Sean Jones The Progress-Index, Petersburg, Va.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Along with physical space, the "Metropolitan Business league" will offer help in business training like mentoring, legal counseling, strategic planning, and financial services like grants or finance coaching.
A Richmond-based nonprofit for growing women and minority-owned businesses is eyeing expansion into Petersburg. Metropolitan Business league is planning a new innovation center to help small entrepreneurs and area students.
MBL's Petersburg expansion, City Point Innovation Center, will be a space where new and young entrepreneurs can get business trainings and working space.
The membership-based nonprofit already has 500 businesses members throughout Virginia. Eighty percent of those are women and minority-owned while a further 20% are corporate firms like Dominion Energy, Altria and Truist Bank.
President and CEO Floyd E. Miller II was recently honored by Richmond History Makers for MBL’s work helping small businesses through the pandemic. It supported 150 small businesses that were affected by COVID-19 with small business grants. MBL was also one of two organizations given the Neighborhood Builder’s Award by Bank of America in 2021.
City Point Innovation Center will proceed in two phases. Phase one will include a lounge, cyber area and event space for rent on the first floor of the building. It will also have space for up to five businesses like coffee shops, gift shops or cleaners. Phase one was scheduled for May 1 but has been delayed by COVID-19.
Phase two will add a business “incubator,” with office space for rent and business education space.
“For small businesses just starting out, you might not need a whole office space and finding one room for rent can sometimes be cost prohibitive or difficult to find,” said Brittany Rawlinson, a Metropolitan Business League board member. “Having the incubator space will allow individuals to come there with their new startup and be supported by an environment of new business owners.”
Along with physical space, MBL will offer help in business training like mentoring, legal counseling, strategic planning, and financial services like grants or finance coaching.
The nonprofit is also planning partnerships with Virginia State University, and Petersburg City Public Schools to create a youth entrepreneurship programs. High School programs would be targeted at grades 10 through 12.
“See this as a way to connect people with skills, or without skills, with the active development happening in Petersburg,” Rawlinson said. “Create a direct connection between our corporate sponsors, our members and residents of the community.”
MBL says it’s eying 30 Franklin Street in Downtown Petersburg as the address for the expansion. The building is owned by Ward 5 councilor W. Howard Myers. Rent for the space is estimated at $30,000.
Expected costs for the project are $105,000 for rent, administration, marketing expenses, program supplies and a soft remodel of the space. MBL expects to recoup those costs through corporate sponsorships, rental income from at least four boutique businesses in the space and membership dues. It is asking Petersburg for $50,000 to help offset the cost. Membership dues will be charged based on the size of business. Annual cost for a business of two to five employees is $250 a year.
Phase two of the project is scheduled for 2022.
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