On Thursday, October 3rd, Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE) held its 2019 Annual Award Luncheon at the Gathering Spot to celebrate its exemplary partners as well as small-business owners who have excelled in entrepreneurial leadership. The City of Norcross was among one of the recipients to receive an award.
Mayor Craig Newton accepted the Partner of the Year Award on behalf of the city. This award recognized Norcross’ high level of promotion of entrepreneurship, provision of resources, and community development. Since starting his term, Mayor Newton has made economic prosperity a high priority. Utilizing his political-will and wide network of business leaders and elected officials, he consistently advocates for more opportunities in Norcross including the creation of more jobs, start-up and entrepreneur opportunities, business recruitment, and major redevelopment and business expansion projects.
ACE is a non-profit organization that provides loans and business development resources to help its borrowers create and grow sustainable businesses that generate jobs. The organization serves 68 counties, including all of Metropolitan Atlanta and North Georgia. ACE Women’s Business Center (WBC) has made a home in the Norcross Cultural and Community Arts Center downtown since 2015 as a result of the City’s invitation. Since moving to Norcross, the Center has been able to serve over 5,000 individuals through training and one-on-one consultations.
One such individual is Pablo Colón. At the suggestion of a friend, Mr. Colón walked into the office in 2017 and received consultation on the steps of starting a business in the area as well as how to gain access to capital. He continued his preparation by attending classes provided by ACE WBC, such as a small business risk education workshop, annual speed coaching, proven business planning, and a small business access to capital course. Mr. Colón has noted that he is most grateful for the instruction he received on loan requirements and products, finances, business permits, rental of space, registrations, and certifications. With this preparation Mr. Colón closed on a SBA Community Advantage Loan in 2018, which provided him the seed money he needed to start Pablo’s Bakery & Café in Peachtree Corners. The business has exceeded all expectations successfully servicing store patrons and 6 restaurants wholesale. Mr. Colón plans on continuing to receive technical assistance focusing on financial management and marketing as the business expands.
Another noteworthy success story helped along by ACE assistance is that of Cesar and Clara Olguin, owners of a flooring expertise company located in Norcross. After Mr. Olguin had worked for 14 years as a floor installer, starting at entry level and achieving Master Installer designation, the couple decided it was time to open their own business, CIC Floors. For the Olguins, CIC Floors is a personal mission to improve the lives of individuals who often suffer from under-employment and low wages by offering consistent work and training. CIC has now been offering quality custom installation services for 16 years.
Norcross based Speed Laboratories also owes its success in part to ACE. Alex Getahoun, who came from Ethiopia to the United States at age 11, developed the plans and had the initiative to start a company that would provide quality control testing on pharmaceuticals, chemicals and medicines, an underprovided niche at the time. However, he had no capital to put the business together and would not have been able to without ACE, which gave him a $25,000 loan for Speed Laboratory’s first 1,000 square feet of space and the first employee. Business success has allowed the company to pay off this first loan and receive a second expansion loan to meet increased demand. Speed Laboratory now has more than a half-dozen employees and 9,000 square feet of space in Norcross.
Through collaboration with the Norcross Economic Development Department, the ACE staff has provided support and assistance to the entrepreneurs in and around Norcross. The Department has provided referrals, promoted WBC services, created connections with entrepreneurs and other business establishments in the area. They continue to instigate collaboration with partner organizations with the focus of promoting the economic development of Norcross and its residents.
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