Building The Best Sandcastle: Meet UpStart Facilitator Sheri McGuire

Sheri McGuireSheri McGuire is the executive director of Longwood Small Business Development Center. She has helped craft the curriculum for Virginia’s Growth Alliances UpStart Entrepreneur Bootcamp and also is a facilitator during group sessions.

Through the SBDC, she provides follow-up mentoring and guidance to students when the bootcamp is completed.


We sat down with Sheri to get her insights on entrepreneurial excellence:

How is UpStart different from other courses designed to help entrepreneurs?

In the past, the course had been taught in the traditional classroom style. The focus was on writing a business plan. There was a textbook and lectures.

I looked at all that with Nick Langlie, and he suggested incorporating the Business Model Canvas, which focuses

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Entrepreneurship For Everyone: Mecklenburg Students Learn What It Takes To Start A Business

Entrepreneurship For Everyone: Mecklenburg Students Learn What It Takes To Start A Business

A lot has changed since Mecklenburg High School students first started school.

In the beginning, they could walk freely in and out of buildings. Almost anyone could visit at any time. But, schools have had to take steps to increase student safety.  Now students have to scan a badge to get in and out of buildings, while visitors must use a buzzer at the school entrance.

In a Biz Venture Entrepreneurship course being taught at Mecklenburg’s two high schools this year, students are creating their own businesses. Real businesses, with the opportunity for investment and growth beyond the classroom..

 “We hope to make a difference,” says Noah, a junior at Park View High School. He and his team of fellow students think their particular business idea has the potential to save lives when the badges and buzzers fail.

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From Doubtful Baker To Confident Businesswoman: UpStart Takes Maria’s Sweet Creations To The Next Level

From Doubtful Baker To Confident Businesswoman: UpStart Takes Maria’s Sweet Creations To The Next Level

Six months ago, former first-grade teacher and baking enthusiast Maria Hamilton wasn’t sure she wanted to be in business. Several years before, she’d left Cumberland Elementary School when she had her first child. Maria went from taking cupcakes to her children’s classrooms to baking wedding cakes. Soon, as friends started asking her to bake sweets for them, Maria’s hobby began supplementing her family’s income. She created a Facebook page and before long she had big clients, like Centra Southside Community Hospital, that used her for special events.

But, she wasn’t sure she could pull off owning her own business. “I was asking myself, ‘Am I really going to do this or should I go back to teaching?’” she says. “I wondered if I could run my own business.”

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Entrepreneurship, Good Ideas, Business Risks and My Little Pony: Meet UpStart Instructor Nicholas Langlie

Entrepreneurship, Good Ideas, Business Risks and My Little Pony: Meet UpStart Instructor Nicholas Langlie

Dr. Nicholas Langlie, known to many as Nick, is the creator and lead instructor for UpStart Entrepreneur Bootcamp offered by Virginia’s Growth Alliance (VGA). The second bootcamp is scheduled to start mid-May and is open to any aspiring business owners living in the VGA region, which includes Amelia, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Greensville, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Lunenburg, and Prince Edward counties, and the City of Emporia.

For more information, visit http://www.thinkbiggervga/grow

Nick is currently the Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (DIE) at Longwood University. He still chuckles about the acronym.

What’s the biggest thing you hope students learn during UpStart?

I want students to figure out great ideas that people are willing to pay for. And, if they can’t do that, to encourage them to not move forward with whatever idea they have. Because, business ideas

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UpStart Prepares Keysville-Native To Start Local Childcare Center

UpStart Prepares Keysville-Native To Start Local Childcare Center

LaTreasa Early has always had a gift for teaching. Although she currently works for the federal government helping adults earn their GED or high school diploma, her true love has always been early childhood education. “It has always been a passion of mine” says LaTreasa who holds two Master’s degrees, one in Education from Trinity University and one in Educational Leadership from George Mason University.

Now that passion is bringing her home.

Born and raised in Keysville, Virginia, Latreasa is working to open a preschool based in Charlotte County for the area’s youngest learners, from 6 months to four years old.

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Free Seminar Planned for Downtown Business Owners

Free Seminar Planned for Downtown Business Owners

A nationally recognized expert in the retail and restaurant industries with a specialization in small towns is coming to region to meet with business owners. Marc Willson is bringing his The Small Town and Merchant Program (STAMP) to Chase City, Clarksville, Lawrenceville and South Hill.
Willson, a National Retail Consultant with 40 years of retail experience, has helped more than 1000 retailers, restaurants, artists and tourism-related small businesses in more than 300 towns. Willson works with Longwood University and their Small Business Development Centers to host seminars for business owners and restaurateurs. The Virginia Small Business Development Centers and Willson’s STAMP recently won the Virginia Downtown Development Association’s 2013 Award of Excellence for Organizational Development. According to Jody Keenan, state director of the Virginia SBDC, STAMP has been beneficial for the retailers and restaurateurs who have participated increasing their revenues by as much as 65 percent.

“It is Willson’s use of low-to-no cost options that we find appealing, specifically his focus on developing and expanding the electronic footprint,” said Jeff Reed, executive director of Virginia’s Growth Alliance. “We have found that fewer than 20 percent of all businesses, organizations and attractions within the VGA region have an electronic presence that they manage and maintain. This hurts us in our efforts to attract new business and industry as well as visitors.”
Willson has kept in touch with the changing marketplace. “Because of the Internet and the pass of the control to the consumer, a small business owner has become the brand. It’s all about the personal connection and treating your customers like VIPs, learning their names and looking out for product you know they would like.”

Willson added, “This is my battle cry for small businesses, get found and be open. You have to be consistent with your hours and you have to be open when people are there to spend money.”

Willson began his retail career in 1975 as co-owner of the largest distributor of Earth Shoes in the United States. He later joined Britches of Georgetown as a salesperson and finished his 12-year career there as Vice President of Operations after growing the company from nine stores to 109. Willson then joined Circuit City and opened 83 mall-based Circuit City Express stores. He later joined Crown Books and managed 250 bookstores as Vice President and General Manager. Next he became the President and CEO of the Bicycle Exchange, a chain of bicycle superstores in dire need of a turnaround.
Registration is required to attend. You can use this link to secure your place The final day to register is Friday, March 13, 2015. The workshops are being conducted March 18-20. Learn more at The sessions are being sponsored by Virginia’s Growth Alliance, Longwood University SBDC, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development and Virginia Tourism.

The program covers topics such as “Competing with the Big Boys”, “Window Signs and Visual Displays: Stewards of Your Brand,” and “Restaurateurs – The Experience is Twice as Important as the Food.”

Virginia’s Growth Alliance is a regional economic development marketing organization serving the city of Emporia, as well as Amelia, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Greensville, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway and Prince Edward counties.

•    What’s different about running an independently owned business?
•    How do I define my customer and make sure I meet their needs?
•    My customers have changed… how do I deal with that?
•    How can I understand all the numbers?
•    How do I deal with lenders, vendors and landlords?
•    What do I need to remember when merchandising my store?
•    How do I get my financials done let alone understand them?
•    What are the “Top 10” customer tips?
•    How can I keep my customers coming back?
•    What do I need to do to market and promote my business on a limited budget?
•    How should I use online marketing and social networking?

And more…


New free marketing workshop series kicking off next week

Grow Social marketing workshop seriesVGA is kicking off a new free marketing workshop series, GrowSocial, in South Hill on Thursday, September 18 at 6:30pm. The same workshop will be presented in Farmville on Thursday, September 25 at 6:30pm.

This first workshop of the GrowSocial marketing workshop series will be an overview of the major social media outlets, explaining what each is, how they differ from each other, what they're used for, and how they can be used together in a coordinated way. We will also give an overview of Longwood SBDC's new UpStart entrepreneur bootcamp. Along with these topics, an overview of other new entrepreneur initatives of VGA will be presented with a discussion on how to get your small business involved.

Topics covered in the series will include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube and other social channels; using blogging and newsletters in coordination with social media; and how to utilize the VGA’s new Shop Local website to sell online.

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Think Bigger - Business Empowerment Initiative


The VGA is launching a business empowerment initiative we like to call, Think Bigger. The initiative combines a series of bootcamp-style entrepreneurial training courses with social media marketing workshops, and is designed to promote entrepreneurial thinking by providing a wealth of business and marketing resources and training to local entrepreneurs and existing small businesseses.

UpStart, (entrepreneurial training), is offered in partnership with the Longwood Small Business Development Center and Longwood University. With both face-to-face and online components, the series will be designed for students to be able to learn most of the subject matter interactively and online, prior to class time, so that the face-to-face and live experiences will focus on hands-on application with real world experts.

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Research and Development Grant Program Information Sessions

b2ap3_thumbnail_VA_TIC_Logo.pngPresented By the Virginia Tobacco Commission
Wednesday, September 10, 2014 | 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM  &  1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Overview: A one hour information and question & answer session on the grant program guidelines, funding priorities, evaluation criteria, and application process for the Virginia Tobacco Commission’s Research & Development Grant Program.

Targeted sectors for R&D grant awards include chemicals and materials (i.e. nano-materials and biopolymers), information technology services (i.e. health IT, cyber security), biomedical and health care (i.e. point-of care diagnostics, computational technologies), energy, and clean energy & environment.

Grants ranging from $250,000 up to $2 million are available for final stage of research or prototyping of new products or services that are expected to lead to commercialization. Projects must provide for at least a 1:1 match. Activities proposed for funding and the resulting commercialization must occur within Virginia's Tobacco Region footprint in order to be eligible. The next R&D grant application deadline is October 17, 2014.
Who Should Attend:  Private companies, entrepreneurs, and prospective project sponsors and project team members.  
10:00 - 11:00 AM: Session #1 on R&D grant program
12:00 - 1:00 PM: Break for Lunch
1:00 - 2:00 PM: Session #2 on R&D grant program
*2:00 to 4:00 PM - Time slots (30 minutes) are available on assignment for individual project team meetings for those planning to submit R&D applications.
Location: “The Mill Room” within Virginia Heartland’s Commonwealth Regional Council building at One Mill Street, Farmville, VA 23901.
RSVP to Ben Dawson, or 434-432-3042, by the close of business on Friday, September 5, 2014. Space is limited.

This information session is offered by the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission in partnership with Virginia’s Growth Alliance, Mid-Atlantic Broadband Corporation, and Genedge Alliance.  


Virginia Main Street Summer Toolkit

Virginia Main Street Summer ToolkitEntrepreneurship and Downtown: Supporting and fostering local entrepreneurs

July 16-17, 2014

Charley’s Waterfront Café
201 Mill Street
Farmville, Virginia

At the core of any downtown revitalization effort is understanding the need for unique and local shopping and dining opportunities, which are owned by local entrepreneurs. Often times, these business owners and potential business owners need encouragement, support and assistance to make their dreams a reality.

Virginia Main StreetHow can Main Street organizations really support these entrepreneurs and small businesses? Entrepreneurship and Downtown: Supporting and fostering local entrepreneurs, the 2014 Virginia Main Street Toolkit, is designed to help communities focus the Main Street Four Point Approach ® on exactly that question.

Join the state’s engaged network of downtown revitalization professionals and volunteers for this fast-paced, interactive event.

A full conference overview is available here. To register, visit

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