Goodwill®, ASPIRE Community Capital and Lowe’s Foundation Partner to Expand Entrepreneurial Programs

Entrepreneurial skills are not only vital for business owners but will be critical for success in the workplace of the future. On August 25, representatives from Goodwill, Lowe’s and ASPIRE Community Capital gathered for a check presentation at the Goodwill Opportunity Campus to announce the expansion of entrepreneurial skills training programs offered at no cost for community members in the greater Charlotte area. 

“We are so grateful to ASPIRE for giving Goodwill the opportunity to enhance our offerings on the Goodwill Opportunity Campus,” said LaRita Barber, chief advancement officer for Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont. “Goodwill is committed to supporting individuals who want to enhance their skills and gain access to resources to pursue their personal and professional goals. This year, we began seeking a community partnership with a local organization to provide entrepreneurial education as part of our job training division, Goodwill University,” Barber added.  

Thanks to a $275,000 grant provided by the Lowe’s Foundation, that vision is coming to life. ASPIRE and Goodwill are collaborating to provide ASPIRE’s suite of business development programs to Goodwill participants who need assistance with starting and growing successful small businesses, or gaining entrepreneurial skills. In addition to the new skills delivered through ASPIRE’s Community Business Academy and Business Accelerator Services, participants receive the wraparound supports Goodwill is known for including career coaching and navigation, basic needs support and more. 

ASPIRE CEO Manuel Campbell echoed Barber’s sentiments adding, “Our focus is cultivating people through the power of partnership. We look forward to building strong and successful small businesses in our community, but we’re also looking at transforming lives, and we think that that’s the true impact of the work that we do at ASPIRE.”  

Starting in September, two cohorts of participants will begin the Community Business Academy (CBA) 12-week course, which offers business training for entrepreneurs with emphasis on critical business fundamentals such as business planning, finance, marketing, problem-solving, and more. Small business practitioners and instructors teach the program. 

“We’re going to include marketing, we’re going to include cash flow breakeven analysis, we’re going to create really fun and innovative ways for them to learn and apply game simulations, as well. That’s what differentiates our program from others,” said Tya Bolton, director of operations for ASPIRE Community Capital. 

ASPIRE and Goodwill aim to provide avenues to prosperity for people in our region, through career services and entrepreneurship. While business ownership has long been an effective path to wealth creation, the skills and resources necessary to success haven’t historically been accessible for all people in our region. Participants in these programs find the support they need to start and grow their businesses. 

Taylor Jackson, who owns POUR Mixology and Redd Rose Vodka, is a graduate of the Community Business Academy program. Jackson was already a business owner when she began with ASPIRE, but she struggled with her profits. With the help of ASPIRE, she was able to simplify the packages offered through her company and increase her profits. 

“I was in and out of jobs prior to ASPIRE; just taking jobs here and there because I needed the money. Since taking their course, I have not had to go back to any job,” Jackson emphasized.  

She hopes other aspiring entrepreneurs take advantage of the resources provided through this partnership. “If you’re on the fence because you think you don’t have time, or you don’t think you need it, take the course anyway. I learned things that I thought I knew, and my business benefitted from it,” she added.  

In addition to the 12-week course and Business Accelerator Services, ASPIRE is also offering a micro loan fund, which focuses on providing access to capital to underserved entrepreneurs. “One of the key factors that we know is missing with respect to the success of small businesses in our community, is the lack of access to capital,” Campbell said. The loan, which ranges from $2,500 to $10,000 is available to all participants of this program.  

Anyone interested in participating in the CBA course beginning in September, must participate in an information session with ASPIRE Community Capital. A list of upcoming information sessions can be found here. 

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