Macon, GA – With funding from Wells Fargo, and in partnership with the Macon-Middle Georgia Black Pages, NewTown Macon just completed the fourth round of the Downtown Diversity Initiative. Today, NewTown Macon and the Macon-Middle Georgia Black Pages announced the winners of the 2023 Downtown Diversity Initiative at Churchills on Cherry.
“NewTown and Macon-Middle Georgia Black Pages partnered to develop this program as a way to create a more inclusive urban core,” said Alex Habersham, publisher of the Macon-Middle Georgia Black Pages. “These initiatives continue to generate progress in providing resources, training, and incentives which will result in more African American businesses establishing successful locations downtown.”
The Downtown Diversity Initiative is a 6-session business training program designed to attract more African American business owners and customers to Macon’s urban core. Through group learning and presentations by local industry experts, participants developed an informed and complete business canvas and set of financial projections. The program curriculum focused on helping entrepreneurs develop their value proposition, target customer, customer success delivery, financial reports, and sustainable business funding and wealth-building strategies.
“Downtown Macon can be the catalyst for disrupting the racial wealth gap in Macon and building a more prosperous community,” said Lauren Marshall, Vice President for Community Development. “By supporting Black entrepreneurs through programs and partnerships like the Downtown Diversity Initiative, we are creating more pathways for Maconites to become business owners and build wealth for themselves and their families.”
Increasing the number of businesses owned by African Americans is a goal in NewTown’s current strategic plan, which launched July 1, 2022. By 2027, NewTown aims to increase the proportion of Black-owned businesses from 18% to 30% and the net number from 28 to 53. Through efforts like the Downtown Diversity Initiative, NewTown is close to achieving those goals –currently, there are 47 Black-owned businesses and 26% of downtown businesses are Black-owned.
“We are proud to continue our support for NewTown Macon and the Downtown Diversity Initiative,” said Kristina Christy, Senior Community Impact and Sustainability Specialist for Wells Fargo. “We have a tremendous opportunity to help implement change in the communities where we work, live, and serve. As the Bank of Doing, Wells Fargo takes action to put people and communities first. Doing goes far beyond the investments we make. It is the sum of the impact we have when we work together with organizations like NewTown Macon to tackle challenges in our communities.”
Twenty-five entrepreneurs successfully pitched their concepts before a panel of judges and graduated as part of the 2023 cohort. The five graduates with the highest scores were awarded $5,000 to help start or expand their current businesses, thanks to Wells Fargo’s sponsorship of the program. Winners include:
Troy Cunningham, Sr., Smoked Eatz Mobile Kitchen: a mobile kitchen satisfying taste buds with all smoked food, including pork, chicken, salmon, and classic homemade sides. Smoked Eatz Mobile Kitchen participated in DDI to help their business expand operations to open a storefront downtown.
Terri Marion, Wagsworth Hotel: a luxury resort for dogs featuring a hotel, daycare, spa, walking service, and more that has been in operation since June 2021. The business wants to relocate and expand services as the premiere dog service business in the downtown canine community.
Andrea Cooke, RESCue: a new startup company focused on social impact, masquerading as a water company that is celebrating our hometown’s award-winning water.
Kristie Gordon, Gordon’s Vineyard: a start-up business with a mission to offer a quality preschool for students in low-income areas. Kristie Gordon is a former high school science teacher who desires to integrate her science and mental health background into a learning center.
Jermain Scott, Undisease: a mobile app that helps people suffering from chronic diseases. Whether teaching about nutrition, tracking symptoms, encouraging healthy habits, or providing discussion groups, this mobile app will support health and build community for those with chronic disease.