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RISE program holds graduation for Fall 2022 class

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Click to enlarge,  Graduates of the Real Investment in Sanford Entrepreneurs (RISE) Fall 2022 program are pictured, left to right: Kenneth Friend, Porshia Wicker, Emma Johnson, Tara Tate, Joel Clegg, Brittany Whitaker, Kimia Collins (pictured with her husband, Derrick Washington), and Carlos McNeil.

click image to enlarge ⊗

Graduates of the Real Investment in Sanford Entrepreneurs (RISE) Fall 2022 program are pictured, left ... (more)

Click to enlarge,  Porshia Wicker (left) is the latest Real Investment in Sanford Entrepreneurs (RISE) $5,000 startup grant winner She is pictured with Kelli Laudate (right), Executive Director of Downtown Sanford, Inc.

click image to enlarge ⊗

Porshia Wicker (left) is the latest Real Investment in Sanford Entrepreneurs (RISE) $5,000 startup ... (more)

11.10.2022College & CommunityCollege GeneralGraduationsStudents/Graduates

SANFORD - The Central Carolina Community College Small Business Center presented eight participants from the Fall 2022 RISE (Real Investment in Sanford Entrepreneurs) program with certificates on Wednesday, Nov. 2, at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic & Conference Center. One participant was awarded $5,000 in startup funding to assist in opening her business in downtown Sanford.

The certificates were presented for completion of the RISE program, an eight-class entrepreneurship series created in collaboration with the Sanford Area Growth Alliance - Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Sanford, Inc.

Funding for the grant was provided by the City of Sanford.

Kelli Laudate, Executive Director of Downtown Sanford, Inc., said, "WOW! Six classes of RISE graduates have completed the Real Investment in Sanford Entrepreneurs and we could not be more proud to partner with CCCC Small Business Center and SAGA to help these students bring their dreams to reality. The program is no easy feat as the participants take part in two classes a week over a month to research, write a business plan and make their pitch to an advisory panel. The program has helped 10 new businesses open store-front locations since it began in 2020 while many other budding entrepreneurs have opened home-based businesses. We look forward to the next group beginning Spring 2023."

Susan Gomez, Sanford Area Growth Alliance Chamber of Commerce Director, noted, "As the new Chamber of Commerce Director, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that as an observer, I, too, could learn from our speakers at the RISE program. Listening in on different topics pertaining to entrepreneurship was an eye-opening experience - this is not a small task, nor should it be taken as such. The candidates have so much courage to take this leap into their dreams and I am so proud that we, at Sanford Area Growth Alliance, collaborate with DSI, Inc., and CCCC Small Business Center to help them navigate this journey. I look forward to many more amazing businesses coming to fruition because of this collaboration."

Participants in the program attend a series of seminars, create a business plan, have their business plans reviewed, and prepare a pitch on the final evening of the program to a review committee. Graduates of the program who open a retail business in downtown Sanford may apply for a $5,000 start-up grant.

Porshia Wicker was the latest $5,000 grant recipient as a result of her business plan presentation and pitch to the RISE Review Committee. She plans to open a bilingual pediatric speech therapy clinic in downtown Sanford within the next year. "I cannot say enough amazing things about the RISE program," said Wicker. "Thanks to Terri Brown [CCCC Small Business Center Director] and the various business experts, I now have a solid business plan, knowledge and the confidence to finally start the business of my dreams. Through this program, I gained the tools to open a sustainable business and met some great future business owners along the way! After working alongside fellow participants and hearing their business ideas, I'm even more excited to see Sanford continue to expand and thrive!"

RISE is scheduled to begin a new session in February 2023. Individuals interested in starting a small business in Lee County are encouraged to apply. Visit for more information or contact Terri Brown at, Kelli Laudate at, or Susan Gomez at