Downtown Challenge Fund: Entrepreneurship

Small business growth is an important factor influencing economic development across America. With the growth of entrepreneurship being a major priority in Macon, we interviewed NewTown Macon’s President and CEO, Josh Rogers, and the Director of Business and Real Estate Development, Bethany Rogers, PhD, to hear how grants from the Downtown Challenge Fund and NewTown Macon programs are investing in small business growth in downtown Macon.

Why is the growth of entrepreneurship important?

Small businesses produce most of America’s new jobs, and most of the horsepower of economic development is becoming small businesses instead of major industries. The model of economic development has been really changing over the last few years from the approach of attracting exclusively big companies. The focus has shifted to the idea of “empowering our own residents” so that they can have the tools to create and sustain a successful business. This retention of people who are already community members makes the economy a lot more resilient because these businesses help differentiate Macon from other communities.

Entrepreneurship is a huge component of what gives Macon a signature identity. Some of the programs at NewTown Macon are ensuring the sustainable growth of entrepreneurship in #DTMac include the Downtown Venture Fund and Diversifying Downtown grants.

Downtown Venture Fund

Regardless of entrepreneurs’ experiences or ideas, the process of getting involved with the Downtown Venture Fund begins with this online form. This mobile-friendly form is available 24/7, every day of the year, and it only takes about five minutes to fill out! After this is filled out, Bethany will schedule an in-person meeting. The process is “highly personable, there’s not a big obstacle to get started. Getting started is as simple as filling out that five-question form.”

NewTown Macon is designed to work with first-time-borrowers in a coaching capacity that gives entrepreneurs more assurance as they go through the process of making their business dreams a reality. People are assured by the experience NewTown brings to the table with the downtown market, financial language, and resources. The projects brought to NewTown are easier to navigate when an entrepreneur has some parameters. Knowing parameters of your goals makes the initial conversation more productive and provides a much more fruitful working relationship. “People don’t apply to the venture fund, they apply to make their business idea happen, and then we coach them into the most efficient way possible to initiate their success.”

If you are interested in connecting to NewTown in this capacity, please fill out this form!

Diversifying Downtown

NewTown Macon prioritizes working especially with racial minorities and women who don’t have access to traditional funding or have never worked with a bank before. This initiative targets those “who are becoming a really huge part of the small business culture in the United States that still have more barriers to face to get financed.”

Some of the ideas of the targeted components of this grant came from Alex Habersham, founder of Macon Black Pages. His idea was twofold: “one is to recruit four specific African-American owned businesses to open downtown, and two is to train existing owners of companies downtown to recruit and retain a diverse client base.” This process is being worked on over the next year and will involve three sessions where Alex is training existing business owners. There will also be an application for business owners to compete to become one of the four businesses opening downtown, and the winner of this competition will receive a prize package including a lease deposit, a large marketing grant, individual coaching, and a free involvement in Entrepreneurs Academy.

NewTown Macon has both an Entrepreneurs Academy and a Developers Academy. These programs are grouped training opportunities for individuals to take time and walk through business fundamentals on a deep level. Both programs are tailored to the downtown market and provide an avenue for individuals to connect with other entrepreneurs and grow as a cohort in their business knowledge.

There are many different avenues within NewTown Macon that provide opportunities for individuals to grow their business knowledge and try to make their business dreams come true. If you are interested in these programs, please fill out the form or contact NewTown Macon.