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National Downtown Small Business Week: Grants Announced to Downtown Businesses

May 1, 2018 by Jeslyn Stiles

As this is National Small Business Week, it’s only fitting that downtown businesses should be rewarded for their hard work. We at HDR are thrilled to celebrate by making $36,700 in grant awards to local businesses along with four of our economic development partners.

Our three-part Bricks & Clicks program started with a workshop led by a national expert who specializes in helping small businesses become regional and national consumer destinations. It was followed up with individualized technical assistance and a competitive grant round.

Program participants expressed that this program gave them the inspiration, direction, and guidance they need to make a difference in their business’ bottom lines. They learned about the importance of marketing and building an online and offline (in-store/in-restaurant/in-museum) destination. Technical experts assessed each business and discussed websites, marketing strategies, on-site attractions, e-commerce, social media, and visual merchandising.

The final part of the program allowed businesses who received technical assistance to make their dream projects come true by applying for a grant. Ten businesses were awarded grants that ranged from $1,200 to $4,900 through a very competitive process. We anticipate the grantees will ultimately invest $70,000 in their businesses as a result of this program.

“The Bricks & Clicks team couldn’t have been more thrilled with the quality of technical assistance and recommendations from all providers. The workshop; customized, one-on-one assistance; and grants gave local businesses the inspiration, education, and tools to help them target a new customer base,” says Andrea Dono, HDR’s Executive Director. “These entrepreneurs were serious about learning new skills, thinking bigger than ever before, and embracing being a destination that provides memorable experiences.”

By focusing on becoming online and on-site destinations, these businesses will drive more foot traffic to downtown, boost sales, and continue to build downtown’s brand as Virginia’s only culinary district and as a place for great experiences with independent retailers.

Here’s what the 8 downtown grantees have planned:

Explore More Discovery Museum is planning a branding strategy, retail merchandizing improvements, and enhancements that show off all the attractions inside the museum so more people have an idea of just how incredible the space is.

Food.Bar.Food is using industry and market data to enhance their website, outreach, and media strategy. According to owner, Amanda Cannon, “It is only after attending this workshop that I started thinking about the value of being known as an ‘expert’ in the industry. Receiving the technical assistance from Bricks & Clicks is the first time I’ve worked with a marketing professional and discussed the importance of a strategic marketing program – so much of being a small business owner means doing it yourself.”

Hugo Kohl Museum of American Jewelry & Manufacturing is producing a professional video that showcases its jewelry brand and highlights the museum.

The Isle Co. has a comprehensive marketing strategy that includes marketing brochures, videos, and a digital marketing plan (SEO improvements, newsletters, blogs, and social media). Owner Becca Miller Slye says, “with a digital marketing plan as outlined by our technical consultant, we feel prepared to tackle our project and achieve our objectives.”

Lineage is going to work on storytelling and digital marketing strategy to boost online and in-store sales. According to owner Paul Hansbarger, “[The workshop] got me thinking about the possibilities of growing Lineage to a national level and not thinking so small.”

New Creation is redesigning its website, repositioning its business’ brand, and enhancing multiple aspects of digital marketing. Sabrina Dorman-Andrew of New Creation says, “[Our technical assistance provider] asked us questions that were thought-provoking and have encouraged us to evaluate our digital marketing strategy. They worked through our business goals and unique challenges and brought a lot of hope where we felt overwhelmed.”

Walkabout Outfitter is planning on creating stronger social media and content marketing campaigns, exploring e-commerce, and building its brand as a unique outdoor outfitter. Tina Miller, the owner of Walkabout, expressed her appreciation for the program and “for investing in your existing businesses and putting energy and capital in retaining businesses that have been in the trenches for a while.”

withSimplicity is giving its website and ecommerce platform a complete overhaul and is also using the grant to learn how to manage its online marketing tools in-house.

The other businesses that received grants include Dayton Catering/Dayton Tavern and Solace in Elkton.

HDR used funds from the 2017 Friendly City Fortune to meet our required grant match to help make this project happen. Together with our partners, we secured $40,000 from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s Building Entrepreneurial Economies fund. We appreciate our sponsors Immerge and WHSV; and our partnership with the city of Harrisonburg, Rockingham County, James Madison University, and the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center. We were also thrilled to work with the following local technical assistance experts to give businesses the help they need: Immerge, KLCreative Media, Local X (the digital division of WHSV), Marc Willson, and Travis Burnham.

Susie Patrick is a Marketing Intern at Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and a senior at James Madison University, where she majors in Communication Studies. She graduates in May 2018.