Programs collaborate for entrepreneurship across state lines.
The North Atlanta Venture Mentoring Service (NAV) celebrated the one-year anniversary of its launch on July 1. NAV, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Venture Mentoring Service-trained model of team-based mentorship for entrepreneurs and startups, is powered by Fresh Start Cherokee — the entrepreneurship initiative of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development (COED).
Headquartered in Cherokee County, NAV came to fruition as a direct result of the Cherokee By Choice Initiative, a five-year public-private partnership and economic advancement campaign.
NAV kicked off its pilot year with the adoption of a state resolution recognizing July 1, 2019, as Entrepreneurship Day in Georgia, and presented the first Cherokee Entrepreneur of the Year Award to Spencer Nix and Nick Downs, co-founders of Reformation Brewery. With 10 venture companies and 27 mentors in its first year, NAV is well-positioned to make Cherokee County and the Atlanta region the No. 1 place in the state to start and grow a business.
NAV celebrated its first year of operations by pushing the bounds of mentorship beyond state lines. Recently, NAV virtually co-hosted its first-ever city-to-city monthly mentoring meeting with sister program Innovate Charlotte in North Carolina, to share best practices and form a collaborative relationship. From North Atlanta to Charlotte, 38 ventures are being supported by a group of 81 diverse mentors through the power of MIT’s team-based mentorship model, a proven model 20 years in the making, with more than 100 chapters in 25 countries around the world.
“Now, more than ever, it is important for our region to offer this support system for startups. NAV’s brain trust of diverse, expert guides for local entrepreneurs helps them not only become stronger entrepreneurs but build better businesses and healthier communities,” COED President Misti Martin said.
NAV is managed by Jonathan Chambers and coordinated by Ellie Colt, and is intentional with its approach to diversity and inclusion, with 25% of mentors and 70% of ventures led by women and minorities from six different countries.
Representing more than 60 mentors, program leaders told stories at the meeting of how their programs got started. Ventures from both programs were presented, and those involved spoke to how team-based mentorship has been vital to their business, especially during COVID-19. Harry and Leticia Hutchins, co-founders of Alma Coffee, a farm-to-cup coffee brand headquartered in Cherokee County, shared how NAV has helped them lean into mentorship and successfully pivot their business model during the pandemic. Similarly, Innovate Charlotte venture Bustld, an online marketing platform led by Samie and Ryan Roberts that connects engaged couples to wedding vendors, spoke of their experience. Members from both ventures talked about how mentorship has given them trusted connections, provided unique entrepreneurial development opportunities, and has helped them identify blind spots in their businesses.
“Collaborating enables us to cross-pollinate between the two groups,” Innovate Charlotte mentor Dan Black said. For the foreseeable future, NAV and Innovate Charlotte will continue their collaboration, in hopes of growing better programs for even stronger entrepreneurs.
If you are interested in learning more about NAV, visit northatlantavms.com.
Provided by the Cherokee Office of Economic Development, the leading organization for business and film recruitment and industry retention and expansion.