Artists, makers, designers, and craftspeople use sophisticated skills in their creative practice, but their entrepreneurship often remains underdeveloped.

Through its ACRE program, Bridgeway Capital provides participating creative entrepreneurs with the foundations to become confident creative business owners ready to professionalize their passion. Bridgeway and local ACRE partners, Main Street Morgantown and the Monongalia Arts Center, will select up to 10 to 15 creative entrepreneurs through an application process. ACRE will guide the participants through a yearlong, three-phase journey to learn, plan, and thrive. Each phase walks through the elements of a business plan to help participants graduate with clear financial goals and a plan in place with the resources to achieve them.

The ACRE Journey

Business plans work best when they are deeply understood,
have clear goals, and are connected to resources for action.

Learn

Understand the elements of a business plan, including branding, marketing, financials, operations, and other fundamentals.

Selected ACRE participants will access best practices from experts in entrepreneurship via virtual and in-person sessions. Through individual coaching, they will explore how to apply these best practices to their own creative businesses. They will also gain professional creative assets for their ACRE profiles and branding efforts.

Plan

Develop a business plan to guide their decision-making as they pursue opportunities and overcome barriers.

In this next phase, participants will leverage the knowledge gained from Phase 1 to create a 3 to 5 year business plan with clear and reasonable goals. Through peer gatherings and more one-on-one coaching, they will maximize free access to the LivePlan tool and create a road map for success in creative entrepreneurship. Participants will also access ACRE sponsored maker markets and exhibitions. 

Thrive

Graduate the ACRE cohort with the entrepreneurial confidence and capital readiness needed to thrive.

Participants will activate their business plans with support and resources, and coaches will help them realize their goals. In addition, participants will access services to help with entity formation, refreshed websites, style guides, bookkeeping guidance, and other vital support. They can also pursue funding to reach big goals that need capital.

ACRE Essentials

Eligibility

  • Identifies as an artist, maker, designer, craftsperson, and small-batch manufacturer
  • Has operated a creative business for a minimum of one year and has sold products or services
  • Has access to a computer and the internet to join virtual meetings and complete homework
  • Identifies Morgantown, WV, a natural hub for their creative community*
  • Aspires to become a full-time creative business owner
  • Able to attend in-person meetings and workshops
  • Agrees to complete pre- and post-program surveys

*Rural businesses may be in proximity to a city but are not required to operate in one to participate in ACRE. Rural businesses are encouraged to apply.

Priority

  • BIPOC, women, and veteran entrepreneurs
  • Entrepreneurs living and operating a business in low to moderate-income areas
  • Entrepreneurs seeking funding from Bridgeway Capital
  • Entrepreneurs with evidence of and aspirations for small business growth and social impact, including:
    • Achieving financial resilience
    • Revitalizing Main Street corridors
    • Elevating underserved populations
    • Creating quality jobs

Timeline

  • Applications are open now and close January 31, 2024
  • Information session on January 25, 2024, at 5:30 p.m. at MAC
  • Applicants complete Business Growth Ladder* assessments during the application period
  • Selectees notified on February 15, 2024
  • First phase runs 5 months, from March 5, 2024, to July 16, 2024
  • Virtual sessions are every other Tuesday evening via Zoom
  • In-person peer gatherings are scheduled with participant input
  • Second phase runs 2 months, from August 2024 to September 2024
  • Graduation in October 2024, with details coming soon
  • Third phase is ongoing as learning and planning are put to work

* The Business Growth Ladder (BGL) is a survey to gain high-level data to help determine the state of a business.

Benefits

  • Virtual sessions lead by content experts from across the region
  • In-person peer gatherings to process knowledge and explore collaborations
  • One year use of the LivePlan tool to organize learning and planning
  • Ongoing one-on-one coaching with Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Experts (E3)
  • Grant-like service stiped to build business fundamentals
  • Sponsored access to regional markets and exhibitions
  • Targeted consultations with business topic specialists
  • Planning improves eligibility for grants and loans from Bridgeway and other regional funders

“ACRE has been such an amazing asset for our small business and the community as a whole. The ACRE experience has given us insight into our business practices that we would have struggled to implement otherwise, and the knowledge we’ve gained has already made a huge difference.”

Beth Bedway | Co-owner of East Wheeling Clay Works | 2023 ACRE Wheeling Cohort

Targeted Goals

Goals for Creatives

  • Learn from advanced creative business owners who provide tested insights, along with content experts on a variety of topics such as legal considerations, financial management, and marketing strategies
  • Benefit from one-on-one mentoring from business advisors with expertise in leadership, production, markets, strategy, and more
  • Develop an actionable business plan to access capital, build teams, and make the leap into a commercial, production, and retail space.
  • Strengthen connections and networks, including developing valuable relationships with peer entrepreneurs, support resources, small business mentors, supply chain partners, etc.

Goals for Communities

  • Increase the visibility of a specific region, city, and town’s creative economy via ACRE’s regional branding activities and local community engagements
  • Support entrepreneurial peer networks through intentional cohorts of creative businesses that learn, grow, and connect over the course of a year (and beyond)
  • Deliver targeted, resonant, and high-touch business education programs for creative entrepreneurs aiming to achieve measurable and lasting progress

Collaborating to Elevate Creatives

Reimagining iconic buildings into hubs for the regional creative economy

For ACRE Morgantown, Bridgeway will work closely with Main Street Morgantown and the Monongalia Arts Center to support local creatives in commercializing their craft. In addition to ACRE’s business education and individualized coaching, ACRE Morgantown participants may join Morgantown’s Artisan Entrepreneurship Program, where they can access low-cost workspace, learn from established creative entrepreneurs, and be introduced to new opportunities to display and sell their work in downtown Morgantown.

Learn More

Session Topics

Setting Expectations for ACRE

Tuesday, March 5, 2024 at 6pm at MAC (In-Person)

Facilitator: Adam Kenney of Bridgeway Capital

Essential Questions:

  • Who is the facilitator, program leader, and ACRE partners?
  • How can I get the most out of ACRE?
  • What resources and content will I access in ACRE?
  • What is expected of me in ACRE?

Mindset, Mission & Values

March 19, 2024 at 6pm (Virtual)

Facilitator: Azriel Weaver of Creative Coaching by Azriel

Essential Questions:

  • What is the “why” for my creative entrepreneurship?
  • How do I sell out without selling out?
  • How do I sell out without burning out?
  • How do I balance creativity with business practices?

Tax & Financial Foundations 102

April 16, 2024 at 6pm (Virtual) 

Facilitator: TBD of Sunlight Tax

Essential Questions:

  • TBD
  • TBD
  • TBD
  • TBD

Tax & Financial Foundations 102

April 23, 2024 at 6pm (Virtual)

Facilitator: TBD of Sunlight Tax

Essential Questions:

  • Do I have sound bookkeeping practices?
  • Am I prepared for a variety of taxes?
  • Are my business’ financials structured properly?
  • Is my creditworthiness helping or hurting my business?

Legal Considerations

May 7, 2024 at 6pm (Virtual)

Facilitator: Brad Stephens of Stephens Law Office

Essential Questions:

  • What kind of legal structures should I look at?
  • Am I the right legal entity for my work?
  • Am I doing business legally and protecting myself?
  • What’s different between B2C and B2B contracts?

Pricing & Process Considerations

May 21, 2024 at 6pm (Virtual)

Facilitator: Phil Marzof

Essential Questions:

  • Is my pricing structured for success?
  • Am I pursuing the most profitable lines of business?
  • What business practices are holding me back?
  • What products and services will help me realize my financial goals?

Marketing 101: Branding, Audience & Assets

June 4, 2024 at 6pm (Virtual)

Facilitator: Madeline Farina

Essential Questions:

  • Is my branding consistent and effective?
  • Do I know who my target audiences are?
  • What marketing activities and asset do need?

Marketing 102: SEO, Campaigns & Conversions

June 18, 2024 at 6pm (Virtual)

Facilitator: Madeline Farina

Essential Questions:

  • How do I build marketing into my business routine?
  • How do I determine if my marketing is working?
  • What technology can I use for marketing?
  • How can a marketing plan and strategy save me time and money?

Bootstraps to Banks: Funding Options for Creative Businesses

July 2, 2024 6pm at MAC (In-Person)

Facilitator: Adam Kenney of Bridgeway Capital

Essential Questions:

  • What are the pros and cons of funding sources?
  • What are the risks and rewards of funding sources?
  • What kinds of funding should I pursue (if any)?

Pulling it Together: Turn Learning into Planning

July 16, 2024 at 6pm to (Virtual)

Facilitators: Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Experts

Essential Questions:

  • Am I ready to create a business plan that guides my decisions?
  • What are financial projections important to me?
  • Am I ready to take my work to the finish line with LivePlan?
  • How does the business plan stay relevant over time?

Peer Gathering & Content Review Sessions

These in-person peer gatherings will help participants process knowledge and explore collaborations. They will be scheduled once a month after the cohort is formed based on the availability of the selected participants.

ACRE Partners in Morgantown, WV

 

ACRE is a creative economy program from Bridgeway Capital, a social impact lender that provides impact-driven lending and programs to grow businesses and revitalize places.

Learn More