Henrico County VA

Opening the GATE to Business Success

Program Fosters Strategies for Start-Ups
Job displacement is a harsh reality that many people have been forced to face over the past few years.

But a new government project is designed to help foster new strategies for those who have been laid off. The Richmond GATE project, funded by a Department of Labor grant, seeks to bring displaced workers back into the workforce by helping to give them the necessary tools to start new small businesses in Virginia.

Project Richmond GATE (Growing America Through Entrepreneurship) began in July and will continue during the next two years.

“The demographic of people we’re working with – 45 years and older – they’ve been hit the hardest by the massive layoffs,” said Wesley Smith, the project’s director. “It’s pretty much a job creation program, trying to get these people back to work and hopefully start a new business and hire more people.”

The project offers several classes and workshops giving these hopeful business owners the advice and tools they’ll need to be successful. The classes range from building business plans to learning bookkeeping and accounting.

The classes and workshops are free to participants, who also are connected with a counselor to assist them. Free consultation from business experts is included as well.

A partnership with the Community College Workforce Alliance allows for many of the classes. The CCWA is a workforce development program of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College and John Tyler Community College that offers non-credit training to corporate, government and non-profit clients, as well as individuals.

“We offer non-credit training, skills assessment, and other services to employers who need to send their staff to us for workplace training,” said Nina Sims, director of marketing and sales for the CCWA. “That ranges from computer training to the area of manufacturing, business communication, writing, strategic planning and leadership.”

Jim Hribar was among the first participants accepted into the program at its start in July. He is currently involved with the program and is in the beginning stages of
opening his own small business, Uniquely Fore Her, a women’s golf apparel store.

“The facilities we have with the CCWA, with GATE, are helpful. Just to be able to meet with other people and have the classroom setting that is very professional, like you’re in a corporate setting,” Hribar said.

Displaced workers interested in the program may attend an information session, learn more about the project and its focus. If they’re interested in participating, they may submit an application at that time. Applicants are randomly selected by a third party company, and if accepted, start the training by meeting with a counselor.

“When we first met with the business counselor, we go through some parameters trying to understand the strengths and weaknesses of yourself and the things you want to do for your business,” Hribar said. “The counselor can basically take this data and figure out where you’re at in your business, where you can start and what other resources you need to start your business.”

The current recession may raise questions for some about whether now is a good time to start a new business. But Hribar believes that the timing is great, especially with a project such as GATE to help.

“It’s kind of an opportune time,” Hribar said. “It doesn’t happen overnight; sometimes it takes months to plan ideas and to get whatever you’re going to do for your business started. Even though it’s a down economy, when the economy does come back, it would make your business stronger. If you can survive in this economy, then when it comes back up you’ll be able to survive for sure.”

Hribar, while still involved in the beginning stages of opening his business, believes one of the best things about the GATE program is the group environment it offers. The program’s participants can share ideas and suggestions with each other, and the counselors are always available for the participants to speak with, even after finishing.

The GATE project was implemented in 2002 in other states. Officials hope that the second round of the project, which includes Virginia, will enjoy similar success. The main focus of project organizers now is getting more people involved.

Orientation sessions for the Richmond GATE project are held twice a month. Those interested in gathering the tools needed for small business ownership are encouraged to attend. For details, visit http://www.RichmondGate.org
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HandsOn Day set for Oct. 17

HandsOn Day 2015, which will feature 1200 volunteers serving more than 65 nonprofits in Greater Richmond, will take place Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Among the projects in Henrico or surrounding communities that need volunteers are: installing GardenFest lights Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, distribution center assistance at Feedmore, pumpkin carving with residents at SupportOne, work and play at Housing Families First, paint for independence at Heart Havens, spruce up the shelter and clean sweep at Harbor House at Safe Harbor, pinwheel project at REAP and Kidney Walk prep at National Kidney Foundation Serving VA. > Read more.

Online tool helps identify best native plants for pollinators

Virginians who want to plant beneficial plants for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds have a new resource at their fingertips. The online Virginia Native Plant Finder now lets users search for native plant species that benefit pollinators. The tool, which is managed by the Virginia Natural Heritage Program, is free and easy to use; searches can be completed on desktops, tablets or smartphones.

Native plants are those that grow where they evolved; they have traits that enable them to adapt to local conditions. The Virginia Native Plant Finder lets users create their own custom native plant lists by selecting from dropdown menus. > Read more.

The Volunteers of the United States Army Field Band to perform Oct. 15

Henrico County Recreation and Parks is hosting a concert by The Volunteers of the United States Army Field Band on Thursday, Oct. 15 at Henrico Theatre, 305 East Nine Mile Road in Highland Springs. This free concert will be held at 7 p.m. and will feature Soldier-Musicians from the U.S. Army Field Band.

Since its inception in 1981, The Volunteers has been telling the Army story through rock, pop, country, and patriotic music. Its members have performed for millions of listeners in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, Kuwait, and Iraq. This group tours more than 100 days each year, bringing a powerful message of patriotism and support to communities large and small. > Read more.


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The Henrico Business Leaders’ Networking Breakfast Meeting will take place from 7 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. at The Westin Richmond. Henrico Fire Chief Tony McDowell will present “ISO Certification and… Full text

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