Lynchburg, VA - Several businesses in downtown Lynchburg are getting a boost this summer. You may even call it a boot camp. It's all part of the INOV8 initiative backed by Lynch's Landing, the Economic Development Office and Region 2000.
At the end of the program, three businesses will earn $10,000 each to either expand or get off their feet.
So far, 12 businesses have signed up to take part. This summer they'll receive one-on-one consultations to help them create a proposal for why their business is worthy of such a big investment.
Life is pretty sweet for the owners of Cao Artisan Chocolates right now. Mary and Carl Matice managed to turn a hobby into a rich and decadent business.
"Since our start in about August 2012 we have been tripling in size every couple months. And as a result a lot of banks and other investors, they don't really know what to do with us," said Mary.
When the chocolate makers heard about the INOV8 investment program, they knew they had to give it a spin.
"It's a great opportunity to promote downtown and it's a way for us to get a grant to help us to develop our business down here," said Carl.
"We have three different projects we're looking at. So it just made perfect sense to maybe try to use one of those projects to go for the grant," said Mary.
Program participants will not only get a shot at a $10,000 grant from Virginia Main Street, they'll also get some coaching along the way to hone their business skills. Then, at the end of the summer, it's competition time.
"Sometime in August they will submit all their materials for their marketing plan, financials, business plan, that sort of thing, to an independent panel. And then they'll have an opportunity to do a public presentation of their plan," said Anna Bentson, Exec. Dir. of Lynch's Landing.
Only three businesses will be treated with the big prize in the end. But, the folks at Cao say if one downtown business wins, they all do.
"We're just excited that anybody succeeds. We see it more as collaboration, because anybody that comes downtown or that succeeds in helping bring people downtown, it helps us," said Mary.
The deadline to register for this competition is April 15. Organizers say they expect a few more businesses to sign up before then. The winners of the INOV8 program will be announced in September.
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