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Locals' business ideas soon could get boost from Venture Central

It soon will be a bit easier to not just start a business in Central Virginia but to keep it going.

Venture Central, an organization created by local government agencies, private industry and nonprofit organizations, now has a board of directors, funding from several sources and has started to search for its first executive director.

It’s just a matter of time, Venture Central officials say, before the program is up and running, offering a hand to those with a business idea.

“Virginia is ranked No. 1 for business in the country, and we have more than 20 businesses that are Fortune 500 companies,” said Venture Central’s vice president and vice chairman, Charlie Rogers. Rogers is also an entrepreneur and the president and CEO of Innovative Software Solutions, a Charlottesville company.

“Venture Central is not trying to make Virginia the No. 1 place for business, but the No. 1 place to start a business,” he said.

The organization is a combined effort by Charlottesville and Albemarle County, the University of Virginia and the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce.

It recently received grant support and other assistance from Growth and Opportunity Virginia, an effort instituted by Gov. Ralph Northam to support and promote small businesses and startups.

The organization is not alone in its goal of supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses in Central Virginia, but its role is to complement, not compete with, other agencies to help those with ideas get to the right places and meet the right people.

“We all recognize there are many people and organizations already doing exceptional work in the innovation and entrepreneurship space in this community,” said Chris Engel, Charlottesville’s director of economic development. Engel serves on the organization’s board with his Albemarle County counterpart, Roger Johnson.

“We look forward to partnering with them, boosting efforts and collectively attaining even greater success locally and nationally,” Engel said.

“Our mission is to serve and strengthen the Central Virginia entrepreneur community by building and bridging connections, programs, funding and spaces,” said Sarah Rumbaugh, Venture Central’s president and chairwoman.

Rumbaugh is also an entrepreneur, having founded Relish, an online employment and recruitment service.

“There are some good venture opportunities and entrepreneurial support out there, but there are some silos. Our goal is to bring everyone together so we can provide entrepreneurs with direction, show them how to find programs, acquire funding and spaces,” she said.

With the board of directors set up and funding and other support in hand, Venture Central is looking for an executive director to guide the organization.

In charge of hiring and firing staff, the director also will see to the strategy, operations and sustainability of the organization and work with the board. The board is considering local candidates and those from similar organizations nationwide.

The board recently began reviewing applications, but will continue accepting them until someone is hired.

Rogers said the executive director will be the force behind the organization’s effort to help someone bring a plan to fruition by connecting with nonprofits and agencies that assist with business plans, finances, grants and other needs.

“For most entrepreneurs, between having the idea and starting the business, there is a large gap,” he said. “We’re not trying to duplicate the efforts of others, but we want to build alliances and share funding options. Our goal is that an entrepreneur can walk in with an idea and when they walk out, they’ve been [connected to] resources they need to get the idea to the market.”


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