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Mar 8, 2023

Our conversation today is part of an ongoing partnership with the US Small Business Administration highlighting small businesses as well as offering advice and resources to small business owners.

We talked with Martin Short, Lead Economic Development Specialist & Public Information Officer at the Virginia-Richmond District Office for the US Small Business Administration about the Community Navigator Pilot Program. This was a continuation of sorts from our conversation in January.

Joining Martin was Anika Horn, Director of Ecosystem Building at Shenandoah Community Capital Fund and Gabrielle Cash from the Walker Entrepreneurship Program.

Anika explained SCCF's role in the CNPP and talked about the numbers of small businesses they have helped get started, grow, and be successful. Gabrielle gave us detail about her program and told us about the resources and funding that have helped black entrepreneurs start and grow a business in Lexington, VA.

The Community Navigator Pilot Program is an American Rescue Plan initiative designed to reduce barriers that underrepresented and underserved entrepreneurs often face in accessing the programs they need to recover, grow, or start their businesses. The program will provide a total of $100 million in funding to 51 organizations that will work with hundreds of local community groups to improve access to SBA and government resources for America’s entrepreneurs. 

The selected projects will cover diverse communities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Grantees will serve as “hubs” -- centralized, lead organizations, which will incorporate “spokes,” organizations that have built trust in their local communities and will be the ‘boots on the ground’ that will connect small businesses to critical resources and assistance, including:

  • financial assistance and access to capital
  • contracting and procurement
  • marketing, operations, business development, and exporting
  • industry-specific training

The Community Navigator for the Shenandoah Valley is Shenandoah Community Capital Fund. The Shenandoah Community Capital Fund (SCCF), formerly known as the Staunton Creative Community Fund, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit entrepreneurial support organization serving the entire Shenandoah Valley. Since 2019, SCCF has responded to a gradual transition in the region’s entrepreneurial landscape. This shift sparked a new focus within SCCF, and the organization embraced an entrepreneurial ecosystem-building approach to economic and community development. As a result, SCCF, along with 17 partner organizations, created the first region-wide ecosystem collaboration in the Valley. Through the support of a GO Virginia grant, SCCF launched the Startup Shenandoah Valley (S2V) program and continues to support entrepreneurs and business owners of all backgrounds in the Shenandoah Valley. Learn more here: 

The Walker Program is a community initiative that launched in August 2020, to help jumpstart businesses owned by people of color in Lexington, Buena Vista, and Rockbridge County, VA. It combines free business training, grant funding, and ongoing support to committed individuals who want to start or grow a business in that area. The goal is to lower the barriers to business ownership for entrepreneurs of color in our community. Learn more here: