A great idea is where a great business starts, but to be successful, owners need to also master everything from bookkeeping and insurance to marketing and managing cash flow. Providing minority entrepreneurs with this kind of crash course in holistic business leadership is the latest initiative from the Greater Augusta Black Chamber of Commerce (GABCC).
Launched in 2021, the Intensive Entrepreneurship Training Program includes four weeks of classes covering administration, skills building and strategy and planning, and another six weeks of coaching and mentorship from experts throughout the Southeast. Upon completing the program, the 25 minority small business owners who participate every year receive a direct grant of $3,000 for start-up or other business costs, such as licenses, permits or registrations. These grants, says GABCC President and co-founder Ronic West, “are for entrepreneurs who are new, all the way up to those with 10-plus years in business.”
The GABCC has looked out for minority business owners in Georgia since 2017. With educational workshops, pitch contests and networking opportunities, the chamber provides support for a group of entrepreneurs that often face high barriers to success. This new training program was added to its roster of programs to aid with pandemic recovery. "We have really worked to ensure that pandemic funds are being utilized best to reach our Black community, especially our business owners, who we know were impacted the heaviest,” says West.
Small business owners who have completed the program give it high marks. “This has been so impactful for so many small business owners post the pandemic,” says Ebony Brown, owner of Brown Girls in Tech. “We suffered a lot from a lack of funding and resources during that time.” With her start-up grant, Brown will be able to relaunch her business in 2022. Thanks to success stories like these, adds Ronic, “the Greater Augusta Black Chamber of Commerce looks forward to a bright future.”
The Intensive Entrepreneurship Training Program is funded with support from Bank of America, part of its long-standing commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity. Notes Bank of America Senior Vice President and Market Executive Marisa Smith: “The Greater Augusta Black Chamber of Commerce brought forth a very unique opportunity for us to support small businesses by providing them needed capital and training, which we understand to be the greatest barrier that a lot of minority small entrepreneurs face.”