Community Navigator Program Is Helping Small Businesses In Harrisonburg
The Community Navigator pilot program is currently being offered through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The Navigator program provides resources in a number of ways to help small businesses grow.
Martin Short has more. He is the Lead Economic Development Specialist and Public Information Officer for the SBA Virginia District Office.
“It’s design and intent is to reach underserved communities,” says Short. “To really go into communities that may not have access to business resources, small business resources for entrepreneurs. So, this is a program that came out of this administration and we’ve been seeing some success with it. It’s supposed to end this year, but hopefully we’ll still have enough momentum to keep things going and have the infrastructure in place to continue to help with these entrepreneurs and small business owners. It’s a three-prong approach, so to speak. The SBA we fund it and then the money goes to a hub, in this case the hub is the Shenandoah Community Capital Fund and then they manage the funding, and they oversee the program and under that you have the spokes.”
One of those spokes is B-Cubed in Harrisonburg, Virginia. It’s the Black and Brown Business Growth Program. It’s made up of a representative from Harrisonburg Economic Development, Harrisonburg City Council, the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center and Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance.
Peirce MacGill is Deputy Director for Economic Development for the City of Harrisonburg.
“It’s a partnership, it’s not really a city program per se,” says MacGill. “So, this is something we all felt passionately about, that our city needed to take a look at. At how we can best help black and brown owned businesses. It’s not that resources weren’t there. We’ve been able to add resources thanks to the Navigator program. Just because resources are there, it doesn’t mean people know about them. So, we want to really create a structure that created a more welcoming environment for black and brown owned businesses. So that’s when B-Cubed was born. It’s really a process of being in the program, as a business owner, where you get the one-on-one business counseling with our Small Business Development Center. We do a lot of technical assistance, primarily through workshops and cohorts. Then as you continue in the program, there is a small mini grant component to it. And then one of the last benefits is our local Chamber of Commerce offers a one-year free membership. I try and stress to folks, you know, it’s great to get a one-time $2,000 or $3,000 grant, but really take advantage of that Chamber membership where you can meet people, network, grow your business.”
B-Cubed started two and half years ago and has enrolled fifty six businesses.
“My favorite story, this is just a couple months ago, was a business that participated in a sales training that we offered,” says MacGill. “So, this was a pretty intense three month long sales training and we interviewed everyone afterwards to make sure it was worth the investment. If we were going to do this again, we had hoped it worked. Well, it did work and the business said ‘This training and this B-Cubed program has been life changing. I’ve had this as a side business for four years. I’ve now quit my full time job and this is my full time business. I’m moving out of my shed, I’m moving into commercial space. This program has changed my life.’ I get goosebumps when I say that, because that’s why we do what we do.”
More information is available at www.sba.gov/va or 804-771-2400.