Entrepreneurship and small business ownership is the backbone of the economy of this region, the commonwealth, and the nation. The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that small businesses account for over 99% of all businesses in the country.

Jim Carroll

Here in Hampton Roads, we are indeed fortunate to have numerous organizations that, either directly or indirectly, support our small business owners and a growing entrepreneurial community.

As one can imagine, with 17 jurisdictions, 16 military installations, 11 colleges and universities, NASA Langley Research Center, Jefferson Lab, and the deepest port on the East Coast, there are countless entrepreneurial activities taking place throughout the year.

That’s not including the activities from angel investor groups, innovation centers, makerspaces, school curricula at places like Kempsville High or organizations like the Small Business Development Center. With StartWheel, the region now has the interconnectivity needed to coordinate activities and succeed.

While each organization has its own strengths and capabilities, cooperation and partnering with other service providers enables an even higher level of service and success.

Tim Ryan

StartWheel is both a website and mindset. Starting with an idea, it is now growing and changing with the times. The COVID crisis spurred this growth, and we now have a regional small business and entrepreneurial events calendar and news website celebrating our region’s small business victories along with disseminating relevant news and information. The website added capabilities and functions such as job listings, a local business directory of early-stage businesses and service providers, and the ability to livestream training and information programs.

StartWheel and the SBDC also power the “Fervent Four Show,” a weekly program 11 a.m. to noon each Thursday that features local entrepreneurs, founders, small business owners and resources to help businesses achieve the $1 million annual revenue mark. Only 4% of businesses ever achieve that statistic.

Just like the human body, StartWheel’s parts are interconnected through a central nervous system that enables the various entities to work together by providing lines for communication and coordination.

StartWheel showcases Hampton Roads’ entrepreneurial spirit and the size of the local business support system. Having this tool will enable the region’s small business and entrepreneurial ecosystem to grow, thus growing the region’s economy and improving the quality of life for Hampton Roads citizens.

“Never before has the region worked this closely together,” said Paul Hirschbiel, StartWheel’s chairman of the board. “Bringing together the startup community with the small business footprint of the Small Business Development Center shows how strong of an entrepreneurial ecosystem we really have. Both complement each other perfectly and now they can grow together.”

Tim Ryan is the executive director of StartWheel and Jim Carroll is the executive director of the Small Business Development Center of Hampton Roads, an affiliate of the Hampton Roads Chamber. To learn more, visit and