Start:ME Accelerator Opens Doors for Purpose Built Schools Families

DeAndrea Byrd began making specialty tutus on the weekend to entertain her young daughters while she worked in her salon.

“I just made them to keep my kids busy while I worked with clients on Saturdays,” says DeAndrea. “But then clients saw the tutus and started making special requests. I began selling themed-tutus for holidays, and before I knew it, I had a business.”

By request, DeAndrea began booking tutu and spa parties in her salon. The demand was so high that she decided to start Tutu Maniac, a birthday party company and boutique for children.

DeAndrea, a parent at Thomasville Heights Elementary School (THES), learned about the Start:ME program from a sign at the school’s front desk. Her husband, who is a parent-liaison at THES, encouraged her to apply.

DeAndrea’s family has been part of the THES community for generations. She attended THES as a young student, as did her mother and three children. Her youngest is currently a third grader at THES.

Purpose Built Schools Atlanta is proud to partner with Start:ME to bring new opportunities to small business owners in South Atlanta. DeAndrea is now one of 17 entrepreneurs who were accepted into the Southside cohort.

Start:ME is an intensive 14-session business training program for promising small businesses
that provides entrepreneurs the tools and connections necessary to build and grow successful businesses.

The program provides entrepreneurs like DeAndrea in south Atlanta, East Lake and Clarkston with hands-on business training by Emory’s Goizueta Business School; connections to mentors, support services, and fellow entrepreneurs; and grants for promising ventures and connections to capital providers.

“It’s a great program because it has challenged me to get out of my comfort zone,” says DeAndrea. “I don’t like the numbers side of business, but Start:ME has given me mentors and resources to better understand bookkeeping, hiring employees, and legal and tax benefits I didn’t know before.”

Start:ME currently supports 49 business owners across three cohorts in South Atlanta, East Lake and Clarkston.

“We look for entrepreneurs and companies that have a tie to the community like DeAndrea has,” says Kareem Hall, program lead for the Southside and East Lake Start:ME cohorts. “Most are located in South Atlanta or their children go to the neighborhood schools. Businesses serving the community will hire people in the community, making the benefit even greater.”

Across this year’s three cohorts, Start:ME estimates that 127 jobs will be created within these local communities. The program supports entrepreneurs from a diverse set of industries and stages of growth, including media, professional services, food services, party planning, and more. “Our mission is to develop the communities that we’re in, and communities need all types of businesses. We want to make sure we’re fostering businesses that are long-lasting,” says Kareem.

Start:ME seeks to reach people who don’t always have the opportunity to pursue programs like incubators and accelerators. Seventy-five percent of this year’s cohort of entrepreneurs are women, with 10 nationalities represented.

For DeAndrea, connecting with other entrepreneurs in South Atlanta has been very meaningful.

“We’ve already collaborated with fellow cohort members and developed friendships,” says DeAndrea. “At the neighborhood night in south Atlanta, I was able to speak directly with my target audience and get feedback directly from my community.”

“Everything I’ve accomplished so far has been through hard work and growing my businesses myself,” continues DeAndrea. “But now thanks to the Start:ME program, I have access to mentors, resources and capital. I’m now thinking about franchising and having a mobile part of my business. My mentors and the program’s legal day opened my eyes to more things that I can do for my business.”

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