Soon after bringing their incubator program under the umbrella of a new nonprofit organization, the founders of the Jackson Ward Collective are rolling out another program to support black owned small businesses.
The Community Business Academy Accelerator Programme, first class, is scheduled to start in September. The program aims to teach black business owners or aspiring black business owners the basics of managing their own offerings with training in topics such as marketing, finance and bookkeeping.
“It’s a 12-week program that bridges the programming gap to help people understand what it really takes to run a business. This is something ecosystem programming doesn’t cover in a lot of detail,” said co-founder Rashida Creighton.
The business accelerator comes as a new offering to JWC, a local nonprofit that Creighton, Melody Short, and Kelly Lemon founded in April to connect black business owners with professional resources. The nonprofit’s acronym stands for “Jackson Ward Collective,” which is also the name of the business incubator the trio founded in 2020 and now serves as the arm of the newly formed nonprofit.
Creighton said the Community Business Academy targets blacks for so-called “high street businesses,” which she defined as retail stores, hospitality businesses, professional services, and personal services, but that black entrepreneurs in any industry can participate in the program.
Program fees will be charged at a graduated scale of no more than $250 per participant, which the JWC Foundation is able to do with sponsorships from Altira, Capital One and Dominion Energy, according to a foundation press release. The plan is to have no more than 20 participants in the annual program at any one time.
The program curriculum is licensed by the JWC Foundation of New Jersey-based Rising Tide Capital, a non-profit business development organization. The program consists of weekly in-person sessions that will take place at the 1717 Innovation Center in Shockoe Bottom.
Creighton said they are ready to develop an in-house program after a need has been identified, but were drawn to the idea of licensing an existing curriculum in part because it fits with JWC’s ethics.
“For the collective part of our programs, we consider ourselves the center. If something has been proven, has worked, and it has been effective, we would rather have a partnership than reinvent the wheel,” Creighton said.
Short said her group has been associated with Rising Tide through a North Carolina nonprofit in her network. About two years of conversations took place before the curriculum was licensed.
“We identified the gap early on,” Short said. “They have partners all over the country and they have a history of success.”
The foundation has refused to share how much it pays to license the Rising Tide playbook.
Short said the foundation is the only organization in the Richmond area to have been licensed for the Rising Tide curriculum. The foundation plans to run the program twice a year, with groups beginning in September and then again in March.
The JWC plans to hold a series of briefings on the accelerator program on June 28, June 30 and July 14.
The establishment of the Foundation came in response to feedback from potential donors and opened the door for an expanded group of funders to help support the Foundation’s growing list of activities.
Many financiers in the area wanted to provide capital support but in order to do so some institutions were unable to proceed with the support through our original model in which we had a financial agent. Their organizations asked us to be a 501(c)3,” said Short, the organization’s director of programs.
Creighton is the executive director of the nonprofit. Lemon is on the nonprofit’s board of directors. The foundation is based in Gather’s co-working office in the Arts District.
In addition to the Jackson Ward collegiate incubator and upcoming accelerator program, the foundation recently unveiled Bluck Street, the brand name for JWC’s public facing events programs targeting black entrepreneurs.
The foundation plans to hold its inaugural Black Street conference at the Collaboratory of Virginia in early August. The conference will include panel discussions and breakout sessions aimed at helping entrepreneurs learn about how to find investors, how to plan for succession and other topics.
JWC’s upcoming acceleration program comes amid a recent wave of new business development programs in Richmond.
Activation Capital recently completed a pilot startup development program targeting minority entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurial development group announced earlier this month that it and its pilot partner, Opportunity Hub, had invested $50,000 in local shoe refurbishment market Sudsy Soles, which won the pitch competition that shut down the program.
Bon Secours has expanded its decade-old Supporting East End Entrepreneurship Development Program to Manchester-based companies.