As vaccines begin to roll out across the region, the Longwood Small Business Development Center has a shot in the arm for local businesses hit hardest by the economic impacts of the pandemic.

Thanks to CARES Act funding from the Small Business Administration, businesses in Cumberland and Prince Edward Counties will be eligible to join the initial pilot cohort of Refocus 2021. Farmville Downtown Partnership and the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce have partnered with Longwood SBDC to create this new program, which will provide extensive support for businesses in the retail, restaurant, hospitality and other sectors as they plan and execute COVID-driven pivots to their operations.

“We saw that many of our Farmville-area businesses in these heavily impacted sectors have had to adapt, whether it’s curbside pickup, delivery, or virtual services,” said Anne Tyler Paulek, Executive Director, Farmville Chamber of Commerce. “They’ve had to move quickly, and now, by enlisting the help of the SBDC, our goal is to help them evaluate and optimize these adjustments for long-term success.”

Selected businesses will receive professional consulting services free of charge, along with unique access to networking, education, co-marketing, discounts, and more. Each participant will leave the program with a solid action plan of concrete steps for the owner and consultant and structured follow-up support.

After a process that features an intake screening and a professionally-led focus group experience, high-level consultants will help business owners choose an area of focus and develop a tactical operations or marketing plan. Businesses will then be supported in the implementation of their strategy. Program completers will receive free co-marketing opportunities and other financial incentives through the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce and Farmville Downtown Partnership.

The base package value is estimated at $7,000. This pilot program will be open to a limited number of businesses. Selection criteria will include the scalability of the business, management’s desire to grow, ability and capacity to commit the time to the program and implementation, and the potential to benefit the broader local economy.

“We believe this blend of offerings is just the right mix to help our local economy refocus for a successful 2021 and beyond,” said Sheri McGuire, Longwood SBDC Director.  “We’re excited that FDP and the Farmville Chamber reached out to us to collaborate on this project. We hope this pilot will pave the way, providing a model for future cohorts in other areas of our service region.”

Interested businesses should visit to apply. The application deadline ends February 22, 2021. Local business organizations interested in establishing their own future cohorts should contact Sheri McGuire at [email protected].