Community Business Academy will help start and support budding small businesses

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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) – The first Community Business Academy, a program for aspiring and current business owners in Richmond, is just weeks away from launching.

The Community Business Academy is a 12-week course provided by the Jackson Ward Collective Foundation (JWC). A non-profit organization that helps aspiring Black-owned business owners access the resources needed to survive and thrive in the business world.

The academy is designed for budding entrepreneurs with strong ideas or concepts and current black business owners looking to strengthen their operations. Those accepted will attend weekly in-person sessions that will provide hands-on training and teach business fundamentals.

Melody Short is the Director of Programs and Co-Founder of the JWC Foundation. It explains what participants can expect.

“We’ll cover everything from exploring your business concept and ensuring it’s a viable business model to the finances as well,” Short said. “We will explore marketing and every component of your business plan.”

ABC will be licensed by Rising Tide Capital, a New Jersey-based nonprofit that has been providing business development services for nearly two decades.

With the help of sponsors like Altria, Capital One and Dominion Energy, academy participants will be able to enroll in the program. Participants may pay fees on a sliding scale, with the price not to exceed $250. The value of the program is $3,000.

Benjamin Miles, a local barber who works in a salon at Altria headquarters, is thrilled with the opportunity. He dreams of one day opening his own unisex hair salon, but like any budding entrepreneur, he doesn’t know where to start.

“I literally don’t know how to start the process, so I’d like to see the first step to the last step, from ideation to launch and everything in between, but to have someone to walk me through this process without having to render catastrophic,” Miles said.

The academy is designed for budding entrepreneurs with strong ideas or concepts and current black business owners looking to strengthen their operations. Those accepted will attend weekly in-person sessions that will provide hands-on training and teach business fundamentals.

Melody Short is the Director of Programs and Co-Founder of the JWC Foundation. It explains what participants can expect.

“We’ll cover everything from exploring your business concept and ensuring it’s a viable business model to financing,” Short said. “We will explore marketing and every component of your business plan.”

ABC will be licensed through Rising Tide Capital, a New Jersey-based nonprofit that has been providing business development services for nearly two decades.

With the help of sponsors like Altria, Capital One and Dominion Energy, academy participants can enroll in the program using a sliding scale, for a fee of no more than $250. The value of the program is $3,000.

Benjamin Miles, a local barber who works in a salon at Altria headquarters, is thrilled with the opportunity. He dreams of one day opening his own unisex hair salon, but like a budding entrepreneur, he doesn’t know where to start.

“I literally don’t know how to start the process, so I’d like to see the actual first step to the last step from ideation to launch and everything, but to have someone to actually walk me through this process without having to do catastrophically,” Miles said.

According to Fundera by NerdWallet and other studies, eight out of 10 black-owned businesses fail within the first 18 months. Disparities in funding and resources are part of the root cause.

The average level of start-up capital among black entrepreneurs is just $35,205, compared to $106,720 for white entrepreneurs, according to “Black and White: Access to Capital Among Minority-Owned Startups,” reports NerdWallet.

This is just one of the reasons Rasheeda Creighton, Executive Director of JWC, says the ABCs are essential.

“The disparities around financial contributions are huge, but what we also forget is that social capital and access to information is also a barrier for us to be able to start our businesses,” Creighton said.

Like Short, Creighton is deeply passionate about helping others and feels honored to be able to help aspiring and current black business owners.

Miles is just grateful for the support.

“It can change my generation, the people behind me,” Miles said. “There will be so many people who need something like this.”

The academy will launch on Wednesday, September 7 at the 1717 Innovation Center in Shockoe Bottom at 1717 E Cary St. Participants should attend the third and final virtual information session on Wednesday, August 3.

For more information on the ABC’s final briefing, click here.

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