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January Newsletter

Happy New Year Southwest Virginia! The region is starting 2016 on the right track with a variety of events and workshops to be held this spring. Be sure to check out the upcoming events and mark your calendars. In this issue, learn how the Washington County Business Challenge has taken their competition to the next level. Also, this month's Business Spotlight is sure to be the rarest one of the year!
Business Plan Competitions
Washington County Business Challenge Receives Additional Awards
The Washington County Business Challenge will host their third annual business plan competition beginning on January 26, 2016 at the Virginia Highlands Small Business Incubator. The competition is designed to attract entrepreneurs with new technology, value added agriculture, outdoor recreation, light manufacturing and retail/support service businesses to start or expand their existing business within Washington County.


This year, 25 contestants will be competing for over $33,000 in awards. One start up, one existing business within the towns and Washington County, one Damascus business, and one Glade Spring business will win $5,000 each. In addition to cash prizes, the Washington County Business Challenge is pleased to announce additional contributions from the private sector. In December, Michael Spiegler, principal partner of Spiegler, Blevins & Company CPA’s, announced that Spiegler Blevins will contribute one year service including hosted software, monthly bookkeeping, quarterly financial reviews, annual tax planning and annual tax preparation to the winner of the start up business category. The value of the package is over $6,000. The competition also received support from Wess Boggs, J.D.,  an associate at Penn Stuart, who recently announced that he would contribute the preparation and filing of the appropriate formation documents for a new business entity, which is valued at an estimated $2,500. These awards, in addition to one year free membership to the Washington County Chamber of Commerce and half price rent for one year at the Virginia Highlands Small Business Incubator, makes the winning Business Start Up award worth more than $15,000.

To date, the Washington County Business Plan Challenge has created 14 start up and 8 expanding businesses in two years.

Learn more about the competition >>
Watch the Washington County Business Challenge on WJHL >>
Believe in Bristol, Leading the Way Back to Bristol Business Program
On December 1, 2015, Believe in Bristol began their third year of the Leading the Way Back to Bristol Business Program. This year, the program will be awarding $5,000 to the winner of the ePrize Pitch Event. In addition, local entrepreneurs have the opportunity to participate in nine weeks of facilitated, free business training through the Co.Starters program. At the final class on February 20, 2016, finalists will participate in a pitch contest and wrap up the program with a celebratory event, in which the winner will be announced.

Learn more about the program >>
Pop Up Marion, Community Business Launch Program

As part of the statewide Community Business Launch program, the Town of Marion will begin another round of "Pop Up Marion" in March 2016. The five week training program is for new or existing businesses located in the Town of Marion. Winning participants will be eligible for up to $20,000 in grant funds. Classes will be held Tuesday evenings in March at 6PM at The Henderson.

Check out the flyer to learn more or to register >>
Regional News

CRVI Awards "Partner of the Year"
On January 7, 2016, the Clinch River Valley Initiative announced the first annual CRVI "Partner of Year" Award. CRVI was pleased to honor Paul Revell, of the VA. Department of Foresty, as the first recipient of the Partner of the Year Award for 2015. Paul has been a valuable member of the initiative since before its inception, and CRVI attributes the growth of the initiative to his involvement.
Check out the announcement >>



Census Bureau Data Training
The U.S. Census Bureau is offering one-on-one training to learn how to find data for economic development or small business plans. This is a great opportunity for anyone that is opening a new business, growing an existing business, providing services to their community, or are simply interested in the numbers.
Schedule a one-on-one session with Ally Burleson-Gibson on February 3, 2016 at the Virginia Highlands Small Business Incubator. Contact Ally at or 804-551-2304.

GENEDGE Announces Growth Acceleration Program
On January 12, 2016, GENEDGE announced the new business growth program, Enterprise Development Growth Engine (EDGE), which will accelerate business growth for small manufacturing, engineering, and technology companies in Southern and Southwest Virginia. The program will help company ownership grow business value by focusing on 18 key drivers and closing identified gaps in the drivers.

Read the Press Release >>
Learn more about the program >>

Governor's Announcement
50th Anniversary of Virginia Jobs Investment Program
Governor Terry McAuliffe announced on December 22, 2015 the 50th anniversary of the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP), which was created in 1965 to provide consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs or experiencing technological change. As an economic development incentive, the VJIP helps Virginia businesses to attract, retain, and develop talented workers. Governor McAuliffe previously announced that his biennial budget will include funds for Virginia TalentLink, which will support the rebranding of VJIP.

Read the official announcement >>
Business Spotlight
Creation Kingdom Zoo
Hidden in the mountains of Southwest Virginia is one of the region’s most exhilarating businesses that provides its’ customers with an unforgettable, worldly experience. Ranked as one of the Tri Cities area’s top attractions, Creation Kingdom Zoo in Gate City offers visitors an intimate encounter with a variety of animals from around the world. Even better, there are several animals visitors can actually pet.
Owners, Elaine and Dr. Marc Bradley have been in the Zoological industry for many years and are approaching their 7th full season with the Zoo being open to the public. The Bradley’s envisioned that the visitor interaction would foster bonds between visitors and animals while bridging the gap between people and nature.

Three Questions with… Creation Kingdom Zoo
What ignited the spark in you to start your business?
A passion for animals! We had privately worked on conservation projects with species preservation for years and decided the key to long term success for endangered animals was public awareness through education. Thus the concept to turn our private facility into a public zoo. But not your traditional zoo, our focus was to immerse our visitors in the animal’s world by keeping the surroundings natural and bringing visitors close enough to see animals engaged in natural behaviors.

What three pieces of advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Be dedicated to your business, not just involved. Be patient, it takes years to grow a company. Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life.

How do you define success?
For us, success will be defined when we've positively made enough of an impact that the rate of animal extinction has exponentially decreased. The Zoo’s motto is "Making a Difference" and we're doing that one life at a time.

Be sure to visit Creation Kingdom Zoo this spring! To learn more about the Zoo, visit
Like them on Facebook to learn interesting facts about the animals every day.
Upcoming Events
Noon Knowledge Lunch Series
The Washington County Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity, and Virginia Highlands Small Business Incubator are pleased to announce that Virginia Highlands Community College’s Workforce Development Center has joined the Noon Knowledge team and will be a valuable partner in the continued mission of providing free business training classes to entrepreneurs in the Washington County region.
People Incorporated will be offering a series of free, public training across the region.
Currently scheduled workshops:
Customer Service                                                                                 Google - GYBO
February 10, 2016 - Abingdon                                                                    February 23, 2016 - Saltville
April 13, 2016 - Abingdon                                                                            February 24, 2016 - Chilhowie
                                                                                                                           February 25, 2016 - Marion
Business Basics                                                                                     April 21, 2016 - Wise
February 18, 2016 - Downtown Bristol                                                     May 3, 2016 - Damascus
February 25, 2016 - Abingdon
                                                                                                                           Social Media Marketing
EBay & Etsy Commerce                                                                      April 12, 2016 - Bland
March 23, 2016 - Abingdon
March 29, 2016 - Floyd                                                                                 Marketing and Advertising
March 31, 2016 - Haysi                                                                                 May 26, 2016 - Marion   

Register here or call 276.619.2215 for more information.
Let us share your exciting updates in entrepreneurship with the rest of the region! Contact Robyn Lee at to have news and events added to the newsletter.
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