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Entrepreneurial training program helps establish new CSRA businesses

When Benjamin Ross established a counseling business with his wife, Vivian, they had no employees and saw clients in a small office on Wrightsboro Road, but they now have 10 staff members and a larger office on Central Avenue.

The couple owns and operates Elephant in the Room Counseling Services, LLC. Benjamin attributes much of their success to his completion of a business training opportunity offered through a partnership between the Greater Augusta Black Chamber of Commerce and Bank of America.

Last year, he graduated from the Intensive Entrepreneurship Training Program, a four-week series of classes that cover a variety of topics, including QuickBooks, marketing, and business planning.

Business owner, Benjamin Ross graduated last year from the training program.

After completing the program, which was funded by a $125,000 grant from Bank of America, Ross received a $3,000 grant to invest in his company and mentoring from business experts throughout the Southeast.

“The program helped me meet professionals in different areas,” he said. “I met a CPA who talked about how to keep records and a psychologist who talked about mental health and self-care for people running a business.”

Ross spoke at a ceremony celebrating the next cohort of 25 entrepreneurs who just completed the program. Greater Augusta Black Chamber of Commerce President, Ronic West said it was established in late 2021.

“We’ve already given out $225,000 in grants, and we’re giving out another $75,000 in grants,” West said.

But besides the money, the knowledge participants gain helps them build successful businesses.

“They gain financial literacy, and we even go over pitches,” she said.

Jones is a recent program graduate and along with his family started a new business called Pedal Pub Augusta.

That’s been especially helpful to Anthony Jones and his wife, Charity, who’s part of this year’s cohort. In December, the couple, along with Anthony’s sister-in-law, Syderist Manuel opened Pedal Pub Augusta.

“She learned about capital, startup costs, and LLCs,” Anthony said. “We look forward to applying for business credit to expand the business.”

Bank of America Market President, Ora Parish said the company is proud to provide financial support for the program because it helps to boost the community’s economic mobility.

Bank of America President, Ora Parish and Greater Black Chamber of Commerce President, Ronic West.

“The majority of the funds provide direct funding to the entrepreneurs,” Parish said. “We know small businesses are the largest employers in any community.”

While the grant helped Ross grow his business, he gained so much more from the experience.

“It makes you feel legitimate, like you have a real business,” Ross said.

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