Fund targets business sectors for growth

The Staunton Creative Community Fund, a provider of loans and assistance to empower small businesses, is launching a new outreach campaign targeting emerging businesses with the potential to spawn new industries in the Shenandoah Valley and beyond.

With Virginia’s unemployment rate in November remaining at nearly 7 percent for the third consecutive month with traditional industries such as manufacturing hit hard, the SCCF is focusing on types of businesses that show special promise for success in the current economic climate.

“The American economy is experiencing a level of change not seen in the last 70 years,” said Meghan Williamson, executive director of SCCF. “As many larger employers cut back their operations, more and more workers are going into business for themselves. These entrepreneurs are building creative solutions and new partnerships in their communities today, providing a spark of innovation for the industries of tomorrow.”

Under its new initiative, the fund is targeting two groups of entrepreneurs known for innovation, owners of green businesses and younger generations. Both have potential to create high paying jobs, to attract customers from both inside and outside the Valley, and to help expand already growing industries or help initiate promising new ones.

So far, SCCF has provided loans to green businesses including George Bowers Grocery in Staunton, a specialty neighborhood grocery store offering local and sustainably produced meat, eggs and dairy products; Tidy Green, based in Staunton, an environmentally friendly, non-toxic, child and pet-safe cleaning service; and the Friendly City Food Coop, which will sell a full selection of organic and local groceries when it opens in Harrisonburg later in 2011.

Tidy Green and George Bowers Grocery are also businesses run by younger entrepreneurs–age 40 or under. Others that are working with the Staunton Fund include Tiller Strings, a provider of music and stings instruments in Harrisonburg and Short Box Comics, a Staunton retailer of premium comic books and comic book memorabilia.

“To connect with younger and more innovative entrepreneurs, the old economic development tools aren’t as effective. We wanted to make our communications fresher, more relevant to their concerns, and effective at a grassroots level,” said Williamson, who at age 27 also embodies much of the same youthful enthusiasm as the Staunton Fund’s target audience.

The heart of SCCF’s new outreach campaign is a revamped website that serves as a hub for a multi-pronged online marketing effort including social media, blogging and regular direct email.

“As consumers and entrepreneurs alike spend more time on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, marketing increasingly means online marketing,” said Erik Curren, member of the SCCF’s board of directors.

Curren’s marketing firm, the Curren Media Group, donated its time to develop the new SCCF website along with an online strategy to roll out the fund’s new outreach initiative.

Employing the strategy of content marketing, the new SCCF website works in conjunction with the fund’s social networking, blog and email newsletter to provide a regular stream of news and resources of interest to local entrepreneurs starting and growing small businesses in the current challenging economy.

“SCCF’s communications are an extension of its mission, both online and in person,” said Curren. “The fund practices what it preaches – innovation to reach business goals while stretching precious resources. In today’s economy, using the latest technology to do more with less is vital and SCCF is showing the way.”

Edited by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at freepress2@ntelos.net.


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