Four River District businesses snag part of $75,000 for expansion

The River District Association has awarded four new businesses a total of $75,000 to open or expand their brick-and-mortar establishments in the River District by fall.

The River District Association Dream Launch 2019 is a multi-phase entrepreneur engagement program that consisted of a six-week entrepreneur boot camp that was free for anyone to attend, however it was a requirement to be present for all classes to participate in the Dream Launch Business Pitch, where participants would vie for part of the $75,000 in available funding.

More than 75 people attended the classes, the largest registration to date. Of those, 26 participants finished all six classes, and seven business plans were pitched to judges in early March.

The four businesses that were awarded funding are:

» Firefly Studios, $25,000:Firefly currently operates a yoga studio that opened in a temporary location on Main Street in November 2018. This funding will allow them to move into a more appropriate, permanent space with expanded and more specialized class offerings.

» River City Escapes, $15,000: River City Escapes is part of a new family entertainment complex that will be located in downtown Danville. River City Escapes will be the first of its kind in the area and is aiming to set the highest standards of creativity, quality and unique themes that will rival those in larger cities and become a tourist attraction. Escape rooms are an increasingly popular adventure game for groups of as little as two participants to as many as 15 depending on the room.

» KG Graphics, $15,000:KG Graphics started 10 years ago as a freelance design company, which grew quickly into a full-time business. Four years later they opened a brick-and-mortar shop in Danville’s rapidly growing River District at 311 Court St. The business has been very successful, and the owners identified a need to expand into large-format printing to substantially grow their business. This business expansion grant will allow them to move forward with their business plan and will contribute to local economic development via capital investment and job creation.

» Grizzly’s Axe Throwing, $20,000:Grizzly’s Axe Throwing will be located in the same entertainment complex as River City Escapes and will provide the residents of the Danville and surrounding areas with unique entertainment. The complex also will feature décor that will mimic a mountain lodge, complete with stone fireplace, cozy furniture and wooden decor. The casual dining ambiance, quality of the food, and excellent service will ensure a large, loyal following of customers. The lobby will also offer live entertainment on selected nights.

“We are extremely excited to work with these businesses as they open or expand their operations in the River District in the coming months” said Diana Schwartz, director of the River District Association. “While the grant funds will go a long way to help us move these businesses forward, there are now several other new offerings in the pipeline. We had a tremendous response to the Dream Launch Bootcamp, and we expect to see several other businesses open their doors in the next six to 12 months throughout the region. The opportunity to give a large number of people knowledge and understand the journey to business ownership and self-sustainability is one of the most important parts of this program.”

Funding for the 2019 Dream Launch program was obtained by the River District Assocation thorough a competitive grant progress with the commonwealth of Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. The Community Business Launch program is now in it’s sixth year and has taken place in cities across the state. Funding for the program was also provided by the city of Danville so that RDA would be eligible for the grant via matching funds. RDA is able to manage the program thanks to organizational funding and support from Danville Regional Foundation.

The River District Association was organized in 1999 as the Downtown Danville Association. In May 2015, the organization was renamed the River District Association to complement the city’s River District brand and is an accredited Virginia and National Main Street Community.

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