The Grapevine Entrepreneur Network is an informal network made up of entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders across Southern Virginia, who have a shared interest in supporting Black & Brown-owned and woman-owned businesses and entrepreneurs. We also recognize the shared challenges that all entrepreneurs face when building a business in rural localities. We believe by working together, we can build stronger regional economies.

2024 Meeting Schedule

The RISE Grapevine Monthly Virtual Meetup meets on Zoom on the third (sometimes fourth) Thursday of each month, 12pm-1pm. Meetings are recorded and shared so that anyone who cannot attend live can still receive the information. Attendance is open to entrepreneurs, business owners, and resource providers. The workgroup will include updates from regional representatives and RISE Collaborative program leaders.

January 18, 2024 – 12pm-1pm on Zoom – Guest Speaker: Shawn Barksdale

February 15, 2024 – 12pm-12pm Zoom  – Guest Speaker: Shatera Robertson

March 21, 2024 – 12pm-1pm on Zoom – Guest Speaker: Dr. Julie Brown

April 25, 2024  – 12pm-1pm on Zoom – Guest Speaker: To Be Announced

May 16, 2024 – 12pm-1pm on Zoom – Guest Speaker: To Be Announced

2023 Workgroup Meetings, Speakers, and Topics

  • January 19, 2023 – Entrepreneur Speaker: Shecorie Conley – Topic: Tax Tips for Entrepreneurs
  • February 16, 2023 – Entrepreneur Speaker: Reverend Charles Walker, Co-Owner of Ma’s Cakes – Topic: “Establishing a Banking Relationship for Your Business”
  • March 16, 2023 – Ecosystem Updates
  • April 20, 2023 – Entrepreneur Speaker: Tara Lucas, Owner of The Cheesecake Lady
  • May 18, 2023 – Resource Speakers: Taylor Harris and Jj Ortuno of Truist – Topic: “Borrowing for your Business”
  • June 2023 – No Meeting – Celebrate Juneteenth!
  • July 20, 2023 – Entrepreneur Speaker: Natalie Hodge Davis of Rudy’s Girl Media – Topic: “Building a Strong Digital Presence for Your Business”
  • August 17, 2023 – Entrepreneur Speaker: Reverend Charles Whitfield – Topic: “Growing and Selling a Successful Business”
  • September 21, 2023 – Entrepreneur Speaker: Jerelle Carter of Performance 276 – Topic: “Building a Business, Building Community”
  • October 19, 2023 – Resource Speaker: Lynne Mann, Topic: “How the Greater Crater APEX Accelerator Helps You Get Government Contracts”
  • November 16, 2023 – Entrepreneur Speaker: Shecorie Conley – Topic: Business Tips: Preparing Your Business Books for Year End (Watch Recording)
  • December – No Meeting

Watch a Recording of a Past Meetup

2023 Year in Review

During 2023, The Grapevine hosted 10 virtual meetings, featuring 9 guest speakers on topics that were identified based on input gathered from entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders. Thank you to everyone who joined us for a Zoom call!  

Frequently Asked Questions About The Grapevine Monthly Workgroup

Who will be there? The Grapevine Monthly Workgroup is a team of diverse, creative, and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem builders from across Southern Virginia. During each monthly meeting, we share updates from local and regional entrepreneurs support organizations. We discuss ideas to share resources and empower rural, underserved entrepreneurs to thrive in their local, regional, and global ecosystems. 

What are the Goals for the Workgroup? To enhance communication and catalyze connections among regional entrepreneurs, small businesses, and startup resources; to avoid redundancy in resource creation; and to advise the RISE Collaborative regional entrepreneurship initiative as it evolves.

What is on the Meeting Agenda? 1) Introductions & Updates from Entrepreneur Support Organizations & Updates/Asks from Entrepreneurs, 2) Brief presentation or discussion with valuable content for entrepreneurs, and 3) Discussion/Action Items.

What are the Technology Requirements? We host our meetings using the Zoom two-way video/audio platform. You can signup for a free account at

How can be a guest speaker?  We regularly invite entrepreneurs and resource providers to join our meetings as guest speakers. If you an entrepreneur interested in sharing your story, or a business resource provider who offers services to underrepresented entrepreneurs, please email us at with your interest in speaking.

    Background & Purpose

      The Grapevine Monthly Workgroup began meeting in February 2021, to advise and advance the DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) goals of the RISE Collaborative regional entrepreneurship initiative. During the summer of 2021, the workgroup hosted a series of focus sessions with minority entrepreneurs, resulting in a report with recommendations to be implemented by RISE Collaborative. View the 2021 Report here.

        In April 2022, RISE Collaborative supported a group of ecosystem builders from The Grapevine to attend the Startup Champions Network Summit in Durham, North Carolina. The SCN Summit was hosted by Forward Cities, a nationally-known leader in building equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems. Inspired by this experience, as well as local participation in the 2022 Prosperity Now Summit hosted in Atlanta, Georgia, The Grapevine Monthly Workgroup decided to host our own Summit in November 2022.

          The November 2022 Summit for Black & Brown Business Allies was an overwhelming success, with over 30 individuals in attendance, representing our entire geographic region. As regional ecosystem builders, we believe the answers are in our communities and we just need to ask. We intend to repeat this event in an effort to (1) maintain alignment, (2) hear and include the recommendations of the communities affected, (3) advance the work with the greatest amount of support and (4) continue to build community. Having affirmed the existence of strong partners throughout the region, the challenge remains to raise awareness among the general population of existing business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. The Grapevine will continue to facilitate consistent convenings. We believe getting to know each other is key to increasing coordination and collaboration, as trust builds over time. View the 2022 Report 

            Wondering how to get started with the RISE Grapevine Entrepreneur Network?

            Watch the video to see things you can do to get involved and get active in the networks.

            Join The Grapevine on Facebook and LinkedIn

            We welcome all entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders in Southern Virginia to join our LinkedIn and Facebook groups, where we communicate throughout the month, to share resources, ask questions, and make connections.

              Behind-the-Scenes: Meet The RISE Grapevine Planning Team

              Hope Harris-Gayles

              Hope Harris-Gayles

              Marketing Consultant

              Halifax County & Southern Virginia

              Lauren Mathena

              Lauren Mathena

              Director of Economic Development & Community Engagement at Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corp. & SOVA Innovation Hub

              Bethann West James, JD

              Bethann West James, JD

              Facilitator & Non-Profit Consultant

              Danville & Halifax County

              Michael Scales

              Michael Scales

              Longwood SBDC Analyst, Western Region

              Natalie Hodge Davis

              Natalie Hodge Davis

              Storyteller & Ecosystem Builder

              Martinsville & Southern Virginia

              Warren Reid

              Warren Reid

              Business & Marketing Expert

              Farmville & Buckingham County