When it comes to showcasing the power of investing in helping launch small businesses in rural towns across the Commonwealth, the proof is in the pudding. Or, in the case of Launch Gloucester, the proof is in the numbers.
Just look around what’s happening in the Gloucester Village this fall, Jenny Crittenden, Executive Director of the Gloucester Main Street Preservation Trust told a crown gathered at Friday’s grand opening of Crystal Burton’s Sweet Tooth Café and Bakery. Burton is the first business in Gloucester to open after winning nearly $50,000 in start up capital and prizes during an entrepreneur contest – Launch Gloucester – sponsored by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and led by Secretary of Trade and Commerce Maurice Jones’ Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.
“This is actually what Virginia needs as much as anything,” said Jones, who visited Burton and helped cut the ribbon for her grand opening Friday. “We want to see a community realize an audacious vision, pull together the team and work hard and realize it. That’s really what today is. Today is a celebration of the work of everybody who’s here.”
Up until now, Virginia focused heavily on the defense contracting industry for economic growth. Where Virginia hasn’t been as aggressive, Jones said, was in building the ecosystem needed for the small businesses and entrepreneurs who create the jobs that transform an economy.
That changed with the Community Business Launch program that fueled Launch Gloucester, inspiring “local communities coming together as a team helping the Crystal’s of the world realize their entrepreneurial dreams,” Jones said.
Now back to the numbers.
Burton was among 43 total applicants to the Launch Gloucester contest. Eighteen entrepreneurs were accepted to the program to build their business plans. Ten completed the program and six moved forward in opening their businesses.
Nearly 10 businesses total will open along Gloucester’s Main Street by the end of the year, spurred and inspired by the energy created from the contest.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Crittenden said. “The program works.”
About the Launch Gloucester Program
The contest, fueled by a $100,000 grant from the state and an additional $100,000 from local groups and businesses, awarded the winning businesses a grand total of over $95,000 in goods, services and start-up capital to launch their business on Main Street in the Gloucester Village.
In addition to the bakery and café, Launch Gloucester specifically helped fund the start up of a pet boutique, a village blacksmith and a kitchen with a juice bar.
The Launch Gloucester program was one of three in the state. The program was administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development and locally overseen by the Gloucester Main Street Preservation Trust and Gloucester Main Street Association.
In Gloucester, additional funding, support and value of the program came thanks to regional business support, the Gloucester Board of Supervisors, the Gloucester Economic Development Authority and the Gloucester Chamber of Commerce.
Ribbon Cuttings and Secretary Jones’ Visit To Gloucester
As part of the terms of the competition, the businesses were required to open in September, thus the exciting flurry of new businesses cutting ribbons this month and prompting Jones’ visit.
In addition to helping Burton cut the ribbon to her new bakery and café, Jones visited three other Launch Gloucester winners, including Karin Fary’s The Nines Pet Boutique and Photography, George Cramer’s Village Blacksmith and Lorraine Walsh and Rachel Cuba’s Good Life Kitchen, which also features a juice and smoothie bar.
“Small business is the backbone of communities around the Commonwealth,” Jones said earlier this year. “They provide jobs, they provide talent, and they end up leading our civic organizations and help our children to pursue their dreams.”
After his visit to Gloucester, he said simply, “it all begins in places like Gloucester. And I’ll be back.