Latitudes Staunton - Photo Credit: Millpond Photography

Entrepreneurship in the Valley

Mountain Scape

Latitudes Staunton - Photo Credit: Millpond Photography

Entrepreneurship in the Valley

The Shenandoah Valley is known for sweeping mountain ranges, a rich history, thriving downtowns, cultural offerings, and over 3,000 farms in the 11 counties that stretch along I-81 from Winchester all the way to Buena Vista. Family farms and independent vineyards dot the scenery as you travel through the Valley, and charming downtowns invite visitors to stay, stroll, shop, and dine locally. At the heart of these bustling towns are hundreds of local businesses – the makers, dreamers, doers, and tinkerers that make the Shenandoah Valley unique.

Starting, managing, and growing a business is a daunting endeavor for any entrepreneur. Support organizations, champions, and advocates have rolled up their sleeves to make the Shenandoah Valley a thriving interconnected ecosystem to help these local businesses succeed. 

The Valley Business Compass is an interactive platform to help dreamers and doers navigate their entrepreneurial journey, and making it accessible to find news and upcoming events, as well as resource and service providers that serve entrepreneurs in the Shenandoah Valley:

Valley Business Compass

Each quarter, we shine a spotlight on a different aspect of entrepreneurship in the Shenandoah Valley. We tell the stories of our visionaries, innovators, and entrepreneurs who are making it happen for themselves and their communities in the Shenandoah Valley.

The Side Hustle

“I’m a single mom of three teenagers. My 16-year-old is on the Autism spectrum and my 13-year-old seems to do every sport available to her. As a full-time working parent, I’ve always had to figure out how to manage my time effectively,” Kiki Scott says about the early days of her side hustle, Embracing Fire Designs. In 2023, she was able to leave her job and transition to becoming a full-time entrepreneur. Embracing Fire Designs is only one of three businesses in Kiki’s portfolio.

And Kiki is not alone. The Shenandoah Valley is full of side hustlers: People who work full-time jobs and run a business on the side. With their stories, they talk about the challenges and upsides of running a business on the side and share some of their best advice for anyone who wants to start their own side hustle.

The upside of the side-hustle

Taking the entrepreneurial leap is scary. Having the chance to test the waters for an idea before jumping in with both feet is a great way to test your products and services, get early feedback from customers, and refine your processes before launching your business full-time.

Testing your products & processes

Heather Benin, owner of Sugar and Bean Cafe in Bridgewater, started out at farmers’ markets to test her products: What did customers buy? Which baked goods and specialty drinks were popular? What should her processes – from order taking to preparation – look like to ensure she could create a great experience for her customers? Now, she’s able to run a brick-and-mortar cafe Monday through Saturday!

Release the financial pressure

Josh Grimm, co-founder of OV3 Media shares the upside of building a business organically without the financial pressure of replacing the multiple full-time incomes that support their households, “Chad and I both wanted to take that big entrepreneurial leap but we also had to stay rooted in reality: We have bills to pay and our families to support. We want to do this well and continue to a point where it might become our full-time job. Right now, running the business on the side allows us the flexibility to devote time, energy, and resources to it without financial pressure. That way, we can grow organically and lay a strong foundation without the stress of replacing two full-time incomes. Besides, doing it on the side helps us stay focused. It’s a passion of ours. We don’t call it work, we call it our small business. It’s never felt like work and we enjoy every minute of it.” 


Explore stories of entrepreneurs from across the Valley:

Southern Shenandoah Valley   Central Shenandoah Valley    Northern Shenandoah Valley

Southern Shenandoah Valley

Starting your business Z to A: Valley Pro Cleaning

Leonard Stewart is a former police officer who is now putting his skills to work in emergency management at Lexington’s Carilion hospital. He’s also the founder of Valley Pro Cleaning, a mobile car detailing service serving Lexington, Buena Vista and Rockbridge county.
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Triple Threat: Student, Athlete, Entrepreneur

Starting a business is time-consuming enough as it is. Starting a business while you’re a student in school is even busier still. But starting a business while you’re playing a collegiate sport, and then opening a second location is on another level!
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Virginia Innovation Accelerator

Nestled by the banks of the Maury River in Buena Vista, the south end of the Shenandoah Valley, sits the Mundet-Hermetite building, a former cigarette paper factory dating back to the 1950s.
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Central Shenandoah Valley

Slow & Steady Growth: Sugar & Bean Cafe

In 2015, Heather Benin started baking in her kitchen. Her youngest son was starting pre-school and in anticipation of having a little more time on her hands, she wanted to see whether her baked goods might make a welcome addition to the Bridgewater farmers market.
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How Long can a Side Hustle be a Side Hustle?
Pink Ambition

In 2015, Pole Fitness fanatic and instructor Karen McIntyre partnered with an acquaintance to open her own pole studio, Pink Ambition Pole Fitness. Partnering with someone else made the side hustle feasible in the beginning…Read More

In Service of Community: OV3 Media

By day, and sometimes night, Josh Grim is a firefighter in Henrico, Virginia, where he works 24-hour shifts responding to emergencies in the Richmond area. He works this full-time schedule eleven days per month and spends the remaining 20 days in Stuarts Draft where he lives with his family.   Read More

Vocal About What Matters: Embracing Fire Designs

“When I first explored my creative side, I bought a silhouette cutter (device for printing on apparel) and immediately hated it. What had looked like fun on YouTube turned out to be frustratingly difficult…Read More

Heavy Metal Meets Firewood: Broadway Coworking

What do a heavy metal Youtube Show and an innovative product made from red oak trees have in common? They both have a home base at Broadway Coworking, located in the small town of Broadway in Rockingham county. Read More

Connections Over Coffee: Grow Waynesboro

If you stumble into Waynesboro’s Farmhaus Coffee on the first Thursday of the month looking for your caffeine fix, you’ll be greeted by busy chatter, laughter and the exchange of business cards in their upstairs event space.
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JMU Innovation and Entrepreneurial Spaces

With over 22,000 students James Madison University covers a large footprint. Where do the university’s creative and entrepreneurial minds get to work? Where do they brainstorm, collaborate and prototype?
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Staunton Innovation Hub

In downtown Staunton, nestled between Augusta Avenue and Central Avenue, the Staunton Innovation Hub (SIH) spreads over the length of a block offering 30,000 square feet to foster innovation in the Shenandoah Valley.
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The Perch at Magpie

What’s better than a light-filled coworking space with conference rooms, phone booths and strong coffee, roasted-on-site? Having that co-working space upstairs from one of Harrisonburg’s culinary institutions: – Magpie Diner.
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Libraries of Virginia

With 27 locations throughout the Shenandoah Valley, no other organization offers entrepreneurs space and resources free of charge like the libraries of Virginia. Gone are the days when libraries were stuffed with dusty books…
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Want to learn about even more entrepreneurs in the Central Shenandoah Valley? Check out Waynesboro at Work.

Northern Shenandoah Valley

Staying out of the Hobby Zone: Dryad Cookery

Brian McKee is the founder of Dryad Cookery, adventure-driven cooking tools, based in Strasburg. Dryad Cookery came to life through a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2020 and continues to design thoughtful and durable cooking tools. Read More

At The Hub

When you pull into West Cecil Street in Winchester, VA, you can’t miss a large building painted in shades of pink proudly proclaiming “Love”. Welcome, you have arrived at At The Hub, a co-working space for entrepreneurs…
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Libraries of Virginia

With 27 locations throughout the Shenandoah Valley, no other organization offers entrepreneurs space and resources free of charge like the libraries of Virginia. Gone are the days when libraries were stuffed with dusty books…
Read More