From analyzing business plans to mentors, options are easily accessible
Entrepreneurs know there’s risks in starting any business. Steps can also be taken to reduce risks thanks to local resources available in Gloucester to any prospective business owner.
For starters, the Main Street Preservation Trust, dedicated to enhancing the economic activity in the Gloucester Court House village, will assist entrepreneurs with vetting their business idea on Main Street, said Executive Director Jenny Crittenden.
The analysis includes marketing data for the area, measuring the concept against current business trends and connecting entrepreneurs with small business specialists.
The Trust also offers workshops and training in all facets of business and is willing to connect potential entrepreneurs with mentors to help develop a business plan, Crittenden said.
Training is vital. It’s why Launch Gloucester’s accepted applicants have access to full-scale entrepreneur training over an eight-week period to develop the business concept and write a business plan.
“We assist with connecting prospective businesses to property owners along Main Street and assist where needed with lease negotiations,” Crittenden said. “We also work to refer prospective business owners to local banks, credit unions and independent loan funds. We have the pulse on Main Street and are strictly dedicated to growing business on Main Street.”
For those interested in starting a business on Main Street, it’s helpful to have a written description of the business and links to similar concepts that can be found online, Crittenden said.
“We would encourage them to spend time in the downtown and be familiar with the current business mix and think about how their concept can complement and add foot traffic to the downtown,” Crittenden said. “The more clear the communication by the interested party, the easier for us to assist them in developing it.”
For a link to the Main Street Preservation Trust website, go here: http://mspt.org.
Assistance from Gloucester County
Gloucester County government offices can help entrepreneurs as they consider launching businesses in new or existing buildings, understanding zoning regulations and building codes, what’s required for businesses serving food and additional business-related requirements.
The first step is to talk to Gloucester County staff members so they can help you determine what kind of regulations and requirements to consider for a new business, said Anne Ducey-Ortiz, county planning director. This can be a little tricky if a prospective business owner is unsure about where the business will be located.
“But depending on the type of business, we can typically give you an idea of what you will need to consider,” Ducey-Ortiz said. “Sometimes people have really different ideas and we may need some time to determine what would be required.”
Ducey-Ortiz recommends calling or visiting the Planning and Zoning Department “so we can then help you determine the next steps, or if you are unsure of the location, where the type of business you are hoping to do would be permitted under the current zoning. We also would work with entrepreneurs on rezonings and/or code amendments if it is something that would be appropriate based on the Comprehensive Plan and Village Sub-area plans.”
Ducey-Ortiz said the Planning and Zoning Department works with other county departments to steer people in the right direction based on what they are looking to do.
For information on the Planning and Zoning Department, go to: http://www.co.gloucester.va.us/PlanningandZoning/tabid/571/Default.aspx.
Gloucester Economic Development Department
The Gloucester County Economic Development Department offers prospective business owners private and confidential business planning, financial analysis and management consulting. The sessions are held the fourth Thursday of each month in the Gloucester County Library branch on Main Street.
For information or to set up an appointment contact Linda Evans in the department at 804-693-1415.
Throughout the year, the Small Business Development Center of Hampton Roads is offering the GrowthWheel Business Management Program classes the fourth Thursday of each month at the Main Street Center followed by the private consulting visits.
The programs goal is to give the small business owner a better understanding of his or her company by analyzing its major components and understanding just how all the pieces come together.
For more information on the program and to visit the county Economic Development Department website, here’s a link to the website: http://www.gloucesterva.info/EconomicDevelopment/tabid/950/Default.aspx
The Economic Development Department also offers an E-Commerce Grant Program with awards up to $500 per business, though minority, women and veteran-owned businesses that have the required certification may receive a matching grant of up to $1,000.
The grant program awards matching funds on a first-come, first-serve basis and are specifically for website design work. Annual maintenance, service fees or other related expenses are not eligible for grant funding. The total amount of awards is $10,000.
For qualification criteria, and additional details, visit this link: http://www.gloucesterva.info/Portals/0/econ/documents/2015ECommerceGrant.pdf. To contact the Economic Development Department call 804-693-1415.