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Entrepreneurship Case Studies

Take a tour of the Shenandoah Valley

The Shenandoah Valley stretches 143 miles nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Allegheny Mountains to the west. This western part of the state of Virginia is known for its historical importance in the Civil War and its natural beauty reflected in the Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive, and Blue Ridge Parkway as well as various caverns. Family farms and independent vineyards spot the scenery as you travel through the Valley and vibrant downtowns invite visitors to stay, stroll, shop and dine locally.

Local businesses are at the heart of these bustling towns - the makers, dreamers, doers, and tinkerers that make the Shenandoah Valley unique.

In August 2022, SCCF set out on a Listening Tour of the Shenandoah Valley to hear firsthand from entrepreneurs - and their local support ecosystem - what is working and what isn't when it comes to launching and growing successful businesses.

Over three tours (Northern, Central, and Southern Valley), we spoke to over 50 entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial supporters. In each case study, we share what we learned about entrepreneurship in the respective region because we believe that only by knowing what local entrepreneurs are up against can we create solutions, events, and programs that truly cater to their needs.

The Central Valley 2022

Our team spent two days traveling between Harrisonburg, Waynesboro, Staunton talking to local entrepreneurs and local champions in the ecosystem.

The tour began with an entrepreneur chat over coffee at Coffee Hound Harrisonburg. Hailey Rogers shared her entrepreneurial journey from working at Coffee Hound to now owning and operating it. From there, the Listening Tour continued within the Shops at Agora, home to seven small businesses operating out of the same space where we heard about the day-to-day challenges of operating a successful small business. Over lunch we chatted with minority entrepreneurs at different stages about their experiences in finding the right space for their business, joining local farmers markets, the need for commercial kitchen space and trends in the coffee industry.

In the afternoon, entrepreneurial champion Kirsten Moore hosted a roundtable with local founders at her co-working space The Perch and shared with us what she has planned for small businesses in that part of town. The day ended at Sage Bird Cidery, where founders Amberlee and Zach Carlson filled us in on why they launched Sage Bird in Harrisonburg and what their experience in the city was like. Day two of our listening tour started with some strong coffee at Farmhaus in Waynesboro. Aaron Mallory told us about his trials and errors as a coffee enthusiast turned coffee shop owner. Next, entrepreneur Amanda Walton-Hawthorne told us about her outdoor adventure company DOAH Outdoors and her passion for introducing less experienced community members to the outdoors in Waynesboro. The guided walk through the river park was followed by lunch with several entrepreneurial service providers who shared what their clients were up against in their small businesses.

The second day of the Central Valley listening tour ended in Staunton. At the Staunton Innovation Hub, Charles Taylor, a participant in SCCF's Business Bootcamp and microloan program, took the SCCF team on his journey as an African American veteran entrepreneur, and his plans for his community going forward.

The Southern Valley 2022

During the Southern Valley Listening Tour, our team spent a day each in Lexington and Buena Vista each talking to local entrepreneurs and local champions in the ecosystem.

The tour began at the Walker Program where entrepreneurs of color shared their wins and unique challenges in establishing businesses in the area. Representatives of the Virginia Military Institute filled us in on the state of veteran and student entrepreneurship and we met local entrepreneurs in their store fronts to hear about their journey.

Our visit to Buena Vista was marked by a story of recovery, resilience and innovation. While Buena Vista rarely gets a mention when it comes to entrepreneurship, we met ambitious student entrepreneurs, shop owners with downtown storefronts and got a sneak peek into the redevelopment of the former Mundet Hermetite paper mill: The Virginia Innovation Collective is supporting seven entrepreneurs in the agricultural and agricultural technology space and has great plans to add a brewery and cafe, outfitter and tiny houses for innovators in residence - all located with direct access to the Maury River.

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