Community Leadership Program: A Leader’s Perspective

community leadership program

The conversation for The Valley Business Today with host Janet Michael featured Kory Campbell, Director of Marketing & Communications and Vanessa McAllister, Director of Programs and Events for the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber to talk about the chamber’s recent move to Winchester Regional Airport and the Community Leadership Program. Click here to listen to the conversation.

The Community Leadership Program – now entering it’s 26th year – is a nine-month program that runs from September through May. The program begins with an orientation, followed by monthly sessions studying specific topics including:

  • Leadership/Teamwork
  • Non-Profits
  • Community Culture
  • Agriculture
  • Media
  • Government/Economic Development
  • Education
  • Health Care
  • Public Safety
  • Simulated Society
  • Community Problem Solving

The sessions are led by a combination of community leaders, professional facilitators, and specialists in the respective fields. This program is designed to provide insight into the challenges and opportunities that exist in the City of Winchester, Clarke County, and Frederick County, Virginia. Applications are being accepted through June 30 and can be found here:

Joining them for the conversation was Ben Savory, owner of Summit Events and a recent graduate of the Community Leadership Program who gave his perspective on the importance of programs like this. He told about the things that he learned about the community and explained what he plans to do with his newly obtained knowledge and insight.

Before they wrapped up the conversation, Kory gave details for the chamber’s move from Old Town Winchester to their new offices located in a hangar at Winchester Regional Airport. This move is temporary – 2 years – while a new business terminal is being constructed which will become the chamber’s new permanent home. He also talked about a few upcoming chamber events including: Business After Hours on June 29, 2022 at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club from 5:30pm – 7pm; Business After Hours on July 13, 2022 at Market Street United Methodist Church from 5:30pm – 7pm; and a Lunch & Learn about leasing standards on July 26, 2022 from 12pm – 1pm via Zoom.

For more information about chamber membership, programs and events, visit their website: and follow them on Facebook.

Lord Fairfax Small Business Development Center: A Conversation About the Food & Beverage Accelerator Cohort

Lord Fairfax Small Business Development Center

Today’s conversation for The Valley Business Today with host Janet Michael, featured Christine Kriz, Director of the Lord Fairfax Small Business Development Center to chat about their business counseling services and a new program they’re offering through a partnership with the Loudoun County Small Business Development Center. Click here to have a listen.

Christine told us how the name change that Lord Fairfax Community College is currently undergoing will also affect her organization. The new name for the college beginning June 2, 2022 will be Laurel Ridge Community College. Once that takes effect, the SBDC will also rename to Laurel Ridge Small Business Development Center.

She explained the different services that Lord Fairfax Small Business Development Center offers as the counseling arm of the Small Business Administration. These services include:

  • Strategic planning
  • Business plans
  • Financial analysis
  • Licenses and taxes
  • Marketing
  • Site location analysis
  • Sources of financing
  • Business library
  • Review of good practices
  • Financial planning and budgeting
  • Business loan assistance
  • Personnel assistance
  • Production planning and control

The Center’s core programs include small business seminars, business counseling,
operations audits, mystery shopper program, mentoring, and focus groups.
They work with people seeking bank loans, SBA guarantee loans, and state loans through Virginia Asset Financing Corporation. Besides the loan application process, they work with all types of business registration questions, tax forms, SBA assistance and writing business plans.

Assistance is also offered in the following areas:

  • Business start-up
  • Financial management
  • Marketing
  • QuickBooks assistance
  • Operation analysis and review for existing businesses
  • Business considerations and requirements for going into business

There is no fee in most cases to take advantage of their services since they are subsidized by the Small Business Administration and local government entities and economic development agencies (our tax dollars.)

Christine gave details for their newest program – a food and beverage accelerator cohort in partnership with the Loudoun County Small Business Development Center. The cohort is being offered to all businesses in the counties of Clarke, Frederick, Warren, Shenandoah, and Loudoun, plus the City of Winchester and Leesburg.

She explained that this program is for businesses that have a food item or non-alcoholic beverage that they sell and are trying to increase their distribution. She asked listeners to please share it with businesses they are familiar with that may also fall into this category. She gave a few examples:

  • Someone who produces their own jellies, jams, and wants to increase distribution.
  • Someone who produces a food product (pies, meats, meal kits) and wants to sell to hospitals, large chain grocery stores.
  • Someone who produces a non-alcoholic drink and wants to increase distribution.
  • Someone looking to meet other small businesses in Loudoun County as potential partners

In this cohort program you will learn from other small business owners, the instructors (many of whom have worked for Wegmans and Whole Foods) and via a workbook and instructional videos.  Once a week you will have an online live session with your classmates.  You will meet once a week for six weeks.  In between live meetings you will have homework assignments to do on your own.

She said there have been four previous cohorts around the state of Virginia and that AMAZING partnerships and new opportunities have come from these cohorts!

The deadline to apply is 5pm on May 4, 2022 and the program will begin on May 22, 2022. There is no fee to apply but only 10 businesses will be accepted into the cohort. You can get more information and find the application by clicking here.

For more information about the other programs and services offered by Lord Fairfax Small Business Development Center, visit their website:

A Conversation with a Few Greater Good Award Winners

greater good awards

Today’s conversation for The Valley Business Today with host, Janet Michael was recorded on location at Shaffer’s BBQ & Market in Middletown. Shaffer’s owner, Matt was recently named the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber’s Small Business of the Year at their Greater Good Awards which took place on Thursday, March 24, 2022 at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club. You can listen to the show by clicking here.

Vanessa McAllister, Director of Programs & Events for the chamber was Janet’s co-host today. Joining them for the conversation was Frederick County Sheriff, Lenny Millholland who was recently named Citizen of the Year, and Barry Lee who received the Lifetime Community Impact Award. The group talked about the event and what being winning meant to each of them. The conversation was full of stories and laughter.

The purpose of the “Greater Good Awards” is to celebrate outstanding individuals and businesses for the contributions they make to the quality of life and economic stability of our region through genuine community commitment, dedication to excellence, and ethical and creative business practices. Award winners are chosen by an impartial committee of past Chamber board chairs. Awards include Large Business of the Year, Small Business of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, Non-profit of the Year, Citizen of the Year, Emerging Leader Award, James R. Wilkins Sr. Legacy Award, and Lifetime Community Impact Award.

Other award winners from the event were:

Katrina Smith – RE/MAX Synergy | Entrepreneur of the Year

Valley Proteins, Inc. | Large Business of the Year

David Kent | Emerging Leader

Winchester Rescue Mission | Non-Profit of the Year

Vanessa also talked about the newly named Legacy Awards. Before the conversation wrapped, Vanessa gave a few details for some upcoming events: Corporate Challenge, Valor Awards & Valley Business Women‘s Night Out.

For more information about the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber or to watch the replay of the Greater Good Awards, visit their website:  and follow them on Facebook.


The 411 on the EEOC

Our conversation today with Monica Colunga, Outreach and Education Coordinator for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Washington Field Office was pretty informational. She explained that her job involves working and forming partnerships with employers and communities to inform them of the services the EEOC provides.

The EEOC is a federal agency with 53 offices nationwide.  Monica’s office has jurisdiction over DC and Northern Virginia. The agency is responsible for investigating cases of workplace discrimination based on national origin, race, color, religion,  sex  (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.

She explained many of the issues that employers face:

  • It is also unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee who complains about workplace discrimination or participates in an investigation related to a charge of discrimination.
  • Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws (20 employees in age discrimination cases.) Most labor unions and employment agencies are also covered.
  • The laws apply to all types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits.

She encouraged listeners to check out their “What You Should Know” document on their website HERE.

We discussed and Monica answered a wide range of questions such as:

  • What is discrimination? She also provided some examples.
  • How does the EEOC support small business and explained what type of information is found on the small business resource page.
  • What can you/can’t you ask during a job interview and/or when calling for or giving a reference?
  • What guidance does EEOC provide regarding COVID 19?

You can find a wealth of information on the EEOC website: or reach out to Monica: 202-921-2803

FREE Business Counseling Services

Our conversation for The Valley Business Today with Niki Foster from Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce centered around the free business counseling services the chamber offers to startups & small businesses in the community. The services are offered regardless of chamber membership status. Joining for the chat was Herb Melrath, a business consultant, who explained what the services are and how they work.

We talked about the different types of businesses he’s counseled since the program’s inception and the uptick in startup conversations he’s had in the last 3 months. We discussed the important role of the business plan and why getting some outside advice before you make a decision to start a new business is a smart move.

To reach Herb and schedule a consultation, visit the chamber’s website:

Top of Virginia Regional Chamber: The Voice of Business

Our conversation for The Valley Business Today included Cynthia Schneider, CEO of Top of Virginia Regional Chamber and her Chairman of the Board, Scott Harvard (CEO of First Bank.)

We talked about the board’s role in moving the chamber forward & the diverse backgrounds an institutional knowledge it provides to Cynthia. Scott explained his role as the Executive Committee Chair and talked about how important it is to our entire community to have a strong chamber of commerce.

Cynthia filled us in on the new website and reminded us that nominations are still being accepted (through January 31) for the Greater Good Awards. She also gave us a bit of information about a new marketing vehicle they’ll be launching soon in partnership with NewsTalk 1400.

For more information about the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber, visit their website: and follow them on Facebook.

Top of Virginia Regional Chamber Events & New Staff

Our conversation for The Valley Business Today featured Top of Virginia Regional Chamber and several of their staff. Joining us: Danita Roble – Director of Membership; Hanna Stewart – Membership Specialist; Kory Campbell – Director of Marketing & Communications; and Vanessa McAllister – Director of Programs & Events.

We talked about the upcoming Greater Good Awardsnominations are currently open – as well as the chamber returning to in-person events. We also discussed the value of chamber membership.

For more information, visit their website:

The Valley Business Today: Front Royal Wines

Niki Cales from the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce joined me as co-host for today’s conversation on The Valley Business Today with her guest, Caitlin Love, owner of Front Royal Wines that recently opened on Main Street in Front Royal.

Caitlin explained how the wine shop came into existence and gave us an overview of the wines they offer as well as other wine-related items. She told us about their wine club & the ability to create custom gift baskets for the holidays.

For more information about Front Royal Wines, visit their website: and follow them on Facebook.

The Valley Business Today: Barrett Machine

Our conversation for The Valley Business Today with Cynthia Schneider, CEO of Top of Virginia Regional Chamber included Stacey Barrett Haines from Barrett Machine to talk about how their business & manufacturing as an industry has changed over the last 30 years.

Stacey told us about several open positions they have for machinists & fabricators and explained what a typical day might look like. She proudly spoke of the family and team atmosphere among her staff, many of which have been with the company for several years.

To learn more about the open jobs and training opportunities, visit their website: and follow them on Facebook.

For more information about other manufacturing companies in our community, visit the chamber’s website: and search their membership database.


The Valley Business Today: Code Ninjas Front Royal

Our conversation for The Valley Business Today with Code Ninjas owners, Kim Hancock & Chris LaCross provided an update on their business since opening earlier this year. They told us about their new, larger location that offers better visibility and access for their students and gave us all the details for their upcoming Halloween event.

They will host a Halloween party on Saturday, October 30 from 4pm – 8pm in the parking lot of their learning center located at 133 N. Royal Avenue in Front Royal. The event will feature a trunk/bike or treat with the Front Royal Moose Riders Motorcycle Group, drawings & giveaways, demonstrations & tours, plus you can take a selfie in the Code Ninjas Photo Booth! See all the details here

Get more information about Code Ninjas Front Royal on their website: and/or follow them on Facebook.