Community Navigator Program Supports Small Businesses


Many resources are available now to help entrepreneurs with starting or growing a business.  I spoke with Martin Short and Anika Horn about a program to assist businesses in the Shenandoah Valley, including Bath and Highland Counties.

Martin Short is the Lead Economic Development Specialist and Public Information Officer for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Virginia District Office.   Anika Horn is the Director of Ecosystem Development and Storytelling at the Shenandoah Community Capital Fund.

“I’m happy to present to you Anika Horn with the Shenandoah Community Capital Group, that’s in Staunton, Virginia, and they are a Community Navigator Facilitator,” says Short.  “The Community Navigator Pilot Program was created under this administration and it’s designed to take a deeper dive into reaching those micro-businesses or businesses that are trying to start, or growing, and who may not have access to some of the programs that we offer.”

“As Martin mentioned, this is a program funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration,” says Anika Horn. “The Community Navigator Program is a two-year pilot program that started in December 2021, so we are now at the half way point of this pilot.   I think it’s really impressive there are over sixty of these pilot programs in the U.S., but we are in fact the only one here in the state of Virginia.  The way we operate is through what is called a hub and spoke model.  So basically, it means that there is a central hub, in this case the Shenandoah Community Capital Fund, that is supporting distant partner organizations, distant communities, throughout the Shenandoah Valley.  We call those our spokes and we are supporting them in order for them to do their work more effectively.  Whatever the SBA is doing, we are sort of an expansion of the SBA by trying to provide more services to under resourced entrepreneurs in those communities that are a little bit harder to reach.”

“I’m excited about the great things that they are doing, especially what their spokes are doing,” says Martin Short.  “This is a great opportunity and part of our job is to make sure that we provide as much awareness about programs that we offer.  This is an asset to us, to extend our reach and to reach communities that may have not had the opportunity to access small business programs and services.”

“Just to give you a sense for the magnitude of the work that we’ve been able to do in the first year, this consortium of a total of six support organizations has been able to support 184 entrepreneurs, individual entrepreneurs, in the Shenandoah Valley through one-on-one support over the first year,” says Anika Horn.  “We were also able to disperse close to $290,000 in funding.  What this means to us, over the next year, is that we hope to help disperse more than half a million dollars to under resourced entrepreneurs here in the valley.   So, as we are looking towards the second year of this goal, the overarching goal of this program is to give under represented entrepreneurs access to the knowledge, the resources, the capital, and the connections to start and grow their businesses here in the Shenandoah Valley.”

For more information, visit the Small Business Administration website at

The Shenandoah Community Capital Fund website is

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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