Leadership Institute Helps Macon Businesses Grow

Charlie Bauder

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

An entrepreneurial leadership curriculum developed by the University of Georgia is helping several Macon business owners lead their businesses to new heights.

In 2018, NewTown Macon—a nonprofit organization focused on economic and cultural development in downtown Macon—contacted the UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development about developing a program that would blend leadership and entrepreneurial skills development for current and aspiring business owners in downtown Macon.

“We have a small business loan program, and a lot of people that we help finance never have taken a business loan before,” said Bethany Rogers, director of business and real estate development for NewTown Macon. “They often need some coaching to get them across the finish line, so we were trying to figure out a way to offer that in a group setting. After bringing our ideas to the Fanning Institute, we saw the need to also include leadership and personal development as part of the program.”

Building on NewTown Macon’s program vision, Fanning Institute faculty designed the curriculum for the NewTown Macon Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy and facilitated the initial class in fall 2018.

“We developed a unique curriculum that injects leadership development as a core component to successful entrepreneurship,” said Brandy Walker, a public service associate at the Fanning Institute. “We first asked participants to focus on themselves as a person, a leader and a business owner in order to set them up for success in developing their business plan.”

Over the course of four sessions, participants focused on developing leadership skills critical to working with others to grow their business, while also learning more about business plan development and other entrepreneurial skills.

“Having Brandy’s expertise in curriculum design and presentation added tremendous value to the program,” Rogers said. “Her work made the curriculum much more digestible for the participants and much more dynamic.”

Nora Stephens participated in the NewTown Macon Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy to help her food truck business. (PHOTO: Shannah Montgomery / PSO)

Scott Mitchell, owner of Travis Jean Emporium, an art gallery and gift shop in Macon, credits the academy with helping him grow his business and expand his leadership role in the community.

“Before going into the academy, I decided that this year I was going to step back and not do some things like outside committees,” Mitchell said. “Instead, the academy showed me that I need to step up more.”

As a result, Mitchell joined the Chamber of Commerce board and is the incoming chairperson of Main Street Macon, which he said also opened doors for his business.

“I had 15 months of straight (revenue) increase from the previous year until June 2019,” Mitchell said.

Megan Carson, owner of Sparks Yoga in Macon, also developed her business ownership skills through the academy.

“From a leadership perspective, I was having a hard time delegating and leading my business as much as I should be,” Carson said. “The academy helped create a more concrete vision and mission and take charge of my business more.”

Evaluating her business following the academy, Carson identified a need to re-structure her membership plans and since doing that, membership in the yoga studio has increased significantly, she said.

According to Mitchell and Carson, the academy also strengthened the relationships between business owners in downtown Macon.

“The connections have been very helpful by learning that I have not been alone in these struggles,” Carson said. “I have these connections now that I can reach out to and talk to. We’re all in this together.”