Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibilityLaunch LYH: $115K grant to help small business owners expand in the Hill City | WSET
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Launch LYH: $115K grant to help small business owners expand in the Hill City

The Downtown Lynchburg Association released their 2021 Annual Report. (Credit: Mia Nelson/WSET)
The Downtown Lynchburg Association released their 2021 Annual Report. (Credit: Mia Nelson/WSET)
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Small and area businesses in the Hill City will soon be able to get a much-needed jump start thanks to a new grant program launching next year.

The Downtown Lynchburg Association (DLA) has received $115,000 toward Launch LYH, a new program that looks to fill vacant storefronts and to provide current and potential small business owners with funding to start or expand a business in Downtown Lynchburg.

On October 7, Governor Glenn Youngkin granted $90,000 in Community Business Launch (CBL) funding to the Downtown Lynchburg Association for this program. The DLA was one of only three entities in Virginia to receive this funding in 2022.

Launch LYH will begin in early 2023, and the program guidelines and applications will be posted on the Downtown Lynchburg Association website.

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Selected applicants will participate in a 6-week education program by the Lynchburg Regional Small Business Development Center. Classes will cover a variety of business concepts, including startup basics, trends, pricing, marketing, branding, finance, business plan development, hiring, and more.

At the end of the course, participants will pitch their business concepts to a panel of judges. Selected winners will be awarded grants ranging from $5,000 - $25,000 to be used for start-up costs for their new or expanded Downtown Lynchburg business.

Winners will also receive a prize package that includes business membership and mentorship; consulting services for build-out; banking assistance; website design; site selection; and various other business development services.

This project is part of a larger DLA effort to reduce storefront vacancies in Downtown Lynchburg, which is a primary focus of DLA’s 2023 Strategic Plan. 15 available properties have been identified as potential locations for competition winners, and many property owners are partnering with DLA on this project.

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“Downtown Lynchburg is an excellent place to do business. We have beautiful storefronts ready and waiting to become shops, galleries, restaurants, venues, and more,” said Ashley Kershner, Executive Director of Downtown Lynchburg Association. We know this city is full of talented people with big ideas and a lot of creativity. With this project, we will give them the boost they need to turn their dreams into reality.”

DLA was also awarded a $25,000 grant from the Truist Foundation for Launch LYH, as a part of their $120 million commitment to strengthen and support small businesses, focusing on Black, Latinx, and women-owned businesses. At least $25,000 of available grant funds will go to minority-owned businesses

“At Truist our purpose is to inspire and build better lives and communities, and our foundation’s key focus areas are ‘building better pathways to economic mobility’ and ‘strengthening small businesses.’ Therefore, we are very excited to support DLA’s effort to improve our downtown community!”

As Kershner shares, the focus on minority business owners of the program is also important to DLA.

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"We believe that a part of creating a strong, welcoming, and vibrant downtown is working to create opportunities for a diverse range of businesses and business owners. With Launch LYH, we will not only enrich our downtown with new businesses, but we will also provide new opportunities for those who may previously had barriers to access. In addition, we want to help foster a business owner community that more closely reflects the community we serve," Kershner said.

The CBL was previously awarded to the City of Lynchburg in 2015, which helped to launch its CO.STARTERS program.

“We have a proven track record of working with Community Business Launch to start and grow small businesses in the City of Lynchburg, such as Golf Park Coffee Co., Mrs. Joy’s Absolutely Fabulous Treats, Good Karma Tea Co. and Hill City Hardwoods,” said Marjette Upshur, Director of Economic Development & Tourism for the City of Lynchburg. “Our office stands ready to work alongside our community partners to support diverse, vibrant businesses and fill spaces in Downtown Lynchburg.”

The DLA said this project is made possible by additional partnership and support from the Bank of the James, Jamerson-Lewis Construction, the City of Lynchburg Office of Economic Development and Tourism, Lynchburg Regional Small Business Development Center, the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance, and Consensus Real Estate.

"The SBDC is excited to be a partner in assisting Downtown Lynchburg with the program,” said Stephanie Keener, Lynchburg Regional Small Business Development Center. “One of the strengths of the SBDC is creating specialized training for our small business community. We are looking forward to developing a program that can not only help our businesses be more successful, but that respects the diversity and special needs of Downtown Businesses."

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Additional sponsorships of the Launch LYH are still available. Contact for more information.

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