See story at Virginia Business... Months before its opening in late summer or early fall, Lynchburg’s new Center for Entrepreneurship already has gathered about 15 applications from local business owners and professionals seeking to mentor those launching or looking to grow their own companies.
That’s a positive sign, says Stephanie Keener, executive director of the Lynchburg region’s Small Business Development Center. In April, she also became director of the hub, which will provide a central location to offer support and technical services for the region’s startups and small businesses.
“I literally had somebody, actually, when I mentioned that we had the [mentorship] form up and ready to go, she said, ‘Oh, I’m gonna do that right now,’ pulled out her phone and started filling out the application,” Keener says.
In March, GO Virginia announced it awarded $240,192 to the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance to create the center; Amherst, Bedford and Campbell counties, Lynchburg and the towns of Altavista, Amherst and Appomattox also contributed a combined $187,035. The Center for Entrpreneurship will operate in the alliance’s downtown Lynchburg building in a 3,000-square-foot space previously occupied by CloudFit Software, an IT and cybersecurity company that launched with the organization’s help and recently outgrew the space.
CloudFit’s growth is something Luke Towles, senior vice president of Pinnacle Financial Partners, would like to see replicated by businesses helped by the new center. “It’s got the potential for incubation,” says Towles, board chair for the center.
The center will provide free and low-cost support to 30 entrepreneurs, with the goal of those businesses generating 42 jobs during the next two years, says Megan Lucas, the alliance’s CEO and chief economic development officer. It will offer coworking space, planning, training and services including web design, legal, financial and human resources support.
In February, the business alliance formed the 140 Fund, a revolving low-interest loan fund for entrepreneurs that will help the center’s participating businesses.
To attract entrepreneurs, Lucas says, the center will conduct extensive marketing and communications campaigns, while also relying on the alliance’s existing network for outreach. Companies can contact the center to participate and will be chosen by the board of directors.
“From muffins on Main Street to manufacturing,” Lucas says, “the center will be an additional resource center for individuals who are thinking about starting a business, who are in business, or who are transitioning a business.”