Regions Shenandoah Valley

Cooperative relieves startups of overhead costs

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Hawksbill Trading Co. wants to help entrepreneurs create small businesses for downtown Luray.

The cooperative functions as an incubator, providing opportunities for startups to get off the ground while reducing their overhead costs.

“We have 30 startup companies now, and more phone calls and applications are coming in every day,” says Jay North, the owner of JK Designs, who is president of the co-op’s board of directors.

Hawksbill was founded after another incubator operator, the nonprofit Center for Workforce Development, closed.

“The difference now is that the small business owners are more involved,” North says. “They have a hands-on role in the administration of the cooperative and in their personal businesses.”

The Center for Workforce Development program had about 20 to 30 retail vendors who were trying to start businesses and “experiment with their product line,” North says.

“When the nonprofit left, we got together with the vendors and formed a cooperative,” he adds. “It was so important for us to do that. We wanted to make sure everyone had a voice, a say and a vote going forward.”

The cooperative handles overhead costs, such as rent, utilities and insurance. Vendors rent booth spaces “that they can treat as a store,” North says.

Hawksbill, which had its grand opening Feb. 20, is applying for recognition as a nonprofit organization so it can accept donations.

“We have everything from painting and jewelry to crafting and antiques,” says North of the vendors. “We also have a functioning indoor farmers market that runs year round.”

Many vendors at Hawksbill are building upon the area’s craft heritage. “We have a history of crafting and surviving by making things with your hands,” North says. “We learned not to be wasteful, to reuse things and reinvent them.”

Hawksbill is named after the creek that runs next to its building. “We use our basement for storage. The upper two levels are used for retail and each has two office spaces for rent,” says North.

North’s company, JK Designs, includes two businesses. One repurposes furniture, housewares and home décor. The other, called The Art of Occasions, is a wedding business.

The co-op hopes to expand to become an incubator of all types of companies. It currently is developing an entrepreneur program while teaching middle and high school students how to run a business.

“This is a great example of how, when a community comes together, we can accomplish great things,” North says.

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