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  • Writer's pictureAnika Horn

Listening and learning: Field notes from the ecosystem

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

In May, here’s what our Ecosystem Team got up to:

  • 9 meetings with ecosystem accomplices

  • 10 conversations with entrepreneurs

  • 2 trainings on building trusting coalitions

  • 1 new ecosystem builder in training (welcome baby Noah!)

Two things we were grateful for in May:

  • Fay Horwitt from Forward Cities spent a day with some of our ecosystem partners and the team at SCCF to talk about equity in entrepreneurial ecosystem building: About two years ago, SCCF started on a journey of becoming a champion for diverse entrepreneurs. We’re constantly reminded that this is an ongoing journey and we’re grateful to partners who help shepherd us along on this journey.

  • Nick Koger, who spends much of his time in the community to meet entrepreneurs, and his wife welcomed their son Noah! Nick will be on paternity leave until the end of July to enjoy time with his family and practice his diaper-changing skills. Good luck Nick, we’re rooting for you!

What we’re hearing from entrepreneurs

Throughout May, we reached out to past participants of the Startup Shenandoah Valley Accelerator program to learn about how things were going for them, and to see where SCCF could support and celebrate them.

  • The general consensus from all who replied was that they are busy! Several reported rolling out new product lines that are being well received by customers. Another participant, who was pre-launch when they completed S2V, remarked on a successful pivot after more in-depth conversations with their customers.

  • Three businesses reported a growth in revenue compared to this time last year and almost all reported hiring staff at varying capacities (full or part-time). It is exciting to know that S2V companies continue to reinvest in their communities through employment.

  • As for gaps or issues they are facing, several were curious how they could use AI to better support their business and others were looking for grant opportunities. Grant funding seems to be a perennial area of interest for growing businesses, while AI is a new and emerging tool that should be addressed. We hope to cover both of those topics at the Shenandoah Valley Entrepreneurship Summit in October. In the meantime, see what grants are available for small business owners over on Valley Business Compass.

What we’re hearing from ecosystem partners: Financial literacy and access to capital

“Access to capital is one of the main pain points we hear from entrepreneurs in our community.”

This is what we heard in a conversation with one of our accomplices in Shenandoah County in May. And we hear it in different parts of the Valley: Financial literacy is an issue. Access to capital is an issue. Managing cash flow and business finances. How to repair personal credit. Where to find grants. The list is long.

That entrepreneurs need financial capital to start and grow their businesses is nothing new. In the second half of 2023, the Ecosystem Team will focus on better understanding the gaps in both financial education and access to capital for entrepreneurs in the Shenandoah Valley.

To start, we will be touring the Shenandoah Valley together with Martin Short, Lead Economic Development Specialist & Public Information Officer at the Virginia-Richmond District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the Center for American Entrepreneurship on July 11. So far, we have planned stops in Harrisonburg, Staunton, and Lexington. We want to hear from entrepreneurs directly about their challenges in raising and managing the funds for their businesses. If you’re an entrepreneur who wants to share their experience with us, please reach out to If you want us to visit your community so we can hear from your local small business owners about their success and challenges in raising capital, get in touch!

Here’s what we’re excited about this summer:

  • June 13: Shenandoah University’s Entrepreneurship & Small Business Certificate Program kicks off and is accepting late registrations (virtual). Register here.

  • June 18: Juneteenth Celebration on Liberty Street, Harrisonburg

  • June 20: Small Business Breakfast, Staunton Innovation Hub

  • June 29: Caffeinate/Innovate, The Perch at Magpie

  • July 6: Startup Coffee Hour, Farmhaus Coffee, Waynesboro

  • July 11: Access to Capital Listening Tour

  • July 1: B-Cubed kicks off (If you identify as a Black/Brown founder in Rockingham County and are looking for support in launching your business, apply here!)

  • July 19: Business Bootcamp: Advancing Your Dream kicks off for aspiring entrepreneurs in Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke counties (in-person)

Subscribe to SCCF’s newsletter so you don’t miss the next installment of Field Notes from the Ecosystem!


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