Facilitating small business engagement in Henrico

Catalyst Henrico Floricane

Earlier in the fall, I was lured into a planning discussion about a new small business event taking shape in Henrico County. Catalyst was designed by the Henrico Economic Development Authority and the West Cary Group to help small, established businesses in the county connect, learn and explore ways to grow.

How quickly three hours turn into three months. And how quickly three months vanishes – and the day of the event suddenly arrives.

Dozens of small business owners convened in mid-October to hear keynote speaker Gail Johnson of Rainbow Station talk about more than two decades of building a dream; the economic hiccups that threatened its success; and what led her to pursue franchise centers in China, Indonesia and India.

After Gail spoke, I spent much of the day facilitating a series of conversations – starting with rapid-fire networking discussions between participants. But the real meat of the day came from expert presentations from small business leaders (including some great Floricane friends like Steve Rosser of Gelati Celeste and Rick Jarvis of One South Realty), and two financially focused forums. The afternoon was anchored by a facilitated set of small roundtable discussions – led by the Virginia Council of CEOs – to help individual business owners “workshop” a business issue.

Spending time in learning environments where relationships are key, and the learning is experiential and real, is important. Helping design and sustain a space where every participant can contribute their best ideas to a conversation is at the heart of Floricane’s work. Catalyst allowed those ideas to take the stage in a way that was impactful for everyone in the room.