Virginia is for Entrepreneurs!

Governor McAuliffe and Senator Warner recently announced a new initiative to match Virginia entrepreneurs with investors, called “Virginia is for Entrepreneurs” (VA4E). This initiative includes a new website (va4e.org) that includes a standardized online application to better link entrepreneurs with more than 50 investment firms and potential funders to help launch or grow their Virginia-based businesses.

Any Virginia business can join the network, whether it is a farmer in Southwest Virginia or a high-tech startup in Northern Virginia. The network will provide resources and connect them with investors looking for opportunities to fund businesses across regions, backgrounds, and industries.

Interested investors can also join at the website, which will connect them with other like-minded investors, as well as provide them with opportunities to support entrepreneurs. Partners in the network include a number of universities, angel investment groups, venture funds, and statewide organizations.

According to Governor McAuliffe, “the Virginia is for Entrepreneurs initiative will open new doors for local start-ups by increasing access to the capital they need to thrive and create good-paying jobs.”

View the governor’s press release regarding this initiative here.

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BEE Innovation Day 2017

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will be holding a Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) Innovation Day on Wednesday, December 6, in Charlottesville, VA. Community leaders and small business enthusiasts will discuss innovative ideas in entrepreneurship development, as well as offer inspiration and education to plan for and create a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in their communities.

Our panel of experts and educational topics include:

  • Trends in Entrepreneurship – Mike Lenox, The Darden School, UVA
  • Building Partnerships for an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem – Annette Patterson, The Advancement Foundation
  • Thinking Entrepreneurially both Internally and Externally – Martin Kaszubowski, The Center for Enterprise Innovation, ODU
  • Resources for Entrepreneurs – David Touve, i.Lab at UVA
  • The Gig Economy: The Next Generation of Work – Larkin Garbee, 804RVA

Attendees will have the opportunity to discuss various aspects of DHCD’s Building Entrepreneurial Economies (BEE) and Community Business Launch (CBL) programs with some our past grantees, and to tour the i.Lab facility at UVA.

Register here for the event.

The District Digest Vol. 2 – Downtown Ideas to Put to Work

While you were busy making a difference in your home town, you might have missed these thought-provoking posts:

  1. Holiday Customer Service: 7 Tips Retailers Should Not Ignore – Retail Minded
  2. Craft Beer’s Big Impact on Small Towns and Forgotten Neighborhoods – Curbed
  3. 6 Urban Projects Built Thanks to Online Civic Engagement – CitizenLab
  4. How to Encourage Entrepreneurship in Your Town – Strong Towns
  5. Millennials Prefer Revitalized Historic Areas Not Malls – Modern Cities

Abingdon, Virginia

 

Downtown Lynchburg: Where the Makers Are

The Downtown Lynchburg Association (DLA) knows how to lift up their community. Right now they’re raising awareness of the hardworking entrepreneurs who, with their own hands, are making downtown the destination for local shopping.  Our guest blogger, DLA Executive Director Ashley Kershner, gives us the goods.   

As part of our overall marketing strategy this year, Downtown Lynchburg Association wanted a campaign that would do three things: feature the fabulous businesses that make our downtown unique, position downtown as the local choice for shopping, and most importantly, attract new visitors. With a multi-year downtown construction project looming, we knew that a strong marketing effort would be needed to get our businesses through the holiday season.

The concept of “makers” is a world-wide movement – artisan crafters, handmade goods, chefs sourcing from local ingredients, and makerspaces.  We set out to develop a concept that would align Downtown Lynchburg with the movement, and that would promote it as a place to where quality, originality, and art are valued.

“Where the Makers Are,” is a series of six videos featuring diverse downtown businesses – a skate shop that makes gifts from recycled boards; a pottery shop with handmade items; a bakery that starts baking at 4am; an 85-year old jewelry shop; a specialty chocolatier; and a children’s museum that creates its own exhibits. In each of these videos, we see close-up footage of these makers creating. We hear them talk about why they do what they do, and equally important, why they choose to do it in Downtown Lynchburg.

We have only released two videos thus far, but the response has been overwhelming. The first video alone was viewed over 34,000 times, and we received almost 2,000 video reactions, every single one of them positive. With negativity reigning in social media, this campaign has proven that people are looking for a way to express pride in their community.

With four more videos to go, we look forward to the potential impact this campaign will have on Downtown Lynchburg this year and into the future.

View the “Where the Makers Are campaign here >>>

VMS Commercial District Affiliate Grants Now Available!

Virginia Main Street has opened the application process for our first ever Commercial District Affiliate Grants! Affiliate Grants are designed to assist organizations and communities in achieving their downtown revitalization goals and be used for projects or planning purposes.

The maximum grant amount is $7,000 and can be used for…

  • non-profit organizational development;
  • vision/mission development;
  • work plan and budget development;
  • market studies;
  • downtown organization website development;
  • design projects;
  • entrepreneur support projects;
  • wayfinding system development;
  • economic vitality projects; or
  • other consultant services that will contribute to the historic downtown and for which other funds are not available.

Affiliate grants are available to registered DHCD Commercial District Affiliates and Virginia Downtowns. DHCD invites projects that hold the potential for positive impact on the downtown neighborhood’s long-term goals.

Applications for Affiliate Grants will be due on December 1, 2017, and the projects associated with the applications should be completed in our CAMS system by June 1, 2018. Our grant manual is available here!

Webinar – Business Booster: Recruitment and Retention Tactics for a Vibrant Downtown

On October 2, 12 – 1 p.m., Virginia Main Street is offering a free webinar focused on encouraging business growth in your downtown and helping existing businesses keep their doors open.  

One of the of the primary responsibilities of a Main Street program is to boost the economic growth of the business district.  With the rise of online shopping and convenient apps, where do you put the attention and resources to make downtown the first choice for shopping and dining?  As competition increases to capture spending, it is critical that your program understand its competitive advantages and develop targeted strategies for a sustainable retail base in downtown.

Check out this free webinar to help your Main Street program move from identifying unique market opportunities to developing resources and tools that form the foundation for growing existing businesses and attraction new ones to your commercial district.

About the speaker:

Matt Wagner, Ph.D., Vice President of Revitalization Programs, National Main Street Center

Matt Wagner has more than 20 years of non-profit management experience in downtown development, entrepreneurship, and tech-based development.  At the National Main Street Center, Matt is leading the launch of the renewed and re-imagined Four Point Approach, as well as helping the Center reach new communities with this refreshed framework.  Overseeing the Field Services team, Matt also leads the Center’s efforts to expand technical service offerings, and offer preservation-based economic revitalization services directly to communities.

Register now for this event >>

 

Farmville Shopping - Courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation

Farmville Shopping – Courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation

Five Things your Economic Vitality Committee can do Today to Support Downtown

In my Virginia Main Street wanderings and conversations with directors I’ve been hearing a common refrain – “What should our Economic Vitality committee be doing?” A thought provoking question that I am sure goes unasked more often than asked. As fate would have it I recently participated in a Hillary Greenberg webinar on supporting small businesses that provided me with a “lightbulb” moment. Sometimes our boards and committees get caught up in thinking big and miss some of the small, every day, right-in-front-of-your-nose kinds of things that could yield big results for the district.

    1. Is your downtown business friendly? The EV committee can review municipal codes, fees, permit processes and timelines – anything that pertains to establishing or growing a business in the Main Street district. Identify anything that would be a detriment to starting a business or fixing a building then work with the municipality on a making the code friendlier to small business.
    2. Help new businesses navigate the permit process. Now that the EV committee has a thorough understanding of all of the local hoops to jump through to open a business downtown, turn that information into a step-by-step guide for new business owners.
    3. Survey retailers and business owners. In person, with a flyer, online – ask the questions. What would help you to improve your business? Have some check boxes –
      • website development?
      • access to capital?
      • cooperative advertising?
      • loan pool?
      • new signage?
    4. Hold Retailer Round Tables. Use those survey responses to generate topics! One month bring in a marketing guru to discuss website content. The next month (or quarter) have the Promotions committee members come to talk about, and get feedback on, upcoming retailing events. Bring in an accountant to give a Quickbooks lesson. Respond to the retailer’s needs to help them grow their businesses.
    5. Create a Mentorship Network. Every district has those retailers and restaurateurs who are knocking it out of the park. Set up a network of successful business owners to work one-on-one with those that are struggling.

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but they are ideas that can be quickly assigned and implemented by a motivated EV committee that can make a real difference on the ground.

Does your EV committee do something innovative to improve downtown? We want to hear about it!