Business Owners of Color in Atlanta Learn New Skills Through Accelerator Program

Posted January 27, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog businessownersofcolor 2020

Invest Atlanta — the city’s eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment author­i­ty — recent­ly announced the grad­u­a­tion of 21 busi­ness own­ers of col­or from an accel­er­a­tor pro­gram that taught them about cor­po­rate fun­da­men­tals, real-estate basics and new eco­nom­ic mod­els meant to build com­mu­ni­ty wealth.

The Com­mu­ni­ty Wealth Build­ing Accel­er­a­tor, which is run by the col­iv­ing com­pa­ny, The Guild, is one com­po­nent of an Invest Atlanta ini­tia­tive called Accel­er­ate South­side. The effort — fund­ed in part by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion — aims to pro­vide access to afford­able real estate and tech­ni­cal assis­tance to small busi­ness own­ers in Atlanta’s South­side com­mu­ni­ties. It also seeks to address chal­lenges expe­ri­enced by small busi­ness­es and entre­pre­neurs of col­or: lim­it­ed access to cap­i­tal based on tra­di­tion­al under­writ­ing cri­te­ria, chal­lenges with debt-ser­vice pay­ment and dif­fi­cul­ty pur­chas­ing com­mer­cial space and prepar­ing for busi­ness growth.

The 10-week accel­er­a­tor pro­gram con­sist­ed of work­shops and office hours for var­i­ous kinds of busi­ness­es, pri­mar­i­ly in the food and bev­er­age, beau­ty and well­ness, cloth­ing and appar­el and home décor indus­tries. Par­tic­i­pat­ing com­pa­nies’ annu­al rev­enue ranged from $40,000 to $5 million.

Through­out the pro­gram, busi­ness­es received expert train­ing and advice on how to attract cus­tomers, devel­op prod­ucts and project finances.

Busi­nes­sown­er Cyn­thia Adey­eye says she learned vital skills as part of the cohort, includ­ing new ways to doc­u­ment finan­cials for her com­pa­ny, Majestea, a health and well­ness tea line.

My par­tic­i­pa­tion in this cohort has helped me iden­ti­fy the gaps in my busi­ness that were hold­ing it back from prop­er growth,” Adey­eye says. In large part thanks to this pro­gram, I have start­ed to cre­ate a stronger foun­da­tion for my busi­ness in order for it to tru­ly thrive and leave a lega­cy in our community.”

Adey­eye says she enjoyed the com­radery of her fel­low class­mates and oppor­tu­ni­ties to net­work, too. We all leaned in and col­lab­o­rat­ed,” Adey­eye says. It was a won­der­ful experience.”

As part of Accel­er­ate South­side, down pay­ment assis­tance is avail­able for busi­ness own­ers of col­or who will move their oper­a­tions into con­vert­ed ship­ping con­tain­ers at Pitts­burgh Yards™ — a 31-acre rede­vel­op­ment project sup­port­ed by the Casey Foun­da­tion that will offer employ­ment and busi­ness oppor­tu­ni­ties for res­i­dents in the city’s Neigh­bor­hood Plan­ning Unit‑V and its sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties. Invest Atlanta will offer addi­tion­al fund­ing to help devel­op the containers.

Efforts sim­i­lar to Accel­er­ate South­side are tak­ing place in oth­er cities — includ­ing El Paso, Texas; Long Beach, Cal­i­for­nia; Newark, New Jer­sey; and Rochester, New York — through City Accel­er­a­tor, a joint effort of the Citi Foun­da­tion and Liv­ing Cities to improve com­mu­ni­ties of col­or across the coun­try through busi­ness growth.

One way to help close the racial wealth gap is to build up busi­ness activ­i­ty in his­tor­i­cal­ly mar­gin­al­ized areas that allows them to devel­op assets and cre­ate jobs,” says Kweku Forstall, direc­tor of the Casey Foun­da­tion’s Atlanta Civic Site. For that to hap­pen, busi­ness own­ers of col­or must have access to the train­ing and resources they need to thrive.”

Learn more about the busi­ness own­ers who grad­u­at­ed from the accel­er­a­tor program

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