Community Business Academy helps small and interested businesses to jumpstart and sustain


RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) – The first Community Business Academy, a program for aspiring and existing business owners in Richmond, is weeks away from launching.

The Community Business Academy is a 12-week course at the Jackson Ward Joint Foundation (JWC). Helping nonprofit and black-owned business owners find the resources they need to survive and thrive in the business world.

The academy is designed for entrepreneurs who have strong ideas or concepts and existing black business owners who want to strengthen their business. Those accepted will be in person every week to provide hands-on training and teach business fundamentals.

Melody Short is the Director of Programs and Co-Founder of the JWC Foundation. She describes what attendees can expect.

“We cover everything from testing your business concept and making sure it’s a viable business model,” says Short. “We analyze marketing and every element of your business plan.”

CBA is licensed through Rising Tide Capital, a New Jersey-based nonprofit that has provided business development services for nearly two decades.

With the help of sponsors like Altria, Capital One and Dominion Energy, academy participants can enroll in the program. Participants can pay fees on a sliding scale, the amount should not exceed $250. The cost of the program is $3,000.

Benjamin Miles, who works out of the living room at Altria’s headquarters, is excited about the opportunity. He dreams of opening his own unisex hair salon one day, but like any entrepreneur, he doesn’t know how to get started.

“I literally don’t know how to start the process, so I want to see the first step to the actual final step, from idea to launch and everything in between, but I want to have someone guide me through that process. Make a mistake,” Miles said.

The academy is designed for entrepreneurs who have strong ideas or concepts and existing black business owners who want to strengthen their business. Those accepted will be in person every week to provide hands-on training and teach business fundamentals.

Melody Short is the Director of Programs and Co-Founder of the JWC Foundation. She describes what attendees can expect.

“We cover everything from researching your business concept and making sure it’s a financially viable business model,” says Ms. Short.

CBA has been providing business development services to Rising Tide Capital, a New Jersey-based nonprofit for two decades.

With the help of sponsors such as Altria, Capital One and Dominion Energy, Academy participants can enroll in the program using a sliding scale, with a fee of no more than $250. The cost of the program is $3,000.

Benjamin Miles, who works out of the living room at Altria’s headquarters, is excited about the opportunity. He dreams of opening his own unisex hair salon one day, but as an entrepreneur, he doesn’t know how to get started.

“I literally don’t know how to start the process, so I want to see the first step from the idea to the beginning and everything in between to the actual final step, but it’s terrible when I don’t have someone to guide me through that process,” Miles said.

According to studies by Fundera, NerdWallet and others, eight out of 10 black-owned businesses fail within the first 18 months. Differences in money and resources are part of the root cause.

According to NerdWallet’s “Black and White: Access to Capital Among Small Startups,” the average startup capital among black entrepreneurs is $35,205, compared to $106,720 for white entrepreneurs.

JWC Executive Director Rashida Creighton said that’s just one of the reasons CBA is critical.

“The disparity around financial contributions is huge, but what we tend to forget is that social capital and access to information are barriers to starting our businesses,” Creighton said.

Like Ms. Short, Creighton has a passion for helping others and is honored to be in a position to help aspiring and current black business owners.

Miles is grateful for the support.

“It could change my generation, the people behind me,” Miles said. “There’s going to be a lot of people who need something like this.”

The academy will be held Wednesday, Sept. 7, at the 1717 Innovation Center Shockoe Bottom at 1717 E Cary St. Participants must attend the third and final virtual information session on Wednesday, August 3.

For information about CBA’s final information session, visit here.

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