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Virginia Hosting $1 Million Business Plan Contest

If you have an idea for a business plan, Virginia wants to hear from you, and it could earn you $1 million.

Governor Terry McAuliffe has announced one of the largest business plan competitions in the nation, with $1 million in prizes for the winners. The competition will take place during the spring and summer of 2015 and is focused on the strategic growth sectors of Agriculture, Bio-Life Sciences, Cybersecurity, and Social Entrepreneurism. 

The competition is part of the governor's efforts to create a "new Virginia economy" through generating more startup enterprises in the Commonwealth.

“Hosting this world-class business plan competition in Virginia is another step forward in our efforts to create a new Virginia economy,” said Governor McAuliffe in a statement.  “It is through growth in these important sectors that we will see economic benefits in our rural communities and across the Commonwealth.  This competition is one piece of my administration’s efforts to systematically generate more startup enterprises in Virginia, especially in Virginia’s key growth sectors.” 

Read the full press release with more details on the competition >>>

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Grandin CoLab Opens Second Co-Working Space

There is a new co-working space, with a familiar name, in downtown Roanoke. The Grandin CoLab has opened a second locations in the former Kirk Avenue Music Hall venue at 22 Kirk Avenue. 

The CoLab on Kirk will serve members who prefer to work downtown - the Grandin CoLab is located in the Grandin Village area - and will offer the same amenities as the original location: a space to work, internet access, etc. 

The Grandin CoLab boasts around 60 members, and hopes to add at least another 40 in the coming year. Membership costs around $100 a month and does not require a long-term lease.

The Kirk Avenue space previously served as a venue tor concerts and entertainment, but is in an 'experimental' phase according to owner Ed Walker, who also owns the Grandin CoLab building. The CoLab on Kirk will remain for at least a year. 

For more on the CoLab on Kirk, check out the Roanoke Times >>>

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Virginia Tech Investors Seeking Virginia Tech Startups

Virginia TechA group of Virginia Tech alumni are on the hunt for Virginia Tech-affiliated startups, and want to help them get off the ground.

The Virginia Tech Investor Network is a group of about 100 "active, check-writing investors" looking to break into angel investing, and they are starting with their alma mater. 

The groups first meeting will be held on Nov. 5 in Washington, D.C., and they plan to eventually merge with 460 Angels, a similar investor group focused on the Roanoke-Blacksburg region. The group hopes to invest $1-3 million in its first year, $3-5 million in its second year, and more than $5 million each year after that.

Any company that was founded or led by a Tech graduate, current student or employee is eligible.

Find out more about the Virginia Tech Investor Network >>>

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Got a Business Idea? Enter the Gauntlet

A new event is coming to the Roanoke Region with the goal of helping you get your start-up off the ground. 

The Advancement Foundation will host a one-day event on January 15, 2015 labeled The Gauntlet. Entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to pitch their business idea or community concept to potential investors in 15 minutes. The event is focused on enterprises with a "double bottom line," meaning ventures will be profitable, but also bring significant social returns.

Anyone with an idea for a business - or already have a business that is less than two years old and has a total gross revenue of under $250,000 - are invited to participate. 

Leading up to The Gauntlet, the Advancement Foundation will also host a series of workshops to help entrepreneurs refine their ideas, get business advice, and prepare their presentation. The final result will be a "Shark Tank" like presentation to a panel of business leaders and investors. 

Applications are due by September 29th. 

Find out more about the application process >>>

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Virginia Cooperative Extension Releases Entrepreneur E-Book

The Virginia Cooperative Extension is making it easier than ever to get the resources entrepreneurs need with the release of their latest e-book. 

The Extension recently announced the release of "Question and Answer Guide for Starting and Growing Your Own Business," to provide Virginia business owners with essential information in an easy to digest format. 

The publication is available for Nook, Kindle, Sony Reader, and Apple readers and covers the business basics of entrepreneurship, business plans, legal considerations, and more. The e-book is authored by Scott Tate, senior economic development specialist in Virginia Tech's Office of Economic Development, and Crystal Tyler-Mackey, Virginia Cooperative Extension community viability specialist. 

You can access the e-book through the Extension website, pubs.ext.vt.edu >>>

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Star Tank: Roanoke's Spin on "Shark Tank"

The Roanoke Region will hold its own version of the ABC reality show "Shark Tank," in an attempt to connect local entrepreneurs with investors. The Roanoke Star Tank will be held Nov. 6 at the Grandin CoLab. 

The event will be based on the show, which has entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to venture capitalists on network television. While the Star Tank will not be televised or made public - to protect the interests of the innovators - local investors like Mark Lucas, Sam Rasoul, Katina Hamlar, and others are expected to make up the panel of investors. 

Entrepreneurs will have five to ten minutes to pitch their ideas, and then the panel will ask questions and decide if they want to invest in the idea, or not. 

Read the full story on Star Tank at the Roanoke Times >>>

Get more details on how to apply >>>

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Virginia a Top State for Women Entrepreneurs

A new report on the economic impact of women entrepreneurs at the state level ranks Virginia in the top ten.

Based on the fourth annual OPEN State of Women-Owned Business report - a comprehensive data set on the general state of women in business - the ranking places Virginia in the #7 spot. 

Here is what Inc.com said about the methodology of the rankings: 

As you'd expect, the most populous states, like California, have the most female-owned businesses in a straight head count, but things got more interesting when the researchers looked not just at the quantity of firms but where women-owned companies are contributing the most to the economy. The report calls this metric "growth in economic clout" and reached a number for each state by "averaging together the rankings of growth in the number, revenues and employment of women-owned firms."

This report concludes that Virginia is making great headway when it comes to diversity in its business climate. Women in Virginia are able to create and start businesses just as easily as men, and are making an increasing impact on the economics of the state.

Read more about the ranking >>>

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Small Virginia Companies Get Boost From Governor

Via VirginiaBusiness.com:

Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday signed an executive order designed to increase state procurement opportunities for small, women and minority-owned (SwAM) businesses.

The executive order directs state agencies to award more than 42 percent of their contracts to small businesses. This goal is the highest requirement since Virginia started tracking its spending with such businesses in 2004, according to the McAuliffe administration.

The order also creates a “micro business” designation for businesses that have fewer than 25 employees and less than $3 million in annual revenue in the three years prior to certification. The administration says this covers 80 percent of SwAM-certified businesses.

The order also increases the value of state contracts that are set aside for small businesses to $100,000 for goods and nonprofessional services and up to $50,000 for professional services when the quoted price is “fair and reasonable.” It also requires that purchases under $10,000 be set aside for micro businesses if the price is fair.

McAuliffe’s order directive also encourages prime contractors to use SwAM businesses for subcontracts and requires them to come up with a procurement plan.

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Industrial Co-Working Space to Open in Roanoke Region

With a name like Factory, and a motto like "Sparks Fly Here," you get the idea that a development in Roanoke is not your typical co-working space. Usually focused on entrepreneurs and freelancers in the tech and media market, The Factory will cater to those who are looking to get their hands dirty. Literally.

Owner Adam Moore is developing an 18,000 building on Shenandoah Ave. in Roanoke into a shared working space for craftsmen and artisans looking for room to manufacture hard goods. The current anchor tenant is locally grown and internationally awarded hand-made bike manufacturer, Six-Eleven Bicycle Co. 

The building is currently undergoing renovations to the shop and small office space, while searching for investors and tenants, and hopes to be fully open by this summer.

If you are interested in Factory, check out their website: www.sparksflyhere.com

 

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Roanoke Region Small Business Development Center: Helping Small Businesses Succeed

SBDC RoanokeGetting a new business off the ground, growing a small business, or just aspiring to be a business owner is hard work, and knowing where to start is one of the major hurdles. If you live or plan to start your company in the Roanoke Region, there are plenty of resources to help you get going and sustain momentum for long term success. 

The Roanoke Regional Small Business Development Center is one of those resources. We put the spotlight on the services provided by the RRSBDC as they put out their annual report. 

The mission of the RRSBDC is "to promote small business creation, growth, and development, by providing no cost professional business counseling, affordable training opportunities, and information resources." They serve the entire region and last year provided 732 hours of free counseling to nearly 200 clients, helping to create 61 jobs and 23 start-ups in 2013. 

They can walk you through every step of the process, from writing a business and marketing plan, to taxes, to hiring. They can even assist you in selling your business. Through their website, you can download their Entrepreneur Guidebook: A guide to starting and running your small business for free. This 50 page PDF book provides all the information you need to get started in entrepreneurship in the Roanoke Region. 

If you are considering starting a business of your own, the RRSBDC is a resource you can't afford to bypass. 

Check out the RRSBDC website for more information >>>

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