By Amandalyn Vanover
Have you ever considered starting a Richmond business? If so, there is really no better time than now to get involved in the city’s vision to diversify by increasing the number of minority businesses.
Richmond’s Vision – Minority-Owned Business Growth
The City of Richmond’s vision now encompasses a diverse economy and a wide variety of small business owners and businesses offering fulfilling, competitive jobs as well as support, assistance, training and resources. This is to encourage a smarter, higher educated and successful workforce. Everything possible is being done to ensure vision becomes a reality to make the city of Richmond a preferred and attractive location for investors and business owners.
Richmond 300: A Guide for Diversified Growth
The city created Richmond 300: A Guide for Growth, where they published 27 actionable strategies to work on in an effort of achieving the economic diversity vision.
One actionable item is the encouragement for the creation and growth of small businesses by city personnel taking on additional tasks. These include identifying and marketing the smaller, vacant spaces found in Richmond’s historic commercial corridors to allow for business owners to set up shop; making start-up and growth easier than before. It is noted in the guide for growth some identified spots will be redeveloped for the sole purpose of small business operations.
In the city’s plan for new business creation and retention, there will soon be another resource. A small business program is set to be created within the Department of Economic Development to provide sole support and dedication for small business development; prioritizing people who identify as low income, female, and of-color. There isn’t currently a date mentioned for this program kickoff, but you should stay on the lookout for the announcement.
I know many of you may have given up on owning your own business because you are short on money, or worse, you are in debt and have no funds to contribute towards the startup. Or maybe you feel like you need additional training and education before you can proceed with dreams of being your own boss. Increasing sales, expanding inventory and adding employees are all part of the goals most business owners have but business funds are typically necessary to make this growth happen, so many people give up on their business idea before they ever really get started because they think the money is just not available to them.
If this is you, it’s time to start exploring the new programs and resources designed to help minority businesses start-up and succeed.
African Americans and women small business owners often struggle to retain and grow due to financial difficulties. However, getting certain certifications and taking advantage of financial assistance from the state and others will directly benefit minority business owners. This ultimately leads to minority businesses standing a greater chance of becoming successful against the competition in their respective industries.
Minority Certifications To Attain from the Virginia Department of Small Business & Supplier Diversity:
Becoming Minority Certified / SWaM Certified is necessary to procure jobs and projects being funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia (Small, Women, and Minority-owned businesses should all apply). If you are interested in generating sales for your business from the government contracts, then this certification is an absolute MUST.
–Micro Business Certification (less than 25 employees & $3 million annual average gross receipts or less typically qualifies)
–Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (apply for certification of DBE if you plan on bidding on jobs and projects being paid for out of federal transportation funds)
–Service Disabled Veterans Certification (for disabled veterans only)
Another branch of the SBSD is The Virginia Small Business Financing Authority (VSBFA) that offers an array of financial services to community business members. Most importantly, they lend directly to owners of nonprofits and small businesses. They also work to help small businesses trying to attract equity investments with an equity incentive grant program. If you are ready to grow your business with the addition of new employees, but just need more capital, then don’t wait any longer. Give the VSBFA a call at 804-371-8254 to discuss your options.
How RVA is Helping New and Aspiring Business Owners Like You
The movers and shakers of Richmond, Virginia help aspiring and new business owners in a number of ways to ensure the wide variety of needs and problems of employers and employees have real solutions they can utilize right now. Non-profits, government programs and private programs within the city are all responsible for making minority start-ups a reality.
The Office of Minority Business Development (OMBD) works to further the business dealings of emerging small businesses, minority business enterprises, and disadvantaged business enterprises so as to take full advantage of the city’s contracting opportunities. They provide a full spectrum of free business services to help owners succeed in their small business; starting with helping on the written business plan all the way to consulting with site selection and offering bid assistance. Additionally, they monitor city-funded contracts in order to ensure true minority participation in the city is actually happening. It’s a commendable effort the city is making to keep up with new minority business development plans and goals.
The OMBD can introduce you to community leaders, key decision makers, financing options, international markets, business expansion consultants, and a bounty of other resources to help your business accelerate and excel. Plus, seminars and educational programs take you step by step through a variety of common business topics. And this is free from the city for all minority residents. Call 804-646-5947 or visit here for more info.
Get a Mentor from Richmond SCORE for no charge. SCORE is where you will find confidential, free business advice from professionals that span decades of experience, fields of expertise, and industries across the world. The mentorship program is designed to assist both start-up and existing small business owners. Individuals can take part in the low-cost workshops designed to meet their needs of achieving and maintaining both profitability and growth. Get in touch with the staff by calling 804-350-3569 or find a mentor via this link.
“While contacting your new business support team of advocates and mentors, get started on a few vital house cleaning items. New Richmond businesses need to file for a request for a Certificate of Occupancy/Zoning Certificate, a federal tax id/EIN, and a business license right away. These simple tasks should not be pushed off any longer.”
Business First Richmond is a program dating back to 2006 successfully utilizing face-to-face interviews with city of Richmond top business leaders and its aspiring business owners. The Greater Richmond Partnership and the City of Richmond get a load of feedback and data from this program enabling them to connect businesses with the resources and assistance necessary for their growth within the city.
“Richmond’s inner-city transportation network continues to grow, accommodating the ever-growing demand from local business and employees to get people around the city without delay.”
The city is focused on improving transportation connections for citizens between homes, services, and jobs. In an effort to make life easier for business owners getting their employees to and from work and without additional hardship and hassles, the city has upped their game. The archaic, time-consuming transportation system Richmond used to have is finally covered in dust with a 21st century system in its place.
The recent addition of the Pulse bus system, increased frequency of GRTC stops, updated bus routes, braille sign installations at bus stops, more electric bike rentals, Amtrak, Ridefinders, and expanded bike-shares have made significant improvements in community members lives and they continue to do so. Whether it is getting to school, work, the gym or the grocery store – local transportation is finally meeting the demands of employers, their employees and city community members alike.
Richmond’s Enterprise Zone Incentive Program is designed for qualified industrial and commercial business owners. The state of Virginia also offers a set of incentives for business owners that align with the city’s. Richmond’s focus with these incentives is all about revitalizing mature commercial neighborhood districts. More details here.
Virginia Business 1Stop – It doesn’t matter if you are considering opening your own business, seeking start-up assistance, already running your own business, trying to expand your business, or are relocating your business from another state – this website is here to help you with all of your questions, concerns, and needs.
The Central Virginia African American Chamber of Commerce – A directory of local black businesses and resources for upcoming/existing African American business owners.
Free Business Skills, Networking and Education Resources – Upcoming Dates
Be Your Own Bank – Tues. June 18 & 25, Publix Super Market, White Oak Village, Richmond, VA
Business Meet & Greet – Wed. June 19, 26, July 3, 10, 17, etc., Strayer University, Midlothian, 7:45 a.m.
Tips on How to Avoid Legal Mistakes in Business Formation – Wed. June 19, Southside Community Center, 4 – 6 p.m.
Mingle & Meet Networking for Entrepreneurial Women – Thurs. June 20, Virginia Asset Management in Midlothian, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Money Smart Information Session – Thurs. June 20, Southside Community Center, 4 – 6 p.m. (13 modules)
US Small Business Administration & USDA Lending Forum – Mon. June 24, James L Hamner Public Library in Amelia Court House, 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Stepping Into Entrepreneurship (Multicultural Affairs Business Introduction) – Wed. June 26, Hickory Hill Recreational Center, 6 – 8 p.m.
Young Professional Happy Hour – Wed. June 26, Pig and Brew, Richmond, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
A Business Plan Can Be Your Guide to Growth – Thur. June 27, Hickory Hill Recreational Center, 6 -7 p.m.
Black minority business owners and entrepreneurs looking for grants and financing should always start with a professional, polished business plan. There is help listed above to get you on the fast track to producing this document the right way, the first time. The plan will change with the company over time, guides the company’s direction, and helps business owners to make their case for why they should qualify for business grants given to blacks and minorities.
Grants to Explore
- gov (for all applicants)
- The Amber Grant Foundation (for women)
- The Dare to Dream Grant Program (for students)
- The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest (for all applicants)
- NASE (National Association for the Self-Employed)
- RBEG Grant Program (Rural Business Services)
- GirlBoss Foundation Grant (for females)
- SBIR and SBTT Grants – Small business innovation research & small business technology transfer (for all applicants)