49 Atlanta Area Entrepreneurs Complete Goizueta Business School Start:ME Community-Based Accelerator Program, Receiving Mentoring and Business Training

Staff Report From Metro Atlanta CEO

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

49 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:Micro-Enterprise Accelerator Program (Start:ME). Start:ME celebrated the 49 ventures completing this year’s program with its Entrepreneur Showcase on May 5.

The program took a “virtual” turn during the COVID-19 pandemic, shifting to online meetings, presentations, and networking. Program managers worked with hundreds of Start:ME alums to help them weather the pandemic and pivot their offerings where possible to remain profitable.

Start:ME also launched a momentum crowdfund campaign to support microbusinesses: https://momentum.emory.edu/startme and captured COVID-19-focused small business resources for any small business in Atlanta, including emergency funding opportunities and resources to build resilience: https://www.startmeatl.org/response-to-covid-19

For the first time, the event was held virtually. It featured a celebration of all graduating ventures, speeches from alumni, and grant investment award announcements.

The 14-session 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 following entrepreneurs were selected to receive seed invest grants to help grow their businesses:

Start:ME Growth Grants of up to $4,000

Brandon Williams + Ebony Blanding of Puncho's Fry Trap (East Lake)

DeAndrea Byrd of Tutu Maniac (Southside)

Jan O'Shaughnessy of The Neighborhood Sprouts (East Lake)

Maria Campos + Anthony Frazier of SECPRO (Clarkston)

Teasha Chestnut of Sugarholic Desserts (Clarkston)

Veronica Woodruff of Travelsist (Southside)

Start:ME Start Grants of up to $1,500

Joshua Westover of Bake-N-Jam (Southside)

Lanii Dennis of Othello Communications (Clarkston)

Lorraine McCall of Breathe Balance Energize (Southside)

Madison Copeland of Rogue Digital (East Lake)

Tamara Lucas and Amanda Farahany of My Panda (East Lake)

Teresa Abboud of Teresa Afternoon (Clarkston)

Peer-of-the-Year Grants of $500

Jocelyn Johnson of WorshApp (East Lake)

Sonia Tyler of STyler Visuals (Clarkston)

Sonya King of Beyond the Skys Catering (Southside)

Community Impact Grants of $500

Katecia Wilson of MamaWanderlust (East Lake) 

Thomas Cotton of Next Level Freedom (Southside)

Yohana Solomon and Amanda Plumb of Chow Club Atlanta (Clarkston)

Other businesses represented in the 2020 cohorts offer everything from art to underground dining, educational therapy to urban farming.

The program 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 2020 is made possible through the generous support of signature supporter Regions Foundation along with champion investors Emory University, The Goizueta Foundation, PNC Foundation, and SunTrust Foundation.

Since its inception in 2013, Start:ME has supported more than 250 local businesses and awarded 86 working capital investments in the form of loans and grants. Start:ME also engages more than 75 volunteer mentors with significant professional business and/or entrepreneurial experience to provide critical support for entrepreneurs participating in the program.

Visit startmeatl.org for more information.