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A Love Of Stories Moves Local Reporter To Start Her Own Business

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A year ago, Ilsa Loeser had the distinct feeling that something was missing. Despite a successful job as a reporter at The Farmville Herald, where her work garnered her both state and national awards, she knew what she loved most was telling stories.

“There were all these people in the community that were doing good and interesting things and no one was telling their stories,” she says. Although The Herald covered many of them, between budget discussions, crime reports and house fires, reporters didn’t have enough time to capture them all. And since the people doing good were equally pressed for time, many powerful stories were simply not being told.

That’s when Ilsa decided to start her own business.

What began as a contract with the Southside Virginia Family YMCA has now turned into a  business large enough to replace Ilsa’s income from The Herald. Her business, Letterpress Communications, is growing so fast, she’s looking at hiring subcontractors.

“Folks are doing great things in southside Virginia, but they’re so busy doing good, they don’t have time to tell their story,” says Ilsa. “I am able to help them get the word out, without them having to hire a full- or part-time communications person. A lot of nonprofits and small businesses in our communities just can’t afford that.”

Ilsa had already written a business model and planned to run her business on the freelance-consultant model, but Virginia’s Growth Alliance UpStart Entrepreneur Bootcamp helped broaden her scope of vision.

Using Business Model Canvas, the bootcamp helps entrepreneurs determine if they have a viable business idea: one for which people are willing to pay. “The Business Model Canvas work freaked me out when I tried to do it on my own. It seemed complicated. But, after Nick and Sheri explained the process, it really helped me expand my business idea,” she says.

Besides providing assurance that she had a sustainable plan, the best thing Ilsa gained from UpStart was the network.

“I wouldn’t have started my business by now if it hadn’t been for UpStart,”

says Ilsa. “The people I met, the support I received, and am still receiving on a weekly basis, has been invaluable.” Since the course, Ilsa has continued receiving training and support from course facilitator Sheri McGuire [link to blog] and the Longwood Small Business Development Center [link to laksjdf].

After only a month of being in business, Ilsa has contracts with several local business and is also in negotiations with a national organization. “The business is doing so well, I’m going to have to subcontract out some of the work,” says Ilsa. “It’s a good thing, but also scary.”

Despite the rapid growth, Ilsa is confident due to the team she has connected with through the bootcamp. “I guess that really is the best part of UpStart: the business support,” says Ilsa. “I wouldn’t have been able to start without them, but I also wouldn’t have the courage to move this fast. The support has been invaluable.”

From a simple love of story to a public relations business, the Upstart Entrepreneur Bootcamp empowered Ilsa to find what she’d been missing and write an exciting story all her own.

Upstart Entrepreneur Bootcamp is being offered again this May. It is open to any aspiring business owners living in the VGA region, which includes Amelia, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Greensville, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Lunenburg, and Prince Edward counties, and the City of Emporia.
To register visit www.thinkbiggervga.com/grow

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Jeff, Executive Director of VGA, grew up in a rural county in West Virginia and his family still lives on the farm that has been in their family since 1841. Jeff's passion is rural economic development, and his economic development experience has always been in smaller, rural communities. He was a primary and driving force behind www.mountainmade.com, a national pilot project with the Robert C Byrd National Technology Transfer Center that showcased the internet as a rural economic development tool.

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