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