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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
Community

Celebrating 106 years

Former Sandston resident Mildred Taylor celebrated her 106th birthday Aug. 9. Taylor, who now lives in Powhatan, is still a member of Sandston Baptist Church. She was visited the day after her birthday by several members of the church, who played for her a recording of the entire church membership singing happy birthday to her during worship. > Read more.

YMCA breaks ground for aquatic center

YMCA officials gathered last week to break ground on the new Tommy J. West Aquatic Center at the Shady Grove Family YMCA on Nuckols Road. The center, which will featured 7,600 square feet of competitive and recreational space, including water slides, play areas for children and warmer water for those with physical limitations, is the fourth phase of a $4 million expansion at the facility. West was president and CEO of Capital Interior Contractors and a founding member of the Central Virginia Region of the Virginia Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. > Read more.

Rotary donates to ‘Bright Beginnings’

The Sandston Rotary Club recently donated $1,000 to the Sandston YMCA for its Bright Beginnings program, which helps provide children in need with school supplies for the new school year. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Enjoy the final days of summer with comedian Guy Torry, the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour or mystery writer Mary Miley Theobald at Twin Hickory Library. Another great way to welcome the beginning of fall is to check out the UR Spider Football season opener with man’s best friend. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Bottoms up

Short Pump brewery offers more than just beer
I am still (happily) thinking about my entire experience at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery last week. Knowing nothing about this new brewery out of Denver, I was leery of brew-pub in the heart of Short Pump Town Center – this is not what I’d usually think of as a perfect fit, and yet, it was.

The restaurant and craft brewery opened in early June and features 10 beers made by female brewmaster Becky Hammond (pictured). This is the restaurant’s second location in Virginia; the first is in Arlington. Behind glass walls, customers watched the beer brewing in massive steel barrels. For our up-and-coming beer region, it makes sense that Short Pump would jump on board.

As I walked up to the back of the mall near the comedy club, I was taken aback by what I saw: at the top of the stairs was an overflowing restaurant with outdoor seating, large umbrellas and dangling outdoor lights. > Read more.

Cultural Arts Center announces 2014 fall class schedule

The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is now registering participants for its fall 2014 schedule of classes.

The center will offer more than 100 classes for children and adults, covering topicssuch as culinary arts, fiber arts, visual and performance arts and more. Instruction is structured to appeal to a wide range of abilities, from beginners to experts of all ages. Class sizes are kept small to ensure maximum benefit for participants with generally no more than 15 students. > Read more.

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