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The Center for Legal Innovation at Vermont Law School received Small Business Administration grant funding through the VtSBDC to offer support and outreach on legal topics impacting diverse and disadvantaged businesses and business owners in Vermont. The Community Navigator Pilot Project (CNPP), with the coordination efforts of the VtSBDC, featured eight partner groups with various skillsets, banded together to implement this comprehensive outreach and support program.  

We began our outreach by conducting listening tours in Vermont communities to learn about your legal business concerns. 

Based on community input from the listening tour, our portion of the program provided:

  • Online legal resources and tools to assist with a general understanding of legal requirements, options, and opportunities for small businesses
  • Direct consultations to small businesses to help them to understand the legal aspects of owning and running a business
  • Referrals for approved businesses for up to ten hours of free legal service with a Vermont attorney.


We look forward to continuing to serve the needs of BIPOC, Women-owned, LGBTQ, Rural, Veteran, disabled, and economically disadvantaged Vermont small businesses and start-ups and offering support for their legal needs. In February 2024, we launched the Vermont Small Business Law Center at Vermont Law & Graduate School, to continue the mission and work we did through the SBA grant.


For upcoming classes, workshops, and events where we are presenting on behalf of our partners, check our new events listing page.

To request our legal education services or simply learn more about how the referral for free lawyering works, visit our intake page. If you are ready now, click the green button below.

To Schedule a Consult →


How does our work on the project fit into the larger picture of the Community Navigator Pilot Program?

To explain the program, the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) shared the following press release:

Community Navigator Pilot Program (CNPP) - Vermont

As part of a national initiative introduced by President Biden and Vice President Harris, Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) has been chosen as one of 51 grantees nationwide to be part of the Small Business Administration’s Community Navigator Pilot Program. There were more than 700 submissions for the program.

According to the SBA, the Community Navigator Pilot Program is designed to “reduce barriers that all small businesses — including those owned by disadvantaged groups such as veterans, women and those from rural communities —often face in accessing critical support.”

As one of 11 Tier 2 grantees, VtSBDC will receive $2.5 million over a two-year period. Tier 2 grantees support an individual state, region, municipality, or city with a total service population of greater than or equal to 500,000.

“We are excited and optimistic about being selected for the Tier 2 grant along with nine Vermont partner organizations that will provide either outreach or direct services to entrepreneurs and small business owners,” said Linda Rossi, VtSBDC’s State Director. “We look forward to this extraordinary opportunity and these funds will enable us to make important inroads on our shared goals for the target populations: women, veterans, communities of color, and rural communities.”

The Community Navigator Pilot Program uses a “hub and spoke” model, with VtSBDC as the hub, and nine-spoke organizations that will create impact through the central hub. Together, they will leverage partnerships with deeply trusted community-based organizations to help small businesses navigate government resources and tap into critical resources, according to the SBA’s plan.

In preparation for the grant application, VtSBDC facilitated many meetings and one-on-one discovery sessions to review, discuss and understand recent research, surveys, and COVID-related experiences with the target populations. These meetings emphasized obstacles the target populations continue to face, and which have become more challenging as a result of COVID-19, in order to build consensus among the prospective spokes to define the focus of the Community Navigator two-year grant. 

The “spoke” partner organizations are:

Vermont Law and Graduate School (VLS), Vermont Small Business Law Center

Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO) Financial Futures Program

Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF)

Center for Women and Enterprise (CWEVT)

Central Vermont Economic Development Corporation (CVEDC)

Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation (BDCC)

Vermont Principals’ Association (VPA)

Vermont Professionals of Color Network

Main Street Alliance-Vermont

The well-balanced network of partner organizations recruited by VtSBDC will help address the identified gap areas of financial, digital, and legal literacy while increasing cultural knowledge, awareness, and greater sensitivity through diversity, equity, and inclusivity efforts across the technical assistance provider network of Vermont.  In addition to spokes, VtSBDC has many partners that will be included in the broader communications and serve as host locations for Community Navigator activities. 

 “The Biden-Harris Administration has prioritized building our small business ecosystems back better so that all of our entrepreneurs have a fair shot at achieving the American dream of business ownership,” said Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman. “We need to meet businesses where they are with resources to start, grow and be resilient, and the Community Navigator Pilot Program will power a trusted network of community partners to connect America’s entrepreneurs with the SBA. The program’s Community Navigators will develop strong relationships with deeply trusted community-based organizations that will tap into one-on-one, targeted support from programs designed to help them create jobs and drive innovation.” 

For the SBA press release about the Community Navigator Grant:

For more on VtSBDC, visit the website at

For more information on the project or the services our spokes will provide, please visit the Vermont Small Business Development Center website.

Funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small business Administration.