50 diverse Atlanta small businesses selected for support through Emory’s Start:ME program

Emory Report | Jan. 16, 2020

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Representatives from 50 promising small businesses in Atlanta are eager to begin their learning experience as part of the 2020 Start:ME Accelerator program. Photo courtesy of Start:ME.

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Representatives from 50 promising small businesses in Atlanta came together in early January for the kick-off of the 2020 Start:ME Accelerator program, the Goizueta Business School’s free, intensive 14-session business training program for small business owners in East Lake, Clarkston and Southside Atlanta. 

The businesses participating in the 2020 cohort were selected from more than 280 applicants and represent a broad spectrum of industries from baking to fitness to farming and beyond.

The Start:ME program works with talented entrepreneurs who live, work and/or provide valuable products and services to the Atlanta community. Start:ME connects those entrepreneurs to the business know-how, networks and capital needed to build and develop sustainable businesses.

“The Start:ME program supports a diverse set of business stages and industries right here in Atlanta – from fresh juices to baked goods, construction to clothing, education to eco-friendly manufacturing,” says Erika H. James, John H. Harland Dean of Emory’s Goizueta Business School. “It focuses on entrepreneurs whose promise and dedication will create both strong businesses and good job opportunities in their local communities. This program reflects the conviction of our namesake, Roberto C. Goizueta, that business should have a positive impact on society.”

The ventures selected for the 2020 cohort generate almost $1 million in combined annual revenues, account for 127 jobs and occupy nine brick-and-mortar locations.

The 2020 cohort includes the following businesses.

Clarkston Participants

  • Teresa Afternoon (Teresa Abboud): Artwork and products showing cultural connections through coffee
  • Cakes by Semira (Semira Abdu): Custom cakes, cookies, bread and pastries made from scratch
  • T&H Fashion Store (Tufah Ahmed): Store featuring women’s clothing and accessories
  • Imperial Insurance (Rovens Bazil): Insurance agency offering auto, fire and commercial coverage
  • SecPro (Maria Campos): Information technology consulting firm
  • Sugarholic Desserts (Teasha Chestnut): Alcohol infused desserts with innovative flavors
  • Othello Communications (Lanil Dennis): Video marketing strategies including drone marketing to businesses
  • Mada Jy (Adja Mada Diakite): Beverages using African heirloom recipes and natural ingredients
  • NVRBEENSTANDARD (Micah Ford): Inspiring apparel for women and men
  • Harvey Wurie (Zainab Harvey): Immigration and bankruptcy law firm
  • Creole Vegan (Adele Ledet): Plant based meal options with a Cajun twist
  • Hala’s Halal Food (Hala Mustafa): Sudanese Arab style foods
  • Chow Club Atlanta (Yohana Solomon): An underground dining experience featuring immigrant chefs and creating a conscious community through food
  • STyler Visuals (Sonia Tyler): Sharing the stories of people, businesses and events with visual content
  • Basil House (Saw Win): Asian fusion restaurant to open in the Clarkston area
  • Famous Cafe & Company (Ishak Yusuf): Healthy and affordable refreshments accompanied by production/digital service oriented memberships 

East Lake Participants

  • Lucent Educational Therapy (Erika Afeman): Educational plans for students included skills-based tutoring, behavioral plans and group study workshops
  • Rogue Digital (Madison Copeland): A digital marketing agency
  • Vitality Mobile Massage (Sharita Davis): Mobile massage therapy
  • Native Live Beverage Co. (Larry Ferguson): Organic, alkaline and herb-infused juices teas and detox cleanses
  • Test Taking Task (Harlecia Jenkins): Book/workbook on test taking strategies using academic concepts and examples
  • Springreens @ Community Cafe (Muhammad Jihad): Healthy soul food with a Mediterranean twist
  • WorshApp (Jocelyn Johnson): Mobile application for faith-based events and activities
  • Skinkulture Essentials (India Little): Chemical peels and skin treatments for multicultural skin
  • Bamboo Services (Tamara Lucas): On-demand concierge service providing screened and vetted Personal Assistants on Demand Anytime (PANDA)
  • The Neighborhood Sprouts (Jan O’Shaughnessy): A kids’ club educating children on giving back and community service
  • Blank Canvas Massage (Caroline Padgett): Massage therapy and art from local artists
  • Life Chef/ Betty Rose (Asata Reid): A healthy farm to table meal prep/delivery service
  • Bullseye Creative Agency (Justin Schaeffer): One stop shop for graphic design, web design, social media and sign design
  • Write For You Business Services (Tanisha Smith): Personalized service crafting resumes, cover letters, complaint letters and other custom content
  • Puncho’s (Brandon Williams): Loaded fries specializing in non-traditional poutine dishes
  • MamaWunderlust (Katecia Wilson): Affordable fitness programs promoting healthy lifestyles for single moms 

South Atlanta Participants

  • Kaprius Farm (Charles Berry): A hydroponic farm selling locally grown, pesticide free lettuce, spinach and herbs
  • Tutu Maniac (DeAndrea Byrd): A kids birthday party company and boutique
  • Breezy Spot (Bryanna Carter-Martin): Italian ice made with all natural ingredients and organic fruit
  • Be Bold Coaching and Consulting (Tanisha Corporal): Community-based social enterprise specializing in transformative developmental support for individuals, organizations and communities
  • Next Level Freedom (Thomas Cotton): Training and supportive services to help people overcome barriers to obtain a family living wage in Atlanta
  • The Good Day Box (Amber Hunter): Fresh meals in sustainable packaging for eating on the go
  • RYSE Creative Village (Jay Jackson): Resource hub and co-working space for creatives in the film, music, gaming and digital media industries
  • Deal Shack Foundation (LaDonna Jones): Provides basic necessities including toiletries, cleaning supplies and household goods to independent senior living communities in Metro Atlanta
  • Beyond the Sky Catering Service (Sonya King): Mobile on-site catering
  • Breathe Balance Energize (Lorriane McCall): Holistic care services as an alternative to western medicine for illness caused by stress
  • Styles by Aprillove (April Payne): Professional hair care, skincare and make-up services
  • GreenTec (Guillermo Quezada): Construction products created with soil and recycled glass
  • James & Co. Interiors (Courtney Scott): A full service staging, interior design and home decor company
  • Immense DC (Kimberly Starks): An esports consultancy providing public relations, marketing and digital marketing for gaming development and gaming studios
  • Velvet Storm Coffee Company (Monique Thomas): A retail boutique coffee shop opening soon in Pittsburgh Yards
  • Bake-N-Jam (Joshua Westover): Bringing people together through freshly baked bread and fruit jams
  • Travelsist (Veronica Woodruff): Online service providing baby essentials and accessory rentals to parents with small children
  • Yogaskills (Iyabo Kiyaa Lawrence): Kemetic yoga classes and trainings

Support from community and corporate leaders

The Regions Foundation, a nonprofit initiative of Regions Bank, announced during the Jan. 11 kick-off that it has awarded $200,000 to support six Start:ME accelerator program cohorts over the next two years. The foundation makes significant investments in economic and community development, education and workforce readiness and financial wellness across the Southeast, Midwest and Texas.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our communities, and the Regions Foundation is proud to invest in the people and organizations that create a strong economic engine for a community’s success,” says Marta Self, executive director of the Regions Foundation. 

“Through the Start:ME program and the investment by the Regions Foundation, entrepreneurs and small-business owners in underserved areas are provided access to skills, insights, local experts and new opportunities for success,” Self notes. “The Regions Foundation’s investment will support long-term economic growth for Clarkston, East Lake, Southside Atlanta and the broader metro area.” 

The Regions Foundation joins the SunTrust Foundation, PNC, Emory University and The Goizueta Foundation in providing financial support to Start:ME.

“PNC has proudly supported the Start:ME program for the past several years,” says Courtney I. Smith, senior vice president and market manager of community development banking at PNC. “Through our collaboration with Start:ME, PNC helps local entrepreneurs to start or expand small businesses in underserved communities in Atlanta. The program’s curriculum and networking opportunities provide invaluable resources to help drive successful business ownership. Start:ME is a powerful tool to assist entrepreneurs interested in moving their business to the next level.”  

“The SunTrust Foundation is proud to recognize and support our local nonprofit partners that empower and strengthen the communities they serve,” says Stan Little, president of the SunTrust Foundation. Start:ME is making a meaningful impact with its programs to improve the financial well-being of the people who need it most.”

The Goizueta Business School’s Social Enterprise center developed and delivers Start:ME in partnership with East Lake Foundation (East Lake), Friends of Refugees (Clarkston), Focused Community Strategies (Southside) and Purpose Built Schools Atlanta (Southside).

All three communities offer peer-selected grant pools of $10,000 to help the most promising businesses start or scale. Since its inception in 2013, Start:ME has supported 208 local businesses accounting for more than 338 jobs.

Start:ME also engages more than 75 volunteer mentors with significant professional business and/or entrepreneurial experience to provide coaching support for entrepreneurs participating in the program.