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Thursday, September 28, 2023

New program pushes minority entrepreneurship

By Yasmine Regester, Peacemaker Staff Writer / September 10, 2021

The inaugural cohort of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce’s Scale to Excel program graduated on August 23. Photos Courtesy Greensboro Chamber of Commerce.

The Greensboro Chamber of Commerce celebrated its first graduating cohort of the minority business entrepreneurship program, Scale to Excel, this month.

Using the proven curriculum StreetWise MBA from the national organization Interise, the intensive seven-month program equips minority business owners with the executive education, management know-how and business support system they need to take their enterprises to the next level.

“We wanted to provide a curriculum for entrepreneurs that were racially diverse. We wanted to make sure they had an opportunity to learn the tools, get the resources and to build a network to help scale their business,” said Niketa Greene, vice president for leadership, diversity and inclusion at The Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, about the partnership with Interise.

Graduate Murali Ramaswamy, owner of PulmonIx LLC, gives a speech at the Scale to Excel graduation August 23, 2021 at Union Square Campus.

No degree is required to participate, however to be eligible to apply you must be an ethnic minority-owned business, earn $175,000 – $10 million in annual revenues, employ one other full-time employee besides the owner(s), participant must be the CEO and/or a 51 percent owner, and in business for at least three years.

The first year of the program was this year, which had to be completed virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions. The program is led by Dr. Channelle D. James, a faculty member in the Bryan School of Business and Economics at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She also is the president and executive director of Community Ventures Inc. a non-profit startup focused on creating social good in the City of Greensboro through entrepreneurship and social innovation.

Participants attended virtual sessions that covered topics like marketing, finances, talent retention and strategic business plans, along with the opportunities to have mentoring time with a variety of business experts. The CEO mentorship component allowed participants to meet in small groups for peer to peer support and to work on assignments together. During the rigorous program, participants are also required to complete mandatory assignments and complete program surveys as requested.

Outside of the valuable information provided in the program, Greene noted that cohort graduates called the course “a breath of fresh air” and described it as “free therapy.”

“Coming out of a pandemic and being a minority owned business has been a tough year for some. Some had been deeply affected by the economy as it relates to COVID-19. And coming together with people who could relate to and understand their situation specifically, was helpful to them,” she said.

The cohort of 13 graduates and 12 companies boasted a diverse representation of businesses such as a janitorial product distribution company, marketing firm, staffing firm, facility management company, event production company, clinical research business and multiple construction and commercial cleaning companies.

“One thing that was unanimous among everyone is that they really enjoyed the network part – to be able to meet one another and to meet the various guest experts that we bring in,” said Greene, adding, “This program gave entrepreneurs a chance to set time aside to work on their businesses as opposed to getting caught up of the daily grind of just working their businesses.”

According to the national program’s latest data from 2018, 69 percent of alumni businesses increased or maintained their annual revenues, with an average annual revenue growth of 36 percent.

In addition to that, 66 percent of alumni businesses reported they added or retained jobs, something that is a challenge for many small and minority-owned businesses.

“One of the things that is really encouraging to me is that this curriculum that we use has been around for 16 years. It’s across the country in 75 cities. Interise has a data tracking system that will help us and our participants going forward. It’s important that we incur those same benefits in our community,” said Greene.

The application process for the 2022 cohort is open and can be found at

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Photos Courtesy Greensboro Chamber of Commerce
The inaugural cohort of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce’s Scale to Excel program graduated on August 23.

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Graduate Murali Ramaswamy, owner of PulmonIx LLC, gives a speech at the Scale to Excel graduation August 23, 2021 at Union Square Campus.


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