Business workshops to begin soon

Published 10:23 pm Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Suffolk’s Economic Development Community Business Launch Competition will begin with a seven-week-long workshop that starts in October.

Economic Development Director Kevin Hughes presented details of the upcoming competition to the City Council during its work session Wednesday evening.

The Community Business Launch program is designed to assist communities in their approach to fostering new small business growth. Suffolk applied for funding and received $45,000 from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

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There is a 25-percent match required by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. This will add an extra $11,250 provided by the Economic Development Authority.

The workshops will feature experts in a plethora of topics to help those participating formulate a business plan by the end of the seven-week program. No business can present a business plan for funding unless they complete the full workshop program.

Economic Development has partnered with the Suffolk Executive Offices to host the workshops.

“It’s smart to keep that entrepreneurship alive. Richard (Chaing, owner of Suffolk Executive Offices) has been helpful and a great partner to allow us to host it there,” Hughes said.

The process following the workshops won’t be easy, but it will be purposefully challenging.

“We run into a lot of businesses that have a lot of good ideas, but we need someone that is qualified with a business plan that makes sense,” Hughes said. “This is not easy. We are going to make it hard.”

Those participating receive only 15 to 30 days to complete a business plan after the workshops begin, and not every business plan will be approved to be pitched.

“After completion, they will make business plans that will be reviewed by a separate panel, and then it will be pitch night, like ‘Shark Tank,’” Hughes said. “They have the opportunity to pitch and win up to $15,000.”

The program from the state offers the flexibility to find the right people to bring storefront businesses to downtown.

The Community Business Launch program is specifically designed to help build up downtown areas. Only those wishing to start new brick-and-mortar businesses in the downtown area will be eligible.

“They want to take the community’s vision and help connect it. They try to find entrepreneurs and impactful businesses that are pursuing storefront developments,” Hughes said.

Hughes and his staff hope that this program can continue in the years to come.

“Our focus and our goal are for this to be sustainable. We want it to be around next year,” Hughes said. “It is conceivable, if this is successful, that we can roll it to other parts of the city as well.”

Economic Development will be holding public information events prior to the first workshop. There will be people available to talk one-on-one about the program.

The information meetings will be held at 8 a.m. and at 6 p.m. on Sept. 11 at the Suffolk Executive Offices, 425 W. Washington St.