VINTON–Representatives from The Advancement Foundation (TAF), the Town of Vinton, and the Roanoke County Economic Development Initiative gathered at the HIVE Business Incubation Center in Vinton on December 18 to celebrate a grant received from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
The $60,000 award from the DHCD “Community Business Launch” (CBL) will go towards funding the second annual “comprehensive business contest” organized by TAF.
Only seven localities across the state received the $60,000 grants: the towns of Vinton, Pulaski, Marion, and Strasberg, and the cities of Lynchburg, Petersburg, and Martinsville.
In announcing the $420,000 in grants, Governor McAuliffe said, “developing small businesses is a vital component to growing and diversifying Virginia’s economy. CBL provides the tools to prepare multiple entrepreneurs to operate successful businesses in a downtown or neighborhood commercial district and allows them to compete for funding to launch their new endeavor.”
TAF states that, “the business contest itself will function much like an incubator. Throughout the application and contest preparation period contestants will participate in business workshops, receive mentoring from industry and community experts and have access to a variety of business resources. Even the businesses that do not win top prizes will benefit from the system.”
Of the $60,000 grant, $30,000 must be matched by $10,000 from TAF (for a total of $40,000) and will be distributed as prizes to entrepreneurs in the competition. The remaining $30,000 is earmarked for running the program—marketing, promotions, materials, overhead and so on.
Last year’s Gauntlet competition was held at the Co-Lab in Grandin Village. TAF hopes to schedule this year’s event, planned for April 23, at the Vinton Library.
The grant from the CBL will enable TAF to significantly increase the prizes awarded over those given in last year’s event.
According to TAF, “the Community Business Launch grant is designed to assist communities in taking a systematic approach to defining and pursuing an asset-based small business development strategy. The program starts with a community’s unique vision for its future and then uses a local business competition to find and foster the entrepreneurs that connect with that vision.”
The goal of the Business Incubation Contest is to foster a “sustainable, regionally-scaled, locally-driven entrepreneurial ecosystem that will benefit the entire community.”
TAF is a non-profit organization founded by Annette Patterson who is also its president. It is based in Vinton and operates out of the Charity Cottage Thrift Store and the HIVE Business Incubation Center, both located downtown on Pollard Street—although TAF involves a host of programs and volunteers throughout the region.
Patterson believes the upcoming business competition, which will award a minimum of $40,000 in cash prizes and up to $10,000 in business-oriented goods and services is the region’s largest. Last’s years “goods and services” involved free computers, software, consulting services, tuition for business classes, office space at no charge, or membership in the Chamber of Commerce for fledgling entrepreneurs who participated.
The stated contest and CBL Grant goal is “to open or expand 10 businesses in the Vinton community and create a minimum of seven fulltime jobs.”
Organizers hope the contest will help to expand TAF’s Skills Based Volunteer Bank to 200 members from the business and community to foster the entrepreneurs and provide them with business and community expertise.
TAF and the governor hope that the CBL program “will create a model community business support system that may be expanded and duplicated into neighboring communities.”
Vinton Mayor Brad Grose said that “not only will the partnership between the Advancement Foundation, the Town of Vinton, Roanoke County, and the DHCD have a huge impact on the economy here, it will also have an impact on individual lives.”
Chamber of Commerce President Todd Creasy praised the grant program as an innovative way to bring small businesses and the community together.
Roanoke County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jason Peters emphasized that Vinton must become a community with diverse job opportunities in order to attract new businesses. He reminded those present of the phenomenal businesses such as Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook which started with only one or two individuals working out of a small space and grew into international corporations.
“As a community, we need to stand ready to support economic development,” said Peters.
Patterson said that with a vision you can start with nothing and achieve great things, especially when partners work together each contributing what they have. She espouses the Stone Soup and the “teach a man to fish rather than just give him a fish” philosophies. Stone Soup is the concept based on a children’s story that if everyone pitches in with what they have, virtually anything can be accomplished.
She reminded the crowd that the ribbon was cut to open the HIVE in August 2015 and now there are 25 entrepreneurs who are part of the Business Incubation Center bringing over 3500 visitors to Vinton in the months since.
The purpose of the HIVE is to help small businesses start up “leanly.” Support for start-up businesses increases their chance of success exponentially.
Patterson encouraged those present to support the community by shopping and eating locally in Vinton—making a huge difference in the day to day lives of those who own small businesses here. She challenged those with skills and expertise to volunteer to mentor the entrepreneurs who are taking classes and being supported by the HIVE.
Patterson was thanked by several in attendance for investing her time, energy, and vision not just in TAF, but also in Vinton.
More information on TAF, the HIVE, and the Gauntlet competition is available on the TAF website at www.theadvancementfoundation.org or the TAF Facebook page, or by calling 283-7062.