FORWARD VT

VtSBDC awarded federal grant to energize business community

RANDOLPH CENTER, Vt. (Feb. 5, 2020) – State director Linda Rossi has announced that the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) has been awarded 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 launch in the southwest region of the state, and set the stage for taking the “Portable Assistance Program” to other communities. 

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. The official kick off events will take place in April 2020.

“This is a positive step forward for our business community, and we are excited 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. This is only the beginning.”

Taking Action

VtSBDC has outlined specific steps to support those hardest hit by the closures of these institutions of higher education, 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 advising for entrepreneurs starting their first business
  • Specialized advising to help impacted small businesses
  • In-person and online workshops
  • Collegiate pitch practice for student innovators
  • Training program for high school teachers in a mini-institute of entrepreneurship
  • Marketing strategies encompassing digital marketing, e-commerce, social media, cloud computing, and potential exporting to expand customer bases beyond the local market
  • Consistent communication with participating business owners and staff via in-person 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 Rutland Economic Development Corporation, Bennington County Industrial Corporation, the Rutland and Bennington Chambers of Commerce, 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.

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 Assistant 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 April kick off events will be announced soon.

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, VtSBDC is focused on strengthening small businesses in Vermont and addressing their needs through one-on-one advising and training. As a statewide, accredited organization, VtSBDC has personnel who are skilled at managing projects and collaborating with partners.  Specifically, VtSBDC is experienced in deploying resources to regions in trouble, as in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in 2011. Over 300 Vermont small businesses reported physical damage as well as economic losses. The VtSBDC team was recognized for its efforts and created a “Disaster Recovery Guide” for business that has been made available to all SBDCs nationwide and is accessible via the VtSBDC.org website.

VtSBDC is uniquely qualified to educate Vermonters in entrepreneurship, given its successful programs for students and teachers, including a week-long Governor’s Institute of Entrepreneurship, and a two-day teacher training in entrepreneurship in the career and technical high school located near the VtSBDC Lead Center.  The team assembled for the Portable Assistance project will hit the ground running and provide benefits to the impacted region immediately. 

VtSBDC is hosted by Vermont Technical College, and has a Lead Center located at 1540 Vermont Route 66, Randolph, VT and staff distributed throughout the state, serving each county.  As employees of Vermont Technical College, the organization has access to the departments within the Vermont State College system that benefit our clients in market research and has access to student interns or student projects that can assist our client business owners.  Vermont’s leadership is committed to education from cradle to career, and training students and teachers can support those working in dual-enrollment (the bridge between their high school and college education).  

VtSBDC has managed multiple grants from Federal, State and Local government agencies (including FAST, USDA, EDA and more) during their 27-year history.  Our Assistant Director has been with the network for 16 years and is dedicated to the execution of internal controls and interacting with our host institution accounting department for regular reporting on financials related to the grant.