In the fall of 2012, the Small Business Development Center of Hampton Roads (SBDC) was the recipient of one of six nationally awarded Portable Assistance Grants by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The Portable Assistance Grant Program is designed to assist organizations in developing products or programs that can be replicated in other areas of the country.
The SBDC, in partnership with the Retail Alliance of Hampton Roads, is using the $100,000 grant from September 2012-September 2013 to develop a regional Retail Academy. The program consists of classroom courses, one-on-one counseling and peer-to-peer meetings designed to provide information across the entire spectrum of the retail experience as well as general business management. Courses, instructed by experts who are current or former business owners, will cover topics such as business practices, store displays, inventory management, and theft prevention. The grant has allowed the SBDC to bring on staff Ben Salomonsky, a Business Analyst, who is serving as director of the Hampton Roads Retail Academy.
The SBDC and Retail Alliance have developed the program and are now implementing it in Portsmouth. The SBDC and Retail Alliance are working with the Old Towne Business Association in Portsmouth, as well as the Portsmouth Department of Economic Development to bring the Retail Institute to retailers in Old Towne Portsmouth.
The first session of the 12-week program began on March 6 in Portsmouth and focused on “Strategic and Business Planning.” The first class was taught by Tom Vaughan and Stuart Davis. Ten small business owners from Portsmouth and three entrepreneurs are enrolled in the Retail Academy session. Davis told the group “You’re never too late to have a business plan.” He proudly added that in 2012 he helped six businesses open and get financing. “To measure or judge your business, you look at customer service, personal goals and dollars,” said Vaughan. Other topics will include Marketing and Merchandising, Customer Service, Legal, Finance and Security.
“With fiscal uncertainty facing this region, we want to take proactive steps to better prepare the retail community,” said Jim Carroll, executive director of the Small Business Development Center of the Hampton Roads and vice president of small business for the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. “By partnering with the Retail Alliance we have access to a wide range of information and experts who are key to making this program a reality,” he added.
The Small Business Development Center of Hampton Roads is an affiliate of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. Since 1990, the SBDC has served more than 10,000 existing and prospective small business owners and enabled them to create more than 8,000 jobs and achieve more than $350 million in direct economic impact for Hampton Roads.