Never Too Old to be Your Own Boss! Successful Sea Island Adult Entrepreneurship Program

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As business and development in Charleston has steadily increased over the last several years, Johns Island has become the site for the next wave of commercial and residential expansion. Community partners Kiawah Cares, Hall’s Chophouse, King Street Commercial, and The Bakker Family Fund wanted to offer entrepreneurship training to unemployed or underemployed adults on the Sea Islands; therefore YEScarolina organized a five week entrepreneurship program hosted by Charleston Collegiate for twenty adults, where all but two graduated. The course was offered free of charge thanks to the generosity of the sponsors. The adults were taught basic entrepreneurial skills and how to take the next steps to becoming financially independent.

The program was designed for these individuals to start a micro-business utilizing their resources and would require little to no start-up capital. The format of each class consisted of lecture, group activities, and class discussions. Attendees were required to complete a business plan and the course ended with each participant presenting it in front of the class. The top three presenters then moved on to the final business plan competition where they presented in front of a panel of six judges, all business owners and leaders in the community. Not only did they win seed money but they received critical feedback from the experienced panel.

In 2011, YEScarolina hosted the same program in Marion County where thirteen adults took the course and three started a business. In 2012, the Marion County entrepreneurship pilot program for unemployed adults won the national Leavey Award for excellence in private enterprise – awarded by the Freedom Foundation.

The program used a simple pre and post test to determine how well the concepts were learned. After comparing the pre and post test results, the class showed a strong understanding of the details on how to start a business and write a business plan. YEScarolina will follow up with the attendees to see who starts a business and track their progress in the months and years to come. “We were overwhelmed by the business plan presentations and the enthusiasm that the class embodied. Looking forward to future success of these adult entrepreneurs in our community,” said Jimmy Bailey, Founder & President of YEScarolina.

The program would not have been possible without the support of Kiawah Cares, Hall’s Chophouse, King Street Commercial, Bakker Family Fund, Taziki’s Charleston, & Charleston Collegiate.