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Spartanburg launching new program to support small and minority-owned business

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (FOX Carolina) – Opening and operating a small business can be challenging and even more so for communities of color. A new $6.2 million program funded by Spartanburg County could help break barriers.

Spartanburg County has seen billions of dollars of investment over the last few years. But the county’s self-employment and entrepreneurial success is behind the national average. The new small and minority-owned business program is a step to change that.

“I walked out on faith, if I hadn’t had any faith, I wouldn’t of made it,” said Charlene Davis, the owner of Charlene’s Home Cooking. The restaurant just celebrated 10 years in business on Blackstock Road.

Charlene and her husband Michael Davis run the small family business.

“He does the frying and grilling and I do the vegetables and stuff. But we worked together, that’s what means the most to us” said Davis.

They overcame COVID-19 closures and health challenges. But, Davis says starting was the biggest hurdle.

“We started this restaurant with $325,” she said.

With help from a few friends and family, the restaurant has blossomed into what it is today. Davis says getting there is tough to do on your own.

“A lot of people just like me, we didn’t know how to go about starting that business and where you could get funding and everything for it” said Davis.

“We were below the national average in businesses per 1,000 Black residents,” said District 1 County Councilman, ‘Mo’ Abusaft.

It’s not just Black-owned business that’s behind. The county as a whole is lacking in small business.

“We looked at– what are we seeing entrepreneurs having a problem with?” he said. “By investing in these communities that are generally cut out from capital, that generally don’t have the mentorship and the path directly to success. we can achieve something really special here” said Councilman Abustaf.

It’ll also help existing businesses–stay in business.

“Every entrepreneur in every state is going to find tools here, find potential for funding, find help” he said.

The small and minority business program will;

1. Connect a formal Resource Network of entrepreneurship and small business partners

  • Bring together existing partners in Spartanburg County that provide programs or other assistance to small business and entrepreneurs, including the Spartanburg Area Small Business Development Center (SBDC), the City of Spartanburg’s Accelerator programs, Spark Center SC, colleges and universities, and so on Inventory existing services to seek alignment and identify programmatic gaps
  • Utilize OneSpartanburg, Inc. marketing capacity to further awareness of resources
  • Provide customized services and support to grow minority businesses
  • Through the Resource Network, align and expand programming to support minority business with access to capital, technical expertise, connections to local networks and customers, etc.
  • Seek out mentors with strong network connections and trust to raise awareness organically within specific neighborhoods and/or communities

2. Connect entrepreneurs and small businesses to local customers

  • Provide technical assistance to help local firms navigate government contracting and large institutional procurement processes
  • Evaluate opportunities to connect local sellers and buyers within a given industry vertical or supply chain (e.g., helping local food service providers access local agricultural products)

3. Increase the supply of co-working and “micro-retail” spaces in Downtown Spartanburg

  • Through OneSpartanburg, Inc., work with private developers and property owners to increase the supply of co-working spaces, smaller-scale storefronts, and “micro-retail” spaces in Downtown Spartanburg

4. Develop a targeted small business loan fund to help small businesses access capital

  • Work with public and private partners to design and resource a self-replenishing revolving loan fund to provide small-scale loans to businesses and entrepreneurs with solid business plans but difficulty accessing traditional capital
  • Work with OneSpartanburg, Inc. and public sector partners to support small businesses making larger potential capital investments with economic development incentives.

OneSpartanburg is leading this program. It’ll begin to launch in phases starting this month with a website.

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