Travel company to host small business academies

After an encouraging turnout at its Google workshop in November, Go Blue Ridge Travel will begin hosting quarterly academies for small businesses.

The first session will be in March, at the same time as the tourism marketing company’s annual summit. Founder and owner Nancy Craun said the company will be working with Shenandoah University, James Madison University and Lord Fairfax Community College for the upcoming workshop.

While she said the topic hasn’t been chosen yet, a large focus for small business education into 2016 will be in developing a buying persona and getting the furthest reach out of a company’s social media presence.

“We’re amazed that people don’t even know what the definition of a buying persona is and how they define, as a business, their buying persona,” Craun said. “And if you don’t know that … you will fail.”

Craun said she’s spoken with many small business owners who have wasted money on ineffectual advertising, which would be remedied by developing that persona and focusing in on their target consumer audience. The company’s business partners had also expressed their need to have an effective social media and Web presence.

“We had begun to realize that our partners were expressing their loss in keeping up with some of the social media and digital changes that are occurring at such a rapid pace,” she said.

The Google workshop in November brought a speaker out to talk to around 45 attendees – a number that Craun said made it one of the most well-attended workshops in the country.

“That really told us that there was an unbelievable interest in having some type of running academy available for small businesses in our region,” she said.

Go Blue Ridge Travel is part of the HubSpot Academy, which provides marketing information and tools to its members. Craun said that knowledge base then becomes accessible to the company’s partners for their own reference and use, as it costs quite a bit of money to become a HubSpot member. The company’s academies will be modeled on HubSpot.

In addition to the workshops, Craun said Go Blue Ridge Travel regularly sends out updates and articles to members through white papers and an e-newsletter.

The summit and academy session in March will be held at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Winchester, and Craun said neither would be limited to consortium members or even tourism businesses.

“Blue Ridge Travel has an open door to sharing academic knowledge to the business community,” she said. “All of them – no matter what the businesses – they still have to survive on the Internet.”

Learn more about Go Blue Ridge Travel at

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or