We’ve all heard the age-old adage “it takes a village to raise a child,” but NSU and Selden Market are betting on the idea that it takes a village to get small businesses off the ground. Align: Small Business Series starts Monday, February 6th.
NSU’s Innovation Center and Selden Market have joined forces to launch the small business program that may be the first of its kind in all of Virginia. Not only is the program entirely free, but businesses who actively attend all eight weeks of sessions will get first consideration for a Selden Market storefront.
The connection between education and real storefront opportunities is crucial because it “further defin[es] a pipeline for new businesses in Norfolk,” according to Careyann Weinberg, director of Selden Market. The program is ongoing, happening three times a year, meaning there will be a constant flow of newly trained businesses into the city.
The eight weeks of programming mirror NSU’s academic schedule and includes interactive lecture sessions, 1-on-1 consulting, and community events and workshops. Topics include but aren’t limited to funding, investors, marketing, pitching, side hustles, budgeting, growth strategies, and more.
While in-person start with traditional classroom instruction, the second half of the sessions will be an open-format seminar discussion meant to provoke real-life scenario questions and build relationships among the participants.
Rhashida Bess, the owner of Alodeuri Jewelry, frequently participates in pop-ups at Selden Market and programs offered through NSUIC. She says the program is unique because participating businesses will “learn how to do business better while actively putting those concepts into action in a physical space.” She also highlights the importance of the program’s community-building aspects, saying, “that’s what makes it really special, you’re not just thrown into a cohort, you have a one-on-one relationship with someone that knows you, your business, and what you want to do.”
A recent Downtown Norfolk retail study found that the area has copious amounts of retail space and needs innovative businesses that lean on the latest consumer trends. The stream of national retailers leaving downtown (California Pizza Kitchen, Urban Outfitters, Barnes & Noble, Nordstrom, etc.) clearly indicates that consumer trends are moving away from the old retail experience.
Align isn’t the first step taken to address the need for smaller and more adaptive retail businesses. Programs like DNC’s Vibrant Spaces and places like Selden Market have taken the lead in embracing the new norm of retail. With Align joining the lineup to bring well-trained businesses into Downtown, Norfolk’s retail future might be a lot smaller and stronger.