U.Va. Darden School Competition Aims To Teach Small Businesses How To Lead Local Recovery

April 26, 2012 — A University of Virginia Darden School of Business competition offers small businesses nationwide an in-depth look at how resilient companies in the areas of Virginia that have been hardest hit by the economic downturn, which began in 2008, are leading economic recovery in their communities.

The Tayloe Murphy Resilience Awards honor and support Virginia entrepreneurial businesses that demonstrate sustained vitality and commitment in areas characterized by high unemployment, high poverty and low entrepreneurial activity. Nominate a resilient Virginia business here through July 2.

"We are at a critical point in the economic recovery for Virginia and the nation as a whole," said Darden Professor Greg Fairchild, an expert on entrepreneurship. "By analyzing how the most resilient businesses achieved success in spite of the economic climate, we can bring that knowledge to other businesses as their communities seek to build momentum and add jobs."

Fairchild will continue to study years of data from Virginia businesses entering the competition to determine how the applicants weathered the recession. The data will inform research that identifies strategies and lessons that can apply to other enterprises, regardless of industry or location.

Winners of the 2011 Resilience Awards, – from the Virginia towns of Melfa, Wise, Woodbridge, Franklin and South Boston – have grown profits an average of 42 percent and employment by 20 percent annually over the past five years. These businesses have survived natural disasters, big-box competition and the crippling recession. Their innovations include lighter-than-air cell technology and award-winning wines coaxed from coal-mined soil. They have bridged cultural divides, supported local charities and brought hope to places where industries have disappeared. Above all, they demonstrated resilience, Fairchild said.

Through ongoing media coverage, opportunities to engage key business and government leaders and enrollment in a weeklong course at Darden's highly rated Executive Education program – valued at $8,000 to $12,000 – five Resilience Award winners each year receive the recognition and resources to help their company and community continue to grow and succeed.

Pamela Barefoot, owner of Blue Crab Bay Co. and winner of last year's Chairman's Award, completed her Executive Education courses in March and published a blog about her experience.

For nearly a quarter-century, her small, Melfa-based company has produced Chesapeake-style specialty foods, such as clam-juice-infused Bloody Mary mix and spicy snacks. Blue Crab Bay Co. has come back from a fire, beat the recession and reached beyond what some may see as an isolated location to engage a larger market.

"Before going to the class, I didn't even know what a sales pipeline was," Barefoot said. "I now feel prepared to work with my team to tackle the challenges of developing a strategic sales plan as well as a manageable sales pipeline. I know now that Blue Crab Bay Co. sells 'pride' ... pride in the Eastern Shore and our region."

Cities in Virginia where businesses qualify based on rates of unemployment, poverty and self-employment include: Bristol, Buena Vista, Charlottesville, Colonial Heights, Covington, Danville, Emporia, Franklin, Fredericksburg, Galax, Hampton, Harrisonburg, Hopewell, Lexington, Lynchburg, Martinsville, Newport News, Norfolk, Norton, Petersburg, Portsmouth, Radford, Richmond, Roanoke, Waynesboro, Williamsburg and Winchester.

Counties in Virginia that qualify include: Accomack, Alleghany, Appomattox, Brunswick, Buchanan, Carroll, Charles City, Charlotte, Craig, Cumberland, Dickenson, Dinwiddie, Floyd, Franklin, Giles, Greensville, Halifax, Henry, Lee, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Nottoway, Page, Patrick, Pittsylvania, Prince George, Pulaski, Richmond, Russell, Scott, Southampton, Sussex, Tazewell, Washington and Wise.

Enter your ZIP code on the competition website to determine if your area qualifies.

The deadline to apply or recommend a business for the 2012 application is July 2. Semifinalists will be chosen by a panel of judges in July. Finalists will be named in August and invited to attend the award ceremony on Sept. 5 at U.Va., where the winners will be announced.

The Tayloe Murphy Resilience Awards are presented in part by sponsorship from Virginia Business magazine.

To learn more, visit the Darden website or contact Olin Ericksen at 310-382-0966 or by e-mail.