launched a local investing project. Why invest locally? Invest local is the simple choice to place some of our investments in local businesses, neighbors or communities. From crowdsourcing to peer-to-peer loans to joint investment clubs, there are many ways to keep our money local. Some of the reasons why individuals are choosing to invest in their local businesses and neighborhoods include building a strong local economy, supporting friends and neighbors and aligning values with investments.  Take a look at our newly-launched website at for more information on the project.

Small businesses make our towns amazing places to live. It is up to us to be creative and innovative in finding ways to help them thrive. I would love to hear your thoughts on ways to get access to capital for our business!

Small Business Saturday: Sign up to be a Neighborhood Champion!

Make an Impact in the Place you Call Homeshop small

Become a Neighborhood Champion by October 16 at 

In partnership with American Express, the National Main Street Center would like to invite you to become a Neighborhood Champion for Small Business Saturday® to help make Nov. 29 one of the biggest days of the year for your local small businesses.

Help Small Businesses Do More Business

In 2010, American Express founded Small Business Saturday to help business owners with their most pressing need, getting more customers. Four years later, the day continues to rally shoppers nationwide to support local small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Lead the Way

Help your community participate in Small Business Saturday this year by becoming a Neighborhood Champion. In 2013, nearly 1,500 individuals and local organizations signed up to rally their neighborhoods to celebrate the day.

As a Neighborhood Champion, you can make an impact by:
•    Organizing a neighborhood event to get your community excited about the day
•    Rallying your local small businesses to participate and encouraging your neighborhood to Shop Small®

Get What You Need for the Day

Commit to be a Neighborhood Champion by Oct. 16, and you will receive a Small Business Saturday event kit containing branded merchandise including items such as balloons, mats and shopping bags to help support your event on the day.

For inspiration on how to rally your neighborhood, Neighborhood Champions can check out Event Guides on and will also receive monthly emails filled with helpful planning resources to help prepare for the day. See Terms of Participation for additional details.

Commit to be a Neighborhood Champion today at

Damascus planned as year-round destination

Many VMS communities and other localities that DHCD partners with, like Damascus,  recognize the importance of connecting downtowns to the surrounding outdoor recreation assets.  We asked guest blogger Nick Proctor, community development and outdoor recreation specialist for the Friends of Southwest Virginia, to share how it is working in one small community in Southwest Virginia.

Two kids stand in the middle of Main Street, their water guns ready, waiting for the start of the Hiker Parade during Trail Days, an annual celebration for past, current, and future Appalachian Trail thru-hikers featuring music, vendors, gear repair, trail information, and the infamous hiker parade, held in Damascus, VA on Saturday, May 18, 2013. Copyright 2013 Jason Barnette

Two kids stand in the middle of Main Street with their water guns ready, waiting for the start of the Hiker Parade during Trail Days, an annual celebration for past, current and future Appalachian Trail thru-hikers. The event features music, vendors, gear repair, trail information and the infamous Hiker Parade and was held in Damascus on Saturday, May 18, 2013. Copyright 2013 Jason Barnette


Muddy hiking boots, a floating kayak or an eco-tour along hiking trails are new forms of currency in Appalachia. In 2012, outdoor-goers spent nearly $650 billion nationally on outdoor recreational activities, gear and accommodations. From that amount, federal, state and local entities collected $80 billion in taxes. Appalachia’s outdoor industry is a strong economic resource to be tapped in Southwest Virginia. Many communities throughout Southwest Virginia, such as Damascus, have realized the positive impacts that outdoor recreation and tourism can have on downtown revitalization strategies within the region. With a robust network of restaurants, businesses and outfitters to support an outdoor-oriented quality of life, Damascus is ready to tackle its next challenge, the seasonal characteristics of the outdoor recreation economy, that currently stifles future growth of the town.

Damascus approaches this challenge through a partnership with Virginia’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and its planning grant and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) programs. Over the course of the coming months, the town will work with design and marketing professionals to create strategies that position the town as a year-round destination for outdoor experiences, as well as economic prosperity. Market analysis studies will highlight new target markets to expand Damascus’ economic footprint. Physical improvement plans will bring new breath to the town, aligning outdoor recreation opportunities that surround the town with existing social and commerce hubs. Hopeful physical investments include an Appalachian Trail Destination Center, which would be owned by the town and operated by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in partnership with the Wilderness Society. This center would act as a year-round professional training center with visitor center services for both hikers and the general public. The center would bring awareness, not only to the world-renowned Appalachian Trail, but also professional development opportunities based on the trails and outdoor culture that is so important to this mountain community. Finally, aesthetic improvements will bring a cohesive feel and enhance the connectivity between various destinations throughout the town. All of these products leverage existing accomplishments to enhance the quality of life and economic independence of Damascus through natural and cultural assets, a true creative economy.

Damascus is a small town (population approximately 800) in Washington County in Southwest Virginia. As part of the planning grant, the town is currently working on becoming a Commercial District Affiliate with DHCD’s Virginia Main Street program. Damascus is home to Trail Days  and known as Trail Town, USA.

VMS 2014 Summer Toolkit: At a glance

On July 15-16, Main Street organizations and community organizations gathered in Farmville, Virginia to learn more about how they could attract and support local entrepreneurs and small businesses. Training kicked off with a panel discussion with local business owners in Farmville: Caryn’s Bridal, Sandy River Retreat and Charley’s Waterfront Cafe. They shared valuable insight with the group into the passion, pleasure, and sometimes, frustration of local small business owners that really set the tone for the remaining training.

The group heard from resource partners, such as the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (DSBSD), Longwood Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) about opportunities they have to assist existing business owners or new start-ups. Throughout, participants heard what they, as a community, can do to support new business through mentorship programs, community incentives, creative financing and connecting businesses to each other and regional opportunities.

Outside of training, the participants were able enjoy the Robert Russa Moton Museum, High Bridge Trail State Park and wonderful eateries and shops in Downtown Farmville.

All training presentations and materials can be located on VMS’s Archive Training materials found here.

Virginia Main Street grants available

Henry Hotel (Uptown Martinsville)

The Virginia Main Street program has two grant opportunities available for designated communities. These applications are due by August 29, 2014. Applications must be submitted in CAMS.

Downtown Investment Grants (DIG) will help local Main Street organizations accelerate the economic revitalization of their historic commercial districts by allowing them to implement innovative strategies, plans and programs that boost and accelerate private investment on Main Street.

Downtown Investment Grants are not capped, but grant awards will not typically exceed $45,000. DIGs help Main Street organizations implement projects that:
1. Facilitate innovative means of encouraging private investment that result in measurable economic improvement in the Main Street district;
2. Directly support the community’s vision for encouraging the private investment necessary for the economic revitalization of the Main Street district;
3. Align with the Main Street organization’s mission and the board’s strategic planning goals for the Main Street district; and,
4. Develop volunteer leadership, capacity and expertise in the Main Street organization.

Financial Feasibility Grants of generally up to $25,000 are available to help Main Street organizations implement projects that:

1. Work with owners of “white elephant” buildings to identify the highest and best use of such properties;
2. Develop sufficient information to allow the owner or Main Street organization to “shop” the rehabilitation and reuse of the property to private developers and investors; and,
3. Fund development of preliminary engineering reports, preliminary architecture reports, market demand studies for an identified highest and best-use and gap-financing research.

The grant funds are not to be used for continuing operations, program administration, payroll, debts or any other operational expenses.  The funds are for use in projects directly benefiting the Virginia Main Street community, with a preference to projects involving multiple partners, and they cannot be used to cover marketing and printing costs.

All projects must provide a minimum of one-to-one leverage, in which in-kind volunteer hours can be counted. Projects must be completed no later than June 1, 2015.

Celebrate American Craft Week in your community and promote your local economy

The Artisans Center of Virginia (ACV) and ‘Round the Mountain: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Network (RTM) are partnering with the support of the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) to celebrate American Craft Week on Oct. 3-12.

During American Craft Week, arts-and-craft-related events from throughout the commonwealth will be promoted in a robust and coordinated fashion on,, and The websites will feature local and regional events and the events of member businesses and trail-supporting hospitality businesses. Promotion of events is free for all ACV and RTM members.

So, how can businesses in your community participate?

  • Encourage businesses to have craft artisan exhibits or openings.
  • Virginia artisan craft- and agritourism-related businesses become a member of ACV or RTM, and promote your activities on the website. (Membership is inexpensive and a great value with many additional benefits. Participation in this strategy is just one.)
  • Open the doors of your community’s artisan trail in a tour. If you do not have a trail yet, you can still do this. Start with the willing businesses and a simple listing of open hours and addresses.
  • Have an artisan exhibit or demo in your local visitor’s center.
  • Include a wine tasting in an existing event (artisan includes agri-artisan).
  • Host a conversation of related businesses to help them plan an artist walk, crawl or afterhours event.

There are lots of opportunities, and if your community has not yet explored the strategies of the artisan craft and craft food movements, now is the perfect time.

For strategic guidance and good conversation on strengthening your local craft economy, contact:

South Boston project wins Virginia Main Street Special Achievement Award and VDDA Award of Excellence

Rehab Development, a Winston-Salem, N.C.-based developer specializing in downtown Main Street revitalization, historic preservation and successful public/private partnership formation, in partnership with Destination Downtown South Boston, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit volunteer-based Virginia Main Street Organization dedicated to the economic and cultural revitalization of downtown South Boston, has won the 2014 Virginia Main Street Special Achievement Award and the 2014 Virginia Downtown Development Association Award of Excellence for the New Brick Historic Lofts project.

We are so excited that this project received statewide recognition. Finding a developer like Rehab Development was a dream come true, as they shared our desire to preserve a piece of heritage unique and authentic to South Boston. We got to preserve the building plus get market-rate apartments in downtown. This project is a shining example of how our small community is restructuring its downtown economy for the 21st century. — Tamyra Vest, Executive Director of Destination Downtown South Boston

New Brick Historic Lofts’ heavy timbers, vaulted ceilings, abundant skylights and hardwood floors are brilliantly contrasted with modern design to provide high-end living spaces for its residents. Located at 701 Jefferson Avenue in the heart of downtown South Boston, the historic tobacco warehouse features 27 apartments for lease, including both one- and two-bedroom loft units.

“We are extremely grateful to both Virginia Main Street and Virginia Downtown Development Association for the wonderful recognition of our New Brick Historic Lofts project,” said Patrick Reilly, principal at Rehab Development.  “We would also like to thank Destination Downtown South Boston and the town of South Boston for their vision and support. Their hard work and commitment helped save this beautiful historic landmark, which has once again become a tremendous asset to downtown South Boston and the greater Halifax County community.”

Recently restored by Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Rehab Builders Inc., the lofts boast large windows, designs that take advantage of the 17-plus-foot ceilings, exposed heavy timber truss system, beautiful hardwood floors, historic brick, granite countertops, ceramic tile backsplashes, energy-efficient stainless steel appliances, energy-efficient heating/air units, washer/dryer hookups, extra locked storage space, gym, community laundry room and more!

 All-inclusive, furnished units are now available.  More information about the lofts can be found at 


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