Virginia Beach strategy to grow its economy

5/6/2014, 2:40 p.m.

Virginia Beach has been named the Easiest City in Which to Start a Business and the Second Most Business-Friendly City in the U.S. by cnn.com. What is evident is that successful job creation, capital investment and business retention begin with small businesses. That makes sense since the Small Business Administration states that small businesses, with fewer than 100 employees, or fewer than 500 for manufacturers, account for 99.7 percent of all U.S. firms.

The goal for Virginia Beach is to promote small businesses and entrepreneurial activity with every resource available. The Department of Economic Development has developed a complete toolbox for small, women, minority and service disabled veteran-owned business owners to encourage new start-ups and to support their growth to ensure success.

These targeted resources include:

· Special programs and workshops

· Business mentoring

· Networking

· Resource identification and connections

· Consultation with the regional office of Virginia Department of Minority Business Enterprise

· Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) free business counseling

· Online support on How to Start a Business

· Online Defense Business Center resources for information about how to do business with the government

“About 30 percent of small businesses in the entire region are based in Virginia Beach,” said Warren D. Harris, director of Virginia Beach Economic Development. “We know that small business is actually big business for us. We want our small business community to collaborate with other small business owners and experts, develop strong business skills and access the wealth of information available. We know the importance of growing our economy one business at a time, and we demonstrate our support of small businesses on a daily basis.”

The department, along with partners, developed a year-long series of free workshops for small business owners at the Advanced Technology Center, 1700 College Crescent Topics include:

Social Media

May 14, 2014, from 8 to 11 a.m., facilitated by Pilot Media, Digital Solutions

Small Business Financing Tips

Sept. 10, 2014, from 8 to 11 a.m., facilitated by BB&T

Joint Ventures

Dec. 10, 2014, from 8 to 10 a.m., facilitated by Kaufman & Canoles

Registration for any or all of the free workshops is available online at http://www.yesvirginiabeach.com/key-industries/workshops-registration.

The classes are small and the format allows participants to ask questions and receive one-on-one advice from experts. Two or three hours with some of the area’s best legal or financial advisors is extremely valuable to small business owners, who might not be able to afford these services initially.

“We looked at the most important subjects that can immediately impact a small business’ success for this series,” said Jeffrey Smith, SWAM business development manager. “We want Virginia Beach businesses to be able to navigate to the top very quickly.”

Mentoring Program

A special Small Business Mentoring program has also been initiated. This program is a partnership with Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University and Regent University. Each business is assigned an educational partner for a semester to identify business challenges, brainstorm options and develop appropriate solutions. Currently, six businesses are participating in this semester’s program. They range from organic goat milk soap producers to logistics companies. The educational partners assemble faculty and students from various disciplines to provide support to the business owner. The end result helps the business owners refine their business, marketing and strategic plans.

“This program has been very beneficial for my business,” said Heather Paige Adolphi, founder/CEO of Omniio, LLC. “At the very first meeting I was introduced to the Trade Winds program that got our products distributed nationwide. My mentor has been available any time I need, and Jeffrey Smith from Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development has been a great resource.”

Small business specialists with the Department of Economic Development are also available for entrepreneurs and owners interested in starting or growing a business in Virginia Beach, providing management, technical and other resources. Services include site selection, advocacy, market Information, financial guidance, business counseling, entrepreneurial support and advice on city bidding and procurement processes.