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Deadline approaching for C-PEG entrepreneurial program
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Deadline approaching for C-PEG entrepreneurial program

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Feb. 12 is the deadline for applications to participate in a new program designed to help entrepreneurs develop or expand businesses in uptown Martinsville.

The Chamber’s Partnership for Economic Growth (C-PEG), an independent affiliate of the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, is launching “Startup Martinsville, Virginia” with $60,000 in state funds that it recently received from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development through the Second Annual Virginia Community Business Launch (CBL) initiative.

C-PEG’s program will be “a big help to people who are planning to start a business to see if they are ready” to go into business for themselves, said Amanda Witt, president of the chamber and executive director of the affiliate.

“Startup Martinsville, Virginia” is an intensive eight-week boot camp program for entrepreneurs ending with a business plan competition in which participants vie for a share of $45,000 in grant funds, other awards and loan opportunities to start or expand businesses in the city’s central business district.

C-PEG and the city each will contribute $7,500 toward the program. Money not used toward grants will help cover administrative and promotional costs for the program, according to Witt.

Depending on their needs as revealed in their business plans, three to six entrepreneurs will be eligible for grants of between $5,000 and $20,000, according to program details on chamber’s website.

C-PEG will administer the program with help from city and state officials, Patrick Henry Community College, the Martinsville Area Community Foundation, Longwood University’s Small Business Development Center, the Senior Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the Martinsville Uptown Revitalization Association, as well as “community banks” that are based in the region.

A selection committee comprised of representatives of C-PEG and the other participants will review applications and choose business plan competition winners based on various criteria, including their participation in all eight boot camp sessions.

Because a lot of information is to be provided over a short period of time, “you cannot miss one of the classes” and still be eligible for the competition, Witt emphasized.

If a participant cannot avoid missing a class due to an extreme emergency, such as a severe illness, C-PEG will try to work with that person, but he or she will have to make up the class somehow, she said.

Classes will be held from 6-9 p.m. on Thursdays from Feb. 25 to April 14 at the community college’s Dalton IDEA Center uptown.

Participants must be able to communicate ideas for their businesses clearly and concisely, as well as show how their businesses would be different from any similar establishments in the local market, the website shows.

Now that the former Henry Hotel has been turned into an apartment building, and with people living on upstairs floors of other buildings uptown, C-PEG is hoping to attract entrepreneurs wanting to open businesses targeted to largely serve people living in the district. Grocery stores and restaurants are examples of such businesses.

Businesses that complement the New College Institute, the Dalton IDEA Center and the planned College of Henricopolis School of Medicine – a bookstore is an example – are sought, as well as businesses based around technological innovations, according to the website.

Yet those types of businesses “will not necessarily have a leg up,” so to speak, when decisions are made as to who receives a grant, Witt said. There are certain to be ideas for other types of businesses that would be of great benefit to uptown residents and visitors and ultimately enhance the district’s vitality, she said.

Program participants must be at least 18 years of age and either a United States citizen or someone with a legal authorization to work in the country. Also, they must be able to open their businesses by Sept. 30.

More information about “Startup Martinsville, Virginia” and an application to participate in the program are on the chamber’s website at http://www.martinsville.com/info/startup-martinsville.cfm.

Witt said she hopes the program can become an annual event.

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