Student Life

Community Partners Work to Strengthen Local Entrepreneurial Ecosystem


Wells Fargo has awarded a $15,000 grant to support a new Launch Rocky Mount Biz program to spur local business creation.

Offered by the Small Business Center at Nash Community College, Eastern NC Center for Business and Entrepreneurship at North Carolina Wesleyan College, Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce and Station Square, the program will prepare local entrepreneurs to launch new businesses.

The funding will provide scholarships for 45 participants to attend one of the three Launch Rocky Mount Biz classes beginning in 2020. The class utilizes Kauffman FastTrac curriculum to assist early-stage entrepreneurs in defining products and services, identifying core customers, creating financial tools, and developing marketing strategies. By the end of the program, participants will have a working business plan and can compete for up to three cash prizes of $500 per class for the top business plan pitches. A total of $4,500 in cash prizes will be awarded.

The program also includes ongoing business counseling and critical support services, such as legal, accounting, and marketing which early stage businesses may find difficult to obtain due to high startup costs. “Cash prizes and alternative small business ​​lending are important to new businesses that often face challenges in securing traditional business financing,” NCC Small Business Center Director Theresa Peaden said.

The Small Business Center also received a $5,000 grant from NC IDEA to fund three “Ice House: Entrepreneurial Mindset” classes. Inspired by the life of Pulitzer nominee Clifton Taulbert and the influence of an unlikely entrepreneur, the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program is an experiential, problem-based course designed to empower learners by exposing them to entrepreneurial thinking and real life experiences.

“These initiatives are what the Chamber is all about. Communities with strong entrepreneurial ecosystems are the most successful in establishing and sustaining small businesses,” said David Farris, President, Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce.

Ice House: Entrepreneurial Mindset will meet January 28 – March 3rd. Launch Rocky Mount Biz will meet March 17 – May 12. Both classes will be held on Tuesday evenings from 6:00-9:00 PM at Station Square located in downtown Rocky Mount. A free dinner will be provided at 5:30 PM before each class meeting.

“This invitation is especially important for minorities, or those who have faced employment challenges in the past whether it be a criminal offense or through a disability,” Peaden said.

The natural progression after completing Ice House is to move into Launch Rocky Mount Biz, which provides a deeper dive into the nuts and bolts of business. The two grants and the support of the local co-sponsors will allow us to offer a series of three of each of the courses over a year. For more information, please email or call 252-451-8233.

Pictured from left: Ben Braddock, Owner, Station Square; Gena Messer-Knode, Director Eastern North Carolina Center for Business & Entrepreneurship, North Carolina Wesleyan College; Joanna LeClair, Senior Vice President, Wells Fargo Community Relations; Theresa Peaden, Director, Small Business Center, Nash Community College; Sarah Glover Pollack, District Manager, Wells Fargo; Suzie Koonce, Senior Community Relations Consultant, Wells Fargo; Pam Ballew, Vice President of Advancement and Executive Director, Nash Community College Foundation; David Farris, President and CEO, Rocky Mount Association Chamber of Commerce.