Decide DeKalb holds business incubator event in South DeKalb

DeKalb County, GA — The Decide DeKalb Development Authority held a South DeKalb Business Incubator Pop-Up at New Life Church’s community center on Aug. 31 to close out Black Business Month.

Decide DeKalb president Dorian DeBarr said that the goal of the event was to provide access to resources that small businesses in DeKalb County need.

Equitable Economic Development Manager Geoff Loften said the idea for the event came about after conversations with the community and assessing barriers to business growth.

Resources for all stages of business development were available. Representatives from the Secretary of State’s office had a computer set up so that brand-new business owners could register their businesses on the spot.

The federal Small Business Administration and the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center provided advice and mentoring for creating a business plan, while lenders like Truist and the Lift Fund were there for established businesses in need of support for further development.

“We want to meet our businesses where they are,” said Rosemarie Drake, Deputy District Director of the Small Business Incubator.  She and others offered workshops, beginning with a general overview of the first steps of creating a business. Additional workshops included how to become a vendor or supplier for local, state, and federal governments, and how to secure capital.

DeBarr said that kind of support is particularly important for Black businesses.

“Black businesses in particular have faced obstacles with regard to access to capital and access to resources,” DeBarr said.

One aspiring entrepreneur, Julian Welch, is in the early development stages of opening a juice and smoothie bar.

“I’m looking to find someone to mentor me and maybe find some funding for the business,” Welch said.

Welch said that he had spoken to Lift Fund and his next step was to create a business plan and set up a consultation with them.

Meanwhile, Beverly Evans has owned LushPopATL since 2019 and shares a commercial kitchen on Laredo Drive in Decatur where she creates both alcohol-infused and non-alcoholic frozen fruit treats, popsicles, and sorbet.

Evans mostly sells at events and festivals, although Prohibition Liquor in Smyrna carries her sorbet. She said her goal is to find the funding she needs to expand her business and sell in more locations.

Evans said that she had spoken to the UGA small business center and Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, as well as Stephaney Bolden from Lift Fund.

Nicole Doyle also found help for her nonprofit. Doyle is chair of the DeKalb Christian Homeschool Association and was able to find information about the group’s 501(c)3 obligations from an IRS representative, and information useful to the group’s efforts to make sure mothers don’t lose future job marketability because of homeschooling their children.

DeBarr believes that investing in South DeKalb will benefit the county as a whole.

“DeKalb County is already a great place to live, work, and play…but if we can get South DeKalb lifted up as well, we’re going to be at the global stage,” DeBarr said.

Loften said that the event was well-attended, and he estimates that it touched about 200 businesses.

“We were definitely able to demonstrate the appetite for business training and education in this area, and the energy around entrepreneurship,” Loften said.

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