ATLANTA, May 6, 2021 – 53 promising entrepreneurs in the Clarkston, East Lake, and Southside Atlanta communities have completed an extensive mentoring and business training program offered through the Goizueta Business School’s Start:ME Accelerator Program. Start:ME celebrated the 45 ventures completing this year’s program with its Entrepreneur Showcase on April 28.
The three-month accelerator program provides business know-how, mentorship support, and early-stage capital to promising micro-entrepreneurs (those with 1-4 employees) to develop viable and sustainable businesses. Entrepreneurs supported one another while competing for peer-selected seed investment grants from a $30,000 pool ($10,000 in each community).
The program has taken a “virtual” turn during the COVID-19 pandemic, shifting to online meetings, presentations, and networking. The program team is also working with hundreds of Start:ME alums to help them weather the pandemic and pivot their offerings where possible to remain profitable.
The following entrepreneurs were selected to receive seed invest grants to help grow their businesses:
Start:ME Growth Grants of up to $4,000
- Shelleyan Lewars of Eco Earth Essentials(Clarkston)
- Najib Zahedi of Ariana Wood Carving (Clarkston)
- LA Thym of Restoration Hero(Southside)
- Vivian Lee of Foodcation Forever (Southside)
- Reggie Sanders of Car Key Auto Sales (East Lake)
- Scott Oglesbay of The Bodyhood (East Lake)
Start:ME Start Grants of up to $1,500
- Amy Jaret and Julie Goldberg of Clarkston Cooperative Family Learning Center (Clarkston)
- Marjan Nadir of Marjan Bridal Services (Clarkston)
- Meleah Gray Brown of SEW DOPE (East Lake)
- Noor Iqbal and Jess Boyd of the Atlanta Forest School (East Lake)
- De’Von Dixon of Dixon Construction Services (Southside)
- DJ Bray of B.O.S.S. Apparel U.S. (Southside)
Peer-of-the-Year Grants of $500
- Yenny Yang of Read 4 Unity (Clarkston)
- Bri Boyd of Beaute by Bri (East Lake)
- Sohna Harzeez-Jeanty of The Bubble Pitt (Southside)
Community Impact Grants of $500
- SiSi Hampton of Louise & Julia Luxe Retail & Design (Clarkston)
- Christen Orr of LoveDog (East Lake)
- Yeme Thomas of Rae of Light Educational Services (Southside)
Start:ME also launched a crowdfund campaign to support future cohorts and ongoing alumni activities: https://momentum.emory.edu/project/25980.
Support for microbusiness is essential to a successful economy. In the United States, 92 percent of businesses are considered microbusinesses with four or fewer employees and less than $50K in capital. Microbusinesses support 20 percent of all private sector jobs.
Research from the Goizueta Business School supports four key reasons why microbusinesses are critical resources to communities:
- They provide products and services tailored to their community
- They occupy otherwise vacant storefronts and provide places for neighbors to meet
- They stimulate an inflow of community resources
- They provide role models and support for future entrepreneurs
Start:ME is offered annually by Emory University’s Goizueta Business School in partnership with trusted community lead nonprofit organizations Friends of Refugees, the East Lake Foundation, Focused Community Strategies (FCS), and Purpose Built Schools Atlanta.
Start:ME 2021 is made possible through the generous support of signature supporter Regions Foundation along with champion investors Emory University, The Goizueta Foundation, PNC Foundation, SunTrust Foundation, and Target Corporation. Post-cohort alumni programs are supported by Atlantic Capital Bank and Delta Community Credit Union.
Since its inception in 2013, Start:ME has supported 306 local businesses and awarded capital to 86 ventures. Start:ME also engages more than 80 volunteer mentors with significant professional business and/or entrepreneurial experience to provide critical support for entrepreneurs participating in the program.
About Goizueta Business School
Emory University’s Goizueta Business School believes that business schools need to do more than simply train the workforce. Goizueta goes beyond class work and research to be of service in the boardroom and on Main Street. Together with our partners, Goizueta builds ecosystem, small businesses, and communities.
About Start:ME Clarkston
Goizueta Business School works with Friends of Refugees and local partners City of Clarkston, Clarkston Community Center, Georgia Piedmont Technical College, Global Growers, International Rescue Committee, New American Pathways, Refuge Coffee Co., and Refugee Women’s Network to support entrepreneurs in and around Clarkston, GA.
About Start:ME East Lake
Goizueta Business School works with the East Lake Foundation and local partners Charles R. Drew Charter School, Columbia Residential, East Lake Neighborhood Community Association (ELNCA), Fred Armon Toomer Elementary and Whitefoord Early Learning, Kirkwood Business Owner’s Association (KBOA), Kirkwood Neighbors’ Organization (KNO), and The Villages of East Lake, to support entrepreneurs in the East Lake, Kirkwood, and Edgewood communities of Atlanta.
About Start:ME Southside
Goizueta Business School works with Focused Community Strategies (FCS) and Purpose Built Schools Atlanta along with local partners Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, the Capitol View neighborhood, Carver High School, The Villages at Carver, and The Villages at Carver YMCA to support entrepreneurs in the Southside of Atlanta.