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Community Conversation: Academy helps people become successful entrepreneurs

The US Census Bureau reports more than 4.4 million new businesses were established in 2020 in the US
Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 9:39 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - It’s the American Dream for many - starting your own business and being your own boss.

The latest WBTV Community Conversation is about building and maintaining your own business.

The US Census Bureau reports more than 4.4 million new businesses were established in 2020 in the US.

Numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show about 20 percent of new businesses will go out of business during the first two years and 65 percent of new businesses won’t make it past the 15-year mark.

Those numbers are real which is why local organizations are teaming up to help business owners in the Charlotte area succeed.

Goodwill, Lowe’s Foundation and Aspire have created a Community Business Academy.

“The need is great from so many different levels,” Goodwill VP of Talent Development Dr. Dana McDonald said. “We always recognized our clients’ entrepreneurism is often the best route for them - whether it be a landscape business, owning their own hair salon. We see a full range - construction - going into construction as a subcontractor. We see a range of our clients interested in entrepreneurism.”

Lowe’s Foundation contributed $250,000 so that a 12-week academy can exist for students.

Chef Jo, a former student, opened her own food business in form of a food truck called GRITS (Girls Raised In The South).

She always knew she wanted to be her own boss but encountered challenges.

One day she took a leap - left her regular job to start a food business.

She found a free program that taught her a lot.

“More of the financial side of the business,” former student Chef Jo said. “How to have start-up capital - having three months of money saved up - working capital - some of those things and that terminology - just like over my head - I didn’t even know about. And teaching us technology. Everybody’s not proficient in using the computer.”

Chef Jo said the classes were eye-opening and challenging.

Homework was handed out and assignments were given.

“We played games - virtual games on business ownership,” Chef Joe said. “Playing out different scenarios - what would happen. How you would do this for a certain business. And just showing up - it’s really showing up and being active. They want you to ask questions and be engaged.”

Currently, 38 people are enrolled in the academy. More than 90 people applied.

“The key for us is that people understand that what the program is going to require,” McDonald said. “Because we are all about setting people up for success and if you go into this program and you don’t know what it’s really going to take to complete - that’s not setting you up for success.”

A good thing about this program is participants are eligible for a loan between $2500 and $10,000 to help their business grow.

“It’s hard to get capital to start a business,” Chef Jo said. “So for them to be able to offer you that - it’s a lot of entrepreneurs who hadn’t quite established their business.”

Goodwill will also do its part to help new business owners.

“Goodwill we come in on what we call the support service or the wraparound services with providing coaching,” McDonald said. “If it’s relevant resume support for entrepreneurs who are really trying to get on their feet - we may come in with basic needs to help meet some of their basic needs while they are completing their training.”

McDonald says this program can help build generational wealth. That is something Chef Jo wants to do for her three kids. Completing the program now helps fulfill that dream.

“I found Aspire,” Chef Jo said. “It was kind of Godsend - it’s what I wanted. I needed to learn how to just organize the business how to financially keep my money and see where the profit is coming from.”

If you would like to learn more about this academy click here.

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