Entrepreneurs Rising – Innovative Mentorship Program Opens Opportunity for Refugees

By Charles H. Green

VilCap:Start – Clarkston, a start-up entrepreneur accelerator was a success in early 2013, with 12 entrepreneurs finishing the program and three selected by their peers to receive low-cost business loans. The program was a joint venture between Village Capital and Emory University’s Goizueta Social Enterprise Center.

The 12 fledgling business people met weekly for a three month program to develop stronger skills to start and Clarkstonoperate a business. Dozens of volunteer mentors contributed time to meet and discuss various topics from financing, business law, accounting, marketing and logistics. After several weeks, these entrepreneurs practiced their ‘pitch’ to the assembled class to begin honing skills to sell their products, negotiate financing and even appeal for capital investments.

At the conclusion of the program, each entrepreneur made a final pitch to their 11 colleagues and then voted among themselves for who was the most qualified three participants who were to receive financing. The three chosen business owners each received a $10,000 micro loan to support their business.

The organizers are gearing up to run a second iteration of the program, which will launch with a new set of entrepreneurs in early 2014. For more information, read more at Village Capital Clarkston.

A documentary was produced to highlight the program, The New Entrepreneur: Odyssey for a Dream, which will air on PBA30, public television in Georgia on December 25 at 7pm (see the trailer). This film makes the case for social enterprises and the catalyst they can be to provide mentorship around and over barriers to entry for inexperienced entrepreneurs.

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