SourceLink Virginia project coming to a close on July 15, 2019

It is with bittersweet feelings that we announce that the SourceLink Virginia project will formally come to a close on July 15, 2019. As a result, the main website (www.sourcelinkvirginia.org) and all of its underlying components will no longer be visible to the public after that time.

From its launch in 2014 by the Virginia Community Economic Network to its eventual transition to Virginia Cooperative Extension in 2016, SourceLink Virginia has been a valuable resource for communities and regions across the Commonwealth in their efforts to launch and grow entrepreneurship-based economic development activities. It is exciting to see the breadth and depth of startup ecosystems and small business supports that have grown and matured over that time in nearly every corner of the state. The website served over 50,000 users and generated thousands of online referrals to service providers such as your organization.

The landscape for entrepreneurship development and support in Virginia is quite different – in a good way – than it was when this project was initially launched, and it is good to know that SourceLink Virginia and its related initiatives played some part in these positive developments. Many thanks extend to the service providers, regional champions, funders, and others who contributed to the successful 5-year run of this initiative.

For those who are interested in leveraging the SourceLink platform to serve your community or region, feel free to reach out to Dara Macan with SourceLink national team in Kansas City. She is available to answer any questions and can be reached at dmacan@joinsourcelink.com.

New Publication Covers Entrepreneurship-based Economic Development in Virginia

As local, state and national economies continue to recover from the Great Recession, community leaders are increasingly interested in how they can create support systems to help entrepreneurs launch, manage and grow their businesses to enhance economic vitality. More and more, attracting, retaining and expanding small businesses is becoming a mainstream economic development strategy.

“Growing Local Economies through Entrepreneurship: A Guide for Community Leaders” is a new publication from Virginia Cooperative Extension. It is designed to help local leaders in the government, nonprofit and business sectors better understand key terms and concepts to skillfully navigate this emerging field of policy and practice. It provides a primer for communities and regions who want to explore entrepreneurship-based economic development strategies but who may not know exactly where to start.

SourceLink Virginia at Four

In 2013, Virginia Community Economic Network (VCEN), a nonprofit education and networking organization, surveyed over 70 community & economic development professionals and statewide leaders in the Commonwealth to gauge their interests in various programs and services to support small businesses. Among the highest in-demand needs identified were:

  • Creating a website where individuals could find business building resource organizations in Virginia, searchable by geography and services offered
  • Creating a shared online calendar of trainings and community events, searchable by location
  • Creating an online directory of organizations involved in community development initiatives, searchable by location and category

In response to these and other related factors, in August 2014, VCEN launched the SourceLink Virginia online entrepreneurship portal found at: www.sourcelinkvirginia.org.

In 2017, Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia Tech took over responsibility for the project management of SourceLink Virginia and formally became an affiliate in 2018 with funding support from the BB&T Charitable Foundation and Wells Fargo Foundation. As a result, SourceLink Virginia is now an economic development initiative of Virginia Cooperative Extension.

During its first four years, SourceLink Virginia has been visited by over 15,000 users. Its four-year (9/1/14-8/31/18) site-traffic statistics are:

  • 15,415 unique visitors, 20,880 sessions, 51,019 page-views
  • Average session: 2 minutes, 19 seconds; 2.44 pages/session
  • Traffic: 89% new users, 11% returning users
  • Activity Sources: 54% Website Referrals, 23% Direct, 21% Organic Search, 2% Social Media

In a little over four years, SourceLink Virginia has emerged as a highly regarded web-based small business development information source – it is considered both a tool for entrepreneurs to help themselves as well as a tool for economic developers to better serve their clients. For more information on SourceLink Virginia, contact Conaway Haskins at chaskins@vt.edu or 804-527-4247.

 

Virginia innovator selected to lead national entrepreneurship organization

Larkin Garbee, co-founder of the 804RVA co-working space, has been named as the interim executive director of the Dallas-based Startup Champions Network, a nonprofit entrepreneurial advocacy and support organization. Garbee, a longtime Richmond resident, will lead the organization from her home-base in Richmond while the organization conducts a national search for a full-time CEO. She is an active leader in the Richmond area and has been recognized by state, national and global organizations.

Garbee has started and/or co-led a number of companies and initiatives including Lighthosue Labs, Startup Virginia, RVA MakerFest, and VCU’s new startup pre-accelerator program. She plans to bring lessons learned from her Richmond experiences to the national network. As she told the Richmond Times-Dispatch“I think Richmond is a testament to what it means when you have different stakeholders support innovation and entrepreneurship, so we see things like coworking spaces and incubators and accelerators going in these communities.”

The Startup Champions Network (SCN) is a national organization which aims to “provide builders of entrepreneurial ecosystems the connections, resources, and professional development they need to cultivate thriving and inclusive communities.” It was founded in 2014 to connect people, resources, and events around the nation to support their communities and their work. It has emerged as a leading proponent of the entrepreneurial ecosystem approach.

Last month, SCN announced a collaboration with Kansas City-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Kauffman awarded a grant to SCN to engage its network of innovation ecosystem builders to formalize and professionalize efforts around creating sustainable economic impact by supporting innovators and entrepreneurs in any community. This will help SCN strengthen its organizational structure to expand and deepen its communities of practice.

Valley TechCon launches on September 28

The new Valley TechCon kicks off on September 28 in Harrisonburg. This is the first annual convention for technology and innovation enthusiasts in the Shenandoah Valley. The event will bring together technologists, practitioners, researchers, and business leaders to facilitate idea sharing, collaboration, and innovation. Sessions will cover a broad spectrum of topics from autonomous vehicles to artificial intelligence. The goal is to inspire new ideas, improve business efficiency with emerging technologies, springboard new ventures, and expand networking opportunities.

Valley TechCon.18 was developed through a partnership between the public, private and academic sectors. Attendees will hear about exciting advances in artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and cybersecurity from the minds of leading entrepreneurs across the region and faculty representing several of Virginia’s higher education institutions. The event will take place at Harrisonburg’s newest conference venue, Hotel Madison & Shenandoah Valley Conference Center, which is located a few minutes from I-81 within walking distance to Harrisonburg’s downtown.

DHCD awards $180K in grants to support local entrepreneurs

Governor Ralph Northam has announced that $180,000 in Community Business Launch (CBL) awards would be provided to the cities of Danville, Galax and Suffolk, as well as a joint partnership between the city of Covington and the town of Clifton Forge. These five communities will receive CBL funding to provide training to entrepreneurs and conduct business plan competitions that align with local and regional economic development strategies, primarily in Virginia’s downtown commercial districts.

The CBL program is implemented through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) with a goal of supporting localities in their efforts to create a productive environment for new businesses and jobs that support their vision for revitalization.

“Community Business Launch truly involves the community in identifying businesses needed in their downtowns and supporting the businesses beyond their grand opening,” said Governor Northam. “By combining training with a business plan competition, we are seeding and nurturing strong local entrepreneurial ecosystems that will support current and future small business growth.” CBL is designed to assist communities in taking a systems approach to defining and pursuing an asset-based small business development strategy.

Since 2014, $1.26 million in CBL funds have been awarded to 19 communities serving more than 370 participating entrepreneurs across Virginia. In total, CBL has garnered more than $1.4 million in private investment, with more than 125 new full-time jobs created and at least 60 jobs retained.

“Community Business Launch is a resourceful program that offers training to entrepreneurs to prepare small business owners for the rigors of operating in today’s rapidly changing commercial climate,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “We look forward to new businesses opening and current businesses expanding throughout these communities that will only enhance the vibrancy and quality of life in each of these downtown districts.”

SourceLink Virginia features new startup guide

The Virginia Cooperative Extension “Question and Answer Guide to Starting and Growing Your Small Business” (first published in 2013) has been updated and reformatted to serve as the SourceLink Virginia startup guide. It is not intended to replace or duplicate existing resources or to serve as a comprehensive resource for entrepreneurs. The Guide does provide initial information and resources for basic questions that entrepreneurs may have.

It is a compilation of selected information from a number of existing resources and publications of Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity, SCORE, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and other sources as referenced.

Virginia Tech to host Ninth Annual Global Entrepreneur Challenge

The Virginia Tech Ninth Annual Global Entrepreneur Challenge, August 16-25, 2018, offers elite students teams and university representatives from all over the world a chance to collaborate, form partnerships, and build their global networks.  All student participants will experience Washington, D.C., through tours and sightseeing trips to museums and monuments, as well as a week-long celebration of entrepreneurship hosted in Blacksburg, Virginia, USA.

Elite student teams will present their business concepts for a $30,000 grand prize as they compete in the Global Entrepreneur Challenge. Faculty and staff delegates charged with building institutional bridges to other universities around the globe gather together for university-to-university networking opportunities and brainstorming sessions to explore future collaboration and partnership. The annual Global E Challenge promotes an ongoing cooperative association of regions building social and academic relationships with each other, honoring their mutual best interests.

Learn more about this year’s global partners and competing finalist teams.

High level summaries and other resources.

New UVA Program Honors Businesses Succeeding in Struggling Communities

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business and Virginia Community Capital along with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership have opened up an exciting award opportunity. Resilience Awards spotlight successful Virginia businesses that are beating the odds in economically challenged communities through demonstrated economic growth, job creation and community leadership over the past three years.

The competition chooses five Resilience Award winners from a pool of distinguished finalists in the following categories, plus a Chairman’s Award:

  • Agriculture
  • Manufacturing
  • Micro Business (less than 5 employees)
  • Retail/Wholesale
  • Service

tayloemurphyAll six winners will receive a full scholarship to attend a Darden Executive Education program to help grow and advance their businesses. All applicants – not just winners – will also be eligible for business development assistance from Darden MBA students. Applications are now open through 17 August. If your business is still operating and meets the below qualifications, we invite you to reapply. Also, as an influential member of the business resilience community, we welcome your help to get the word out.

Businesses that qualify:

  • Are located in a community facing pressing economic challenges (with high poverty, high unemployment and low self-employment). Qualifying ZIP codes can be found here.
  • Have been in business for three years and can show growth
  • Have more than one employee
  • Can demonstrate support for their community

The award will be presented at Virginia Community Capital’s 2018 Learning Exchange coming up in Richmond on December 14.

American Inno Launches Richmond Website

American Inno, the Charlotte, NC-based digital media and events company, has added Richmond, VA to the roster of markets that it now covers. Richmond Inno is “committed to covering and connecting the people, companies, trends and topics that are driving and defining RVA’s startup and tech communities.” The new publication will offer four main products: a twice-weekly newsletter, events & meetups, comprehensive resource directories, and data on entrepreneurship and innovation.

In terms of its journalistic approach, the editors say, “In every market we’re in, we’re in awe of the founders, entrepreneurs and executives that are driving their local innovation economies forward and pledge to hustle as hard as they do, keeping our communities connected, informed and growing. We love to tell stories about the people behind the companies, ideas and organizations that are shaping the present and future of the Richmond business landscape.”

American Inno’s move into Richmond is sponsored by Activation Capital, the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem hub based at the Virginia BioTech Park in downtown. The partnership will host a Richmond Inno kickoff event on August 30 hosted by Startup Virginia at the 1717 Innovation Center.