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Lowcountry Local First launches business academy

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Lowcountry Local First wants to help locally owned businesses thrive, particularly in economically disadvantaged communities.

The nonprofit’s new initiative, Good Enterprises, is designed to support small business owners and provide equitable opportunities for business ownership by teaching entrepreneurs about business at convenient times and in their communities, for example.

Entrepreneurs can apply for Good Enterprises’ Community Business Academy. The 12-week course curriculum will cover business fundamentals like budgeting, marketing, bookkeeping and financing. The first academy will launch in the fall in the Chicora-Cherokee neighborhood of North Charleston.

Classes will be taught by instructors with experience running small businesses. The nonprofit hopes to teach classes in both English and Spanish and on weeknights or Saturday mornings.

Lowcountry Local First Executive Director Jamee Haley said the program will provide under-resourced entrepreneurs with technical and financial training, as well as a social network, to help them succeed. She said she sees this initiative as “an economic imperative for our state.”

“Charleston demonstrated the fifth fastest growing gap between rich and poor residents in the U.S. from 2011–2016, and median income levels for African-American and Hispanic households in Charleston County are less than half that of white households,” Haley said in a news release. “The current entrepreneurial ecosystem does not provide equitable opportunity — and we must change that.”

Donations will cover students’ tuition. Lowcountry Local First said that it wants to partner with organizations around the state and that it needs funding for this program.

"We are committed to an initial three-year plan for Good Enterprises, scaling it each year to new communities and showing results along the way," Haley said. "We're nearly half way to our fundraising goal of $600,000 needed by the end of 2019 in order to grow and sustain it over the next three years."

The S.C. Commerce Department and other partners have provided support, but details were not shared.

“This program will connect underserved entrepreneurs with important resources necessary for long-term business success,” Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said in the release.

Lowcountry Local First will use the curriculum and model of Rising Tide Capital, a program in New Jersey that teaches more than 600 entrepreneurs each year. Those businesses have an 87% survival rate beyond the five-year mark, the news release said.

Graduates of Lowcountry Local First’s Community Business Academy can then partake in the year-round Business Acceleration Services program, which involves mentorship and coaching, and the Credit to Capital program, which connects entrepreneurs to potential funding partners.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.

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