FORWARD VT: VtSBDC reignites federal grant to energize business community

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RANDOLPH CENTER, Vt. (Jan. 21, 2021) – Vermont Small Business Development Center’s (VtSBDC) State Director Linda Rossi has announced the reintroduction of a federal SBA grant to launch and develop a multi-faceted program benefiting Vermont’s small businesses, especially those most impacted by three campus closures: Green Mountain College, Southern Vermont College, and College of St. Joseph. The grant also supports entrepreneur education designed for college and high school faculty and students. Titled “FORWARD VT,” the program will be implemented virtually in the southwest region of the state, and set the stage for taking the “Portable Assistance Program” to other communities in Vermont. If possible, an in-person event will take place in the summer of 2021.

FORWARD VT

FORWARD VT equips business owners and new entrepreneurs with  strategies and tools to renew and restore their vibrancy and productivity, moving them forward from challenging circumstances such as the college closures and the impact of the pandemic. Online events and workshops will take place starting in February.

“While we had to postpone the rollout of this dynamic program due to COVID-19, 2021 presents opportunities for us to collaborate with our partners to provide our clients with the education, encouragement, and expertise that will jump start or re-start a diverse range of small businesses,” said Ms. Rossi. “We view the program as a solid foundation to build upon, and to extend well into the future.”

Taking Action

VtSBDC has outlined specific steps to support those hardest hit by the closures of these institutions of higher education exacerbated by the pandemic, as well as tangible materials that will be developed and available to share at the project’s conclusion. 

Action steps include:

  • Providing one-on-one virtual advising for entrepreneurs starting their first business
  • Specialized advising to help impacted small businesses
  • Online workshops
  • Collegiate pitch practice for student innovators
  • Online training program for high school teachers in a mini-institute of entrepreneurship
  • Marketing strategies including digital marketing, e-commerce, social media, cloud computing, and potential exporting to expand customer bases beyond the local market
  • Media audit, and tools for a comprehensive communication plan
  • Consistent communication with participating business owners and staff via virtual meetings, group sessions, social media and more

Partnering for Success

“Our goal is to maximize the grant’s effectiveness by collaborating with our valued partners,” explained Ms. Rossi. “We look forward to joining forces with the Chamber and Economic Development of the Rutland Region, Bennington County Industrial Corporation, Rutland Young Professionals, the Mint, the Lightning Jar, SCORE, the VT Women’s Business Center, the Vermont Innovation Commons, and our town officials, just to name a few.”

Evaluating Results

VtSBDC recognizes the importance of measuring the success of this program, and has identified milestones and a timeline to assess both quantitative and qualitative measures. While individual client information is strictly confidential, aggregate data will be reported to the funders. Select clients and programs may be featured on the VtSBDC website and blog.

Managing the Program

VtSBDC has assembled a management team comprised of VtSBDC advisors and a private sector professional to accomplish the goals and objectives of the project under the direction of the State Director and Associate State Director. The scope encompasses advising and training to college-age and young entrepreneurs, one-on-one advising in digital marketing and social media, and entrepreneurship education for teachers and students (including those in Rutland and Bennington county high schools).

“We are energized and optimistic about the  opportunities we can provide to our business community through the Portable Assistance Program, or FORWARD VT,” concluded Ms. Rossi. “The grant allows us to add to the extensive scope of services we already provide, and lays the groundwork for an innovative long-term program with amazing potential for the future.”

Details of the online workshops and events will be announced soon.

For more information, visit www.vtsbdc.org .

This grant is funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

More about VtSBDC (Vermont Small Business Development Center)

Established in 1992, the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) works to positively impact and strengthen established businesses and start-ups throughout Vermont. Area advisors provide no-cost professional expertise and guidance, combining one-on-one confidential advising with training programs to give clients the tools they need to reach their business goals. VtSBDC is experienced in helping entrepreneurs and small business owners navigate disaster recovery, from Hurricane Irene in 2011 to COVID-19 today. The team has been nationally recognized for its expertise and proprietary resources, which can be found on the website. The VtSBDC is committed to helping business owners, including high school students and college-age entrepreneurs, make informed decisions so they can grow and sustain their business in Vermont. 

VtSBDC is hosted by Vermont Technical College, part of the Vermont State College System, and is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration and a grant from the State of Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.  

For more information, please visit www.vtsbdc.org