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Aspiring and existing retailers were especially hard-hit by the coronavirus. Now, more than ever before, small, startup retailers need up-to-date education and training to deal with the constantly changing retail landscape.

Despite closures and social distancing requirements, the Retail Alliance Foundation remained committed to providing local retailers with that education by completely overhauling our Certificate in Retail Operations (CROps) into a virtual offering.

Every Monday evening from 6:00-8:00 p.m., 20 students, two RAF facilitators and a topic-specific subject matter expert (SME) virtually gather to discuss the nuts and bolts of retail operations.

We have combined our Southside and Peninsula cohort into one virtual classroom, with our facilitators, Mary Landgrebe, Retail Inventory Solutions (Southside) and Traci Powers, Once Upon a Child and Clothes Mentor Newport News working in tandem to ensure all students graduate the 14-week program with vetted business plans and the competencies they need to successfully operate their business.

CROps facilitators photo

The program consists of seven modules which cover what RAF calls the “Seven Pillars of Retail Excellence.” Student businesses are expected to produce deliverables at the conclusion of each module which become the building blocks for their business plan:

  • Startup (Executive Summary)
  • Retail Accounting (Budget)
  • Marketing (Marketing Plan)
  • Merchandising (Stocking and Vendor Evaluation Plan)
  • Security/Loss Prevention (Loss Prevention Plan)
  • Management/HR (Staffing Plan and Employee Handbook)
  • Business Planning (Business Plan)

With the help of an outstanding lineup of SMEs from across industry sectors, each of our 2020 cohort students are well on their way to new and/or improved business plans.

On September 14th, they will present these plans before a panel of judges in RAF’s “Minnow Bucket.”

This educationally-focused, private event allows students to gain valuable feedback on their business plans from retail and financial industry experts, leading to a vetted business they can truly “take to the bank.”

If you are interested in taking CROps, 2021 enrollment opens October 2020 for retail owners looking to provide professional development for their manager, keyholder or themselves.

Register here or contact Tiffany McGee at

2020 CROps Volunteer SMEs