Georgia Mesh Network

Network Advances Collaboration

By pinalice | December 15, 2020, 8:12pm EDT

Augusta, Ga., May 11, 2021—Two hundred and fifty entrepreneurs trained. Two hundred new businesses launched. One hundred and sixty businesses unlocking more than $1.5 million in commercial capital. And 500 to 800 jobs created across Georgia over just the next 12 months.

That’s the goal of Augusta’s, which is piloting a statewide network to provide skills training and certification to aspiring entrepreneurs, backed with the commitment of 21 lenders and venture capitalists in Georgia to support entrepreneurs who graduate the program. The network is also the result of a $250,000 grant from Georgia’s lieutenant governor’s office.

“Amid the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the state determined that entrepreneurship was a key to economic recovery,” says Eric Parker, president of and co-founder at Make Startups. “ was invited by the Lt. Governor’s office to apply for a Partnership for Inclusive Innovation grant to help fund entrepreneurship skills training. We won the grant and now are leading the pilot network in five Georgia cities to offer this training.”

A Mesh Network

The Make Startups program launches entrepreneur skills training in Augusta in for a summer cohort in May and a fall cohort in September. Partners Spark Macon, Startup Columbus, Creative Coast in Savannah and Zane Access in Atlanta open their training in August, creating a mesh network that spans 45 counties, including 36 rural counties in the state.

Certification of Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurs who complete the skills training earn a certificate of entrepreneurship. That certification piece is key.

The Make Startups program provides the first industry credentialing of this kind in the country. “For entrepreneurs who earn a certificate of entrepreneurship, 21 lenders and venture capitalists in Georgia have already committed to recognize and support these graduates,” says Grace Belangia, Co-founder of Make Startups and executive director of “This is a game changer for our entrepreneurs who may only need $5,000 to $10,000 in seed funding to take their company to the next level. To have a capital partner give them a second chance with a micro loan, small grant or access to greater funding sources is really how we can improve community health and economic development for all.”

Who Should Apply

Entrepreneurs face a number of workforce barriers. These can include discrimination, such as discouragement of entrepreneurship as a viable career path and concerns for capitalization. While nearly 4 out of 5 new businesses survive their first year and are overwhelmingly responsible for job creation and innovation, only 6.28% of startups able to make a first payroll within eight quarters. In addition, according to the Kauffman Foundation, it’s estimated that 83% of entrepreneurs do not access bank loans or venture capital at the time of startup; nearly 65% rely on personal and family savings, and close to 10% carry balances on their personal credit cards. The Make Startups certification is designed to help remove these barriers to success.

While it’s available to any entrepreneur in the state, one goal in particular is to encourage participation from disadvantaged entrepreneurs through financial aid and other assistance. Georgia alone has an annual untapped potential of 8,000 disadvantaged entrepreneurs, who, if successful, could help create 32,000 jobs.

“Our goal is to remove these barriers,” says Parker. “We know that entrepreneurship is an area of high demand. By working with capital partners to develop and manage training standards, we can offer economically sustainable entrepreneurial skills training programs while improving access to capital for entrepreneurs.

“It’s also incredibly exciting,” adds Parker, who says the pilot is only a first step. “Less than 2% of Department of Labor training funds could sustain entrepreneurial skills training and certification in each of Georgia’s 20 workforce areas, at an average cost of less than $1,500 per job created. Ultimately, more than 1,000 entrepreneurs could be trained annually, unlocking more than $15 million in commercial capital investments and community support and creating more than 4,000 new jobs in Georgia every year. That’s huge.”

Georgia applications are open now for entrepreneur skills training around the state. To apply or to learn more, visit

About inspires ideas, creates companies, and builds community. Founded in 2012, is a division of Hack Augusta, Inc., non-profit 501(c)3 dedicated to growing a culture of innovation and collaboration. We have more than 230 members and have helped grow 100 companies that have created more than 1,000 jobs. Our events and programs serve more than 30,000 people, and our classes help thousands learn new skills in technology, business, and design so they can thrive in an innovation economy. For more, visit

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