Supporting Young Entrepreneurs in Charlotte, NC
by Marie Johns, Former SBA Deputy Administrator
- Created: November 22, 2011, 11:11 am
- Updated: November 22, 2011, 11:13 am
Last Thursday I was in Charlotte, North Carolina for the third forum in SBA’s Young Entrepreneurs Series.We started the day at Johnson C. Smith University, where SBA and the Department of Education hosted a packed house of young entrepreneurs, students, and local politicians to talk about how the Obama administration can support young minority entrepreneurs. The five young people on our panel owned very different businesses, from a chain of barbershops to a marketing and communications firm. One panelist was even working with women in Pakistan to sell camel milk here in the US! The youngest panelist was only sixteen years old and is running a company while finishing high school. They were all truly impressive.JCSU President Dr. Ronald Carter opened the event, and committed to supporting entrepreneurship on his campus and encouraging partnerships between members of the university community and the greater small business community within Charlotte. To that end, he announced that JSCU will be working with a business incubator in Charlotte, Packard Place, to launch a new minority business incubator. After the forum I visited The Secret Chocolatier, a specialty chocolate shop owned by a young husband and wife team. Robin and Andy Ciordia got their start selling homemade chocolates at local farmers markets. Their chocolates were so popular that they decided to work with Robin’s father Bill, a pastry chef, to open a store. With help from an SBA loan as well as counseling from one of our resource partners, the Secret Chocolatier opened its doors in 2008. The Ciordias are a perfect example of young people who aren’t satisfied with corporate life and decide to pursue their passion. I hope more young people will follow their lead – the chocolates were amazing!I also had the chance to hold a roundtable with about twenty young entrepreneurs and business leaders. We had a lively discussion about how the Administration can better serve young entrepreneurs as well as what they can do to support each other. By the time I left, the group decided they needed to keep the conversation going and network with one another more regularly, so they are forming a group to meet on a regular basis. It is inspiring to see an entire community—federal agencies, higher education and the private sector—come together to embrace young entrepreneurship. We are counting on these young people to grow our economy and create the jobs of the future, and after my day in Charlotte, I am confident they will do just that.
About the Author
Marie Johns is a former Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
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