Creating a Successful “Entrepreneurial Ecosystem”

In Main Street districts, one of the best ways to fill vacancies, and prevent new ones, is to foster a setting that is attractive to entrepreneurs and where small businesses can thrive.  The buzz word nowadays for that setting is “entrepreneurial ecosystem,” which refers to the elements outside the individual that encourage entrepreneurship and increase the probability of a successful business following a launch.  That ecosystem is what attracts, or repels, a business from locating in an empty storefront.

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Entrepreneurial activity in the U.S. is up 60% and at its highest level since 2005, according to the newest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM U.S. Report) with retirees looking for a second career and younger adults driving the trend.  The market is ripe.

Energizing Entrepreneurs was developed by the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship to provide a roadmap for communities looking to build their own Entrepreneurial Ecosystems. It is a great resource for communities, organizations and individuals who want to learn:

  • Why it’s so important to become an entrepreneurial community;
  • The elements of a support system for entrepreneurs;
  • Assessment tools to develop a local strategy;
  • How to understand and connect to entrepreneurs; and
  • The importance of creating, measuring and sustaining local impact.

Exploring the opportunity is a first step and DHCD’s Building Entrepreneurial Economies program can support the effort!

Learn more >>

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Local Incentives Drive Community Development

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Manassas Ribbon Cutting

One of the most important ways that a municipality can support it’s small business community is through targeted financial incentives. A recent Potomac Local article touted the expansion of the city of Manassas’ business incentive programs, including Façade Improvement Grants and Landscape Improvement Grants. These incentives will assist with the exterior renovations and landscaping of existing commercial or industrial properties.  The new initiatives are designed to encourage business owners to reinvest in properties throughout the City and serve as a redevelopment tool intended to bring new life to older structures.  Each pilot program has been allocated $50,000 and property owners must agree to invest $2 for every $1 the City invests.

Incentives like these are used alone or as part of a package to retain and attract business to a Main Street district or generally catalyze projects.  They are often in the form of a grant or a zero- to low-interest loan to promote improvements and appropriate design.  Seed funding sources can come from Tax Increment Financing (TIF), bank partnerships, Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), municipal/county targeted funds, or private loans and grants.  Incentives can mean the difference between vacant storefronts and a vibrant downtown neighborhood.

Congratulations to Manassas!

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Can “Open Late” increase “Shop Local?”

ClosedSignIt’s an old problem and a pervasive one. In Main Street districts nationwide, small business owner’s are reluctant to be open late or on the weekends. As a consequence those who work 9-5 jobs outside of the district are unable to shop local. A recent Wyoming Business Report article takes a look at how Main Street businesses’ hours of operation could be a catalyst for shifting economic progress.

Store hours come up in conversations with Main Street advocates across the state and nationwide.  It’s a discussion topic that often ends with a collective sigh.  It’s a challenge to convince independent business owners to change, let alone an entire consumer group.

Writer Joel Funk highlights solutions from several Wyoming downtown professionals and the National Main Street Center’s Matt Wagner.  Business owners need people downtown to make it worth their while to stay open and, equally true, shoppers need businesses to be open to make it worth their while to come downtown.  A successful shift of store hours is reliant upon a relationship between the owner and consumer, encouraged by the local Main Street program’s market awareness and perseverance.

70% of all consumer spending (both locals and visitors) takes place after 6 p.m.  Tourism specialist Roger Brooks suggests starting the shift by working with businesses to stay open on Friday and Saturday until 7 p.m. the first year, then add additional days as merchant confidence and consumer habits change.

Be that catalyst to shift economic progress.  Start the conversation!

 

The Bright Buzz: Kindling entrepreneur-focused transformation in Winchester

Many communities have decided that supporting local entrepreneurs is key to a thriving Main Street and one Virginia initiative is receiving national attention!

The National Main Street Center’s Main Street Story of the Week takes a look at how a local property owner created an innovative community space for entrepreneurs and entertainment to thrive.  Jennifer Bell, Winchester’s Downtown Manager, highlights the Bright Center, a 38,000 square-foot mixed-use development housing offices for 20 businesses and organizations, the Bright Buzz for entrepreneurs, and the Bright Box for entertainment.  This entrepreneur-focused downtown project kindles a movement of dramatic transformation within Old Town Winchester.

Read more >>

 

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The Bright Center, Winchester, Virginia

Pop-Up Altavista 2.0: Cultivating Local Entrepreneurs with an Educational Business Launch Competition

How can Main Street help entrepreneurs achieve a business expansion or start their own business?

The National Main Street Center’s Main Street Story of the Week features Pop-Up Altavista 2.0, Altavista On Track’s (AOT) second business launch competition.  Emelyn Gwynn, Main Street Coordinator for Altavista, highlights the program, which kicked off September, 2016.  Building off of AOT’s inaugural competition in January 2015, this second iteration is designed to lead local entrepreneurs through a nine-week educational program to help them plan for their business’ future.  This time they partnered with Virginia’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and utilized a program called GrowthWheel to create the curriculum.   Pop-Up 2.0 culminates with a “Business Expo Night” event where participants pitch their business ideas to judges for the opportunity to receive funding.  The winning businesses will be determined by the strength of the business plan, sustainability of the business, and the need for the business in the community.

Learn more >>

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Shop Local, Support Local with HuTerra and Virginia Main Street

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Travel Planner Ad, Southern Living, December 2016

There’s no better time to visit Main Street then the holidays. Winter celebrations bring revelers together to enjoy light shows, caroling and special shopping experiences with local merchants. There is a magic to shopping on Main Street that simply doesn’t exist at the mall. We can feel good about our shopping because keeping the cash register ringing at these local stores not only benefits the shop owner but the entire local economy.

This holiday season those benefits are multiplied. From November 15 to December 31, 2016, Virginia Main Street, in partnership with the HuTerra Foundation, will promote both shopping local on Main Street and supporting local nonprofits.  HuTerra is a great supporter of Main Street organizations with a goal to connect small businesses to the community by increasing customer traffic via their mobile app, My HuTerra, available for iOS or Android.

Download the My HuTerra app, pick your favorite nonprofit, and play the “Holidays on Main” game.  When you visit the local merchants at participating Virginia Main Street communities during the holidays, simply “check in” for a chance to win a gift basket or $5000 for your favorite nonprofit.  By shopping locally you can help HuTerra give away $50,000 to nonprofits throughout Virginia!

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another. – Charles Dickens

 Learn more and download My HuTerra >>

 

Discover What’s “Wythein:” Downtown Wytheville’s Vibrant New Website

DiscoverWytheinMain Street program websites come in many shapes and sizes.  The challenge is to create a simple and fresh website that promotes the Main Street organization and local brand while showcasing the unique charm of downtown and all it has to offer.

Downtown Wytheville Inc. recently updated their online presence with a website refresh that provides an informative, enticing and interactive experience for the user.  The site offers useful tools and information to its visitors, such as an easy to navigate, interactive map with a wide variety of filters from dining and shopping, to local community resources.  It appeals to entrepreneurs looking to locate in downtown by delivering a welcoming message, business investment guide and information on incentive programs.  It showcases the Main Street program, its mission, and ways to engage in support of downtown; and with mobile devices accounting for an increasing percentage of web traffic, Downtown Wytheville’s website can attractively acclimate to any screen resolution.

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