Skip to content

Early Lessons from the Road to Recovery

Early Lessons July 2020

Early Lessons from the Road to Recovery
July 16, 2020

A conversation about how Charlottesville business leaders are finding hope and persevering in the face of our economic challenges – co-hosted by DisruptHR/Charlottesville, CBIC, and the Chamber.


  • Chris Engel, Director of Economic Development for the City of Charlottesville.
  • Ryan Gall, Partner, Filament Productions
  • Quinton Harrell, Founder of Heritage United Builders, CFO of a A Taste of Home Southern Cuisine, Chair of the Chamber Minority Business Alliance.
  • Janet Driscoll Miller, President and CEO, Marketing Mojo

Moderator: Lily Garcia Walton

Click here to watch the recording of this event (password 1M@0055k)

Topic: Area businesses pivoting

The City of Charlottesville awarded 70 BRACE grants to local companies adapting their business models. Some started producing sanitizer and PPE. Many restaurants and retail stores increased their online sales capacity and launched delivery or grab & go services.

Other entrepreneurs shifted services, like moving from in-person teaching to online classes, or doing landscaping and power washing instead of construction work inside clients' homes. Some have set up GoFundMe pages to ask for community support; others have begun co-using space to save costs.

Filament, which produces live events, saw an 85% drop in business during March 7-14. Rolling Stone dubbed it "the week the music stopped." They've explored many alternative models, but most operations simply aren't possible. By contrast, Marketing Mojo has been "inundated" with digital marketing business as companies make major shifts toward online advertising and communications.

Janet Driscoll Miller said she's seen businesses successfully adapt their operations but run into difficulty communicating the latest changes to their customers.

Topic: Rethinking economic development

Quinton Harrell sees economic development as more than jobs and business growth; it encompasses the economic well-being of community members and should include goals for improving quality of life.

Chris Engel said the crisis has exposed the interconnectedness and ripple effects among local businesses. For example, if workers telecommute and don't congregate, it will impact the service sector.

Ryan Gall noted that for companies like his, whose operations have been shut down, the top priority is coming together locally to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Topic: Burnout 

Janet said businesses need to be understanding and flexible as their employees deal with new stresses. Her employees are really happy working from home, but childcare is a huge stressor.

Janet also noted that business continuity planning can help ease the burden of uncertainty; it was a frequent topic of discussion with Project Rebound participants.

Quinton said he's feeling energized because the new business landscape offers opportunities for positive change.

Topic: Investments at the local level

Chris said two of the most critical areas needing local investment are broadband and childcare.

Quinton said it's time to rethink investing in the minority business community and focus on wealth building. Beyond access to loans, entrepreneurs need preparation like learning to read a financial statement, or understanding how to use a loan and what amount of capital is right for their business.