In 2021, VtSBDC was chosen as one of 51 grantees nationwide to be part of the Small Business Administration’s two-year Community Navigator Pilot Program.  According to the SBA, the Community Navigator Pilot Program was designed to “reduce barriers that all small businesses — including those owned by disadvantaged groups such as veterans, women and those from rural communities —often face in accessing critical support.”

The Community Navigator Pilot Program used a “hub and spoke” model, with VtSBDC as the hub, and nine partner organizations as spokes.

Although the two-year pilot program has concluded, this network of community partners continues to collaborate to support Vermont’s small businesses and their owners throughout the state.

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The “spoke” partner organizations:

  • Vermont Law and Graduate School
    • The Vermont Law School Entrepreneurship Legal Lab (VLSell) at VLS offers support, education, and outreach on legal topics impacting diverse and disadvantaged businesses and business owners in Vermont. Based on a series of listening tours to learn about the community’s legal business concerns and educational needs, VLS provides:
      • Online legal resources and tools to assist with a general understanding of legal requirements, options, and opportunities for small businesses
      • Direct educational consultations to small businesses to help them to understand the legal aspects of owning and running a business
      • Referrals for approved businesses for five to 10 hours of free legal service with a Vermont attorney.
  • Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO) Financial Futures Program
    • CVOEO’s Micro Business Development Program supports rural Vermonters, women, LGBTQ+, veterans, BIPOC Vermonters, and New American community members to successfully launch and grow businesses with the following initiatives: 
      • Increase educational opportunities and direct support for entrepreneurs to use social media, online applications, and computer skills to market and manage their business.
      • Increase access to education and 1:1 coaching on personal finance and credit.
      • Partner with the Financial Empowerment for New Americans Project to support New American community members in starting and sustaining businesses.
  • Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF)
    • VSJF offers businesses owned by veterans, BIPOC and females, and rural businesses Focused Business Coaching, which uses one lead coach to provide highly focused, 9-12-month long coaching services. A mutually defined scope of work is geared toward solving challenges to the business’ development, including access to the right match of capital. Business coaches provide support, advice, leadership training and access to extensive network contacts to help business leaders recognize ways to improve profitability, retain and recruit a diverse workforce, and take advantage of digital innovations to drive sales growth. 
  • Center for Women and Enterprise (CWEVT)
    • CWEVT serves entrepreneurs from across the state with training and individual business counseling to help women from all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds successfully launch, lead, and grow their own companies. CWE will:
      • Focus on building affinity spaces for women entrepreneurs and veterans, especially in Southern Vermont
      • Serve rural-concentrated industries, like makers/artists and people making the transition from side-hustles to full-time business engagements, through educational experiences and individual business counseling
      • Provide a specialized cohort entrepreneurship training program that recognizes the unique needs and challenges of people in the military and their spouses
  • Central Vermont Economic Development Corporation (CVEDC) and Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation (BDCC)
    • The RDCs of Vermont provide statewide navigation assistance to businesses seeking to determine the best form of technical assistance to help each business on its path to COVID recovery. The Navigator, client business, and professional service provider will develop a scope of work appropriate to solving a technical issue identified by the client as key to recovery. The cost of the work will be covered by the grant and paid directly to the service provider. The program is expected to assist over 42 businesses with professional service contracts. Based on prior experience, they anticipate a concentration of work will be completed in supporting business development of e-commerce platforms, digital marketing, social media plans, supply chain integration, and financial analysis support. 
  • Vermont Principals’ Association (VPA)
    • VPA shares messages and awareness of opportunities provided by CNPP and its partnership with the spokes to schools K-12, youth, and their communities.  This is accomplished through sponsorships of podcasts, professional development conferences and events, and newsletters. VPA has also developed a program to distribute mini-monies which will be awarded to help with diverse and impactful educational support opportunities throughout the state.
  • Vermont Professionals of Color Network (VT POC)
    • As a CNPP spoke, the role of VT PoC is to learn more about the current business environment for the BIPOC small business community via survey data collection and small group listening sessions. Their goal is to better understand the challenges and resource gaps that exist for the community, and to fill those gaps by helping communities navigate the various resources available throughout the state, specifically from VtSBDC and eight organizational partners within the Community Navigator Pilot Program:
  • Main Street Alliance-Vermont (MSA-VT)
    • Main Street Alliance conducts small business outreach through survey collection, 1:1 meetings and small group listening sessions. They seek to further understand what is working well for small businesses and what gaps still exist. They aim to connect with Vermont’s women, BIPOC, veteran and rural owned businesses, and those who have yet to access resources from regional and state-based programming.  By listening deeply and centering the small business voice, MSA hopes to influence transformative change in Vermont to create a more equitable and accessible small business economy.  

The well-balanced network of partner organizations recruited by VtSBDC worked together to address the identified gap areas of: financial, digital and legal literacy while increasing cultural knowledge, awareness and greater sensitivity through diversity, equity and inclusivity efforts across the technical assistance provider network of Vermont. 

Read more about how CNPP supported Vermont’s small and very small businesses on the Inspiring Entrepreneurs blog

or view the CNPP video here:

Funding [in part] through a Grant with the U.S. Small Business Administration