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  • Writer's pictureAnika Horn

Simplifying the landscape: Field notes from the ecosystem

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Amidst the warmth of July, our Ecosystem Team remained relentless in their pursuit of finding funding avenues for entrepreneurs, while also spotlighting the inspiring tales of those who began as side hustlers.

Our July ecosystem highlights:

  • The SCCF team took representatives from the Richmond Office of the SBA and the Center for American Entrepreneurship on a listening tour to hear from entrepreneurs and accomplices what the capital needs and barriers are that local dreamers and doers face in turning their dream into reality

  • SCCF co-hosted Caffeinate/Innovate with our friends at the Perch in Harrisonburg to host a panel of "side-hustle" entrepreneurs as a kick-off event to the latest storytelling campaign about entrepreneurship in the Shenandoah Valley

  • The regional coalition of ecosystem accomplices unveiled their brand new storytelling campaign The Side Hustlers!

What we heard from entrepreneurs

During our Listening Tour in particular, entrepreneurs told us that their number one issue is financial management and access to capital. As a first-time entrepreneur, it can feel like learning a new language just to run a business. They need to know what cash-flow projections, balance sheets, and profit and loss statements are, and how to use them. Once they’ve worked their way through all the jargon and know what type of capital would best support their business goals, they need to figure out where they can apply for said capital. For some entrepreneurs, traditional bank loans are out of the question; without support from accomplices in the ecosystem, it’s difficult to find out what alternatives are available to them.

One entrepreneur told us, “We walk into a bank already knowing that we’re going to be declined, declined, and declined again. If you knew that was the outcome, would you bother to go try?” Another entrepreneur shared, “I started with $1,000 of startup capital. I went into the bank to get a business bank account and came out with eight because that’s what the small business banker told me I needed. I had no idea whether that was right or wrong.”

We believe entrepreneurship is challenging enough. Local founders shouldn’t have to become experts on the intricacies of the ecosystem just to navigate their already tumultuous journey. Debbie Irwin, Executive Director at SCCF, explained, “Access to capital is a big issue here in the Valley. We as providers of capital need to figure out what pilot products and conditions we can test to accommodate the entrepreneurs’ needs. We need to develop a region-wide approach to help with loan applications, getting documents together, and understanding entrepreneurs’ individual needs.”

So, what is the plan of action? Here are a few ways in which we are addressing this complexity:

  • We built a list of capital resources (grants, loans, etc.) for entrepreneurs in the Shenandoah Valley that we add to whenever we find new resources.

  • We are constantly adding resources specifically for Black and Brown business owners in the Shenandoah Valley. You can see that list here.

  • Each month, we include current grant and loan resources in our fortnightly newsletter (you can sign up here!)

  • In May, SCCF hosted and recorded a workshop to help simplify the grant application process for entrepreneurs. The recording and materials are available on Valley Business Compass.

  • In the upcoming September, SCCF is set to launch a resource library for entrepreneurs, featuring on-demand videos that aim to provide easier access to educational content covering topics such as finance.

What we heard from accomplices

While entrepreneurs grapple with how to raise capital, accomplices in the Valley's ecosystem are working diligently to simplify the landscape for marginalized entrepreneurs. A chorus of voices has echoed the need for centralizing resources—be it permits, licenses, or other bureaucratic necessities. As it is, accomplices and entrepreneurs have to go to multiple places to get the resources they need. In doing so, they run the risk of overlooking opportunities or even being discouraged from trying. On the other hand, if information is shot at them from a firehose, it’s an overwhelming experience. SCCF, in its role as an ecosystem convener armed with a robust digital platform (Valley Business Compass), is committed to harmonizing these efforts. With the power to map existing assets, SCCF aims to unite accomplices in guiding entrepreneurs through the Valley's varied terrains.

On our ecosystem radar

Looking ahead, there are some exciting events and opportunities coming up for entrepreneurs!

  • August 24th: Small Business Breakfast in New Market- learn more here.

  • August 31st: Deadline to register for SCCF’s Business Bootcamp- learn more here.

  • September 1st: Harrisonburg’s B-cubed September Cohort begins- apply here.

  • September 7th: Regional Coalition Meeting- all are welcome! RSVP here.

  • Find more events on Valley Business Compass


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