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RISE program celebrates accomplishments

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04.27.2020College & CommunityCollege General

SANFORD - Local entrepreneurs gathered online Wednesday night to celebrate their accomplishments in a new program designed to help create small businesses--and to learn which of them was awarded a $5,000 grant to help their dream become reality.

Real Investment in Sanford Entrepreneurs, more commonly known by the acronym RISE, is an eight-class program designed to help entrepreneurs launch local businesses. From late January through March, participants learned concepts, practices and tools to increase their chances for success in the competitive commercial environment.

By the end of the program, participants had developed a business plan and presented their concept to a team of professionals. Those participants who planned to open a brick-and-mortar location in the Downtown Sanford 17-block municipal service district area were considered for one $5,000 small business grant assistance package.

RISE was presented by the Central Carolina Community College Small Business Center, Downtown Sanford Inc. and Sanford Area Growth Alliance Chamber of Commerce -- with financial support from the NC IDEA Foundation, a private organization supporting business innovation and economic advancement across the state. The 25-minute graduation was held by teleconference to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 disease during the ongoing pandemic.

During her comments to the entrepreneurs, CCCC President Dr. Lisa Chapman acknowledged the challenge of developing plans for a new business at a time when most existing ones were temporarily shut down. "It's a challenge, but I'm absolutely certain that it is a challenge you are up for," she said. "And it is a challenge that you will meet, because you have the support of the network of the folks here and the network in this community."

Jan Smith was announced as winner of the RISE grant. Her planned business, Seva Yoga, would provide yoga classes for women in downtown Sanford. Small Business Center Coordinator Terri Brown doesn't expect that business to open right away, given the worldwide economic slowdown, but does expect several businesses eventually to open in Sanford as a result of the new program, which is slated to be offered for at least another two years.

"Looking back at what happened this spring, I can see it's going to be extremely successful," Brown said. "I'm very confident that it will meet everyone's objectives beyond expectations. I expect we'll have three or four businesses opening their doors, maybe before the end of this year."

Sanford Mayor Chet Mann, one of the guest speakers, also was optimistic about the impact RISE participants will have on the community -- not only by starting successful businesses, but also by providing inspiration for everyone else. "The impact on Sanford will be very profound that you all are the first movers of a program like this," he said. "But I think the greater impact will be the benefit and the positive momentum and the example that you all set for the rest of the citizens of Sanford to see. It's quite extraordinary and, really, a great breath of fresh air at a very difficult time."

Other RISE organizers also commended the entrepreneurs and provided some encouragement, including Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Meg Moss, who opened the evening's program, and Kelli Laudate, Executive Director of Downtown Sanford Inc., who provided closing comments.

Participants in this year's inaugural RISE program were Kevin Alderson, Jasmine Bartoe, Melissa Caddick, D.Z. Carr, Keona Carr, Lucas Cranford, Maggie Cranford, James Haynie, Akeashia Hooker, Rebecca Love, LaShanda McDougald, Angel Mills and Jan Smith.

For more information on the RISE program, visit the website