VilCap:Start, a 14 week accelerator program, works to unlock the true economic potential of marginalized communities by providing the most promising micro-entrepreneurs (businesses with 1-4 employees) the business knowhow, mentorship connections and early-stage financing needed to develop their businesses. $30,000 in low-interest business loans are provided to the three most promising entrepreneurs in each cohort – as selected by program peers.

Since 2013, Social Enterprise @ Goizueta has worked with CDF – A Collective Action to use the Village Capital model of peer-driven enterprise acceleration to support 20+ micro-entrepreneurs in Metro Atlanta’s Clarkston community.

The program will expand to support more entrepreneurs in other metro Atlanta communities in 2015.

The program was featured by Emory University this week. As reported by Emory’s Office of the Provost:

‘It is meant to address the micro-business gap,’ says Peter Roberts, academic director of SE@G. ‘Whereas many accelerators focus on launching high-growth ventures, this program brings opportunities to the small business owner, who can make a difference on a particular street corner and in a particular community’

The idea is simple, really. Take a group of entrepreneurs who have promising ideas for new businesses, connect them with mentors, teach some business basics, and introduce financial backers. Then let the entrepreneurs themselves vote on which businesses should be funded.

That’s the premise behind a new accelerator that Emory and its Social Enterprise @ Goizueta (SE@G) program are running with community partners. VilCap:Start seeks to unlock the economic potential of marginalized neighborhoods in metro Atlanta. It provides the most promising micro-entrepreneurs (those whose businesses employ four or fewer people) with the business knowledge, network access, and early-stage financing to develop their businesses.

VilCap:Start began in 2013 in Clarkston, Ga., with nonprofit partner CDF and was the subject of an Emmy-nominated film. To date, the Clarkston program has worked with 30 entrepreneurs, awarding loan funding to six, including artist Gregory Christie, featured above. In 2015, the program will expand to the East Lake community, with the support of two Goizueta alumni — Rhonda Fischer, COO of East Lake Foundation, and Brian Goebel, program director of SE@G’s Micro-Entrepreneur Accelerators program. The foundation’s partnership with SE@G marks the next generation of programming to help break the intergenerational cycle of poverty in East Lake, says Fischer.

Goebel hopes to take the accelerator platform to more neighborhoods and currently is exploring possibilities to support promising micro-entrepreneurs along the Atlanta BeltLine by leveraging — you guessed it — another Emory alum connection.

About Social Enterprise @ Goizueta

Social Enterprise @ Goizueta (SE@G) applies business acumen and market-based solutions to achieve meaningful and enduring societal impacts. Faculty, staff and students work with for-profit, nonprofit and hybrid organizations to inject business thinking into communities around the world that need it. This is done through ongoing work in:

  • Research: Illuminating the factors that induce and impede the realization of societal impacts (i.e., poverty reduction or environmental sustainability) using business models.
  • Fieldwork and Outreach: Engaging faculty and students in projects that deepen understanding of organizations that strive to achieve meaningful societal impacts, while developing the ability to enhance their overall effectiveness.
  • Teaching and Student Support: Exposing students to the many ways that business education can be applied to address a range of societal challenges.