Small Business Development

UnBoundRVA: Creating a Path Towards Small Business Ownership

Resiliency, creative thinking and a willingness to be a continuous learner – those are all qualities of a successful entrepreneur. Unfortunately, talented individuals possessing these characteristics from low-income communities often face obstacles that prevent them from launching new businesses.

While teaching at an urban high school after college, Sarah Mullens and Richard Luck experienced this first-hand and were disheartened by an incredible amount of talent going underutilized. So, in 2014, they established a nonprofit that would create a path to economic independence for entrepreneurs from disadvantaged communities called UnBoundRVA.

According to Luck, currently a board member, “So many of the people that come through the UnBoundRVA program have everything it takes to be successful. They are intelligent, committed, hard-working, skilled people who, for various reasons, have struggled finding a job that matches their potential. Small business ownership allows them to surpass many of the traditional barriers of employment and take control of their futures.”

Today, under the leadership of Sarah Williams, UnBoundRVA partners with local organizations to present curriculum focused on leadership, financial literacy and foundational business acumen. Entrepreneurs also gain access to hands-on support in business development, marketing and operations. So far, three classes and 52 individuals have completed the UnBoundRVA curriculum. Twelve businesses have launched with loan funds supported by UnBoundRVA.

“My entire career has been spent working with owners of privately held businesses specializing in access to capital,” said Williams, most recently a senior vice president in commercial lending at Village Bank. “What I’ve noticed is that launching a new business requires the founder to be driven and optimistic with high expectations. However, for those companies to have long-term success, their owners need a supportive network that can open doors to new connections.”

Attendees of an UnBoundRVA financial literacy workshop, designed and instructed by associates of Capital One, celebrate their success.

Class four at UnBoundRVA is currently receiving some of this support from Capital One. Entrepreneurs are participating a six-month Strength Builder Series, half of which includes financial literacy workshops designed and instructed by Capital One associates. Workshop topics include budgeting and saving, credit, innovation and technology, risk management and small business banking options. The other half of the Strength Builder Series is focused on individual development around personal branding, professionalism, communication and presentation skills.

“We are incredibly proud to support and be a part of UnBoundRVA. We recognize that when small businesses do well and are sustainable, local economies succeed and communities are strengthened,” said Zaheer Ladak, managing vice president of risk management at Capital One and UnBoundRVA board member. “That’s why Capital One is investing $150 million over five years to help develop tomorrow’s digitally driven workforce by providing entrepreneurs with the skills, tools and resources they need to succeed and subsequently thrive.”

All of the businesses launched are helping to drive local economic development in our region, including those from classes one and two (learn more at unboundrva.org). Class three businesses launched this summer include: Buchanan’s Cleaning Service, a full-service residential and commercial cleaning service. Cut Close Lawn Care, a full-service lawn care company. Egghead Catering & Delivery, catering and delivery service specializing in artisan egg sandwiches and more. Plated Traditions, a design and digital recipe conversion service. Winston Property Preservation, a property maintenance and repair company, which includes HVAC.

Nathan Kent, owner of Egghead Catering & Delivery stated, “UnboundRVA has created the opportunity for me to take control of my future by providing the resources to turn my dreams into reality. I have been in the food service industry for many years, but I never thought it was possible for me to own a business until I found this program. Since working with UnBoundRVA, I’ve connected with financial resources and community partners who help with marketing strategy and administrative duties. I know the UnboundRVA team is in my corner – enthusiastic and always pushing me to reach further.”

Through the spring of 2018, the fourth class of talented founders from low-income communities will continue their journey toward small business ownership through participation in impactful programming offered by UnBoundRVA. The result will be five new small businesses that will create new jobs, opportunities and innovations benefiting our community.

Article appeared first in the Richmond Times-Dispatch