Find answers to common questions about the application process, the community ties of Start:ME, the types of businesses that are eligible and the program itself.
Application & Selection
How many applications does Start:ME typically receive?
Between 80 and 100 applications each year.
What makes an application strong?
Strong applicants will clearly and thoroughly outline their business and/or idea, commitment to their business, and explain their tie to the local community. Start:ME is looking for promising small business owners with a passion for their business/idea and a strong tie to the Northside community – living, working, and/or providing valuable products or services to community members.
When are applications open?
Online applications for the Spring 2020 program are open from October 01, 2019 through November 19, 2019.
What is the selection process?
All applications go through a first round application review to identify finalists. These finalists are invited to participate in group interviews in the community. Participants are then selected to participate in each 14-session community program, which start in January.
Why does Start:ME ask for demographic information?
Start:ME collects demographic information from all entrepreneurs that apply to the program. This information is essential for securing funding so that the program can be delivered to all participants free of charge. Start:ME values inclusivity and respects your confidentiality.
Start:ME is delivered through a partnership of the Northside Development Group and USC Upstate Johnson College of Business and Economics. Start:ME Spartanburg does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, ethnic or national origin, gender, genetic information, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and veteran's status.
Is there an age restriction?
All applicants must be 18 years of age when the program starts in January.
Does my credit score/history factor in to the program?
No, credit score/history is not considered for admission to the program nor for peer-selected grants. Credit is discussed as part of the curriculum for educational purposes only.
What can I do now to get ready to launch or grow my businesses?
The resources page has a great set of tools and resources. Try these tools, check out online trainings, learn more about the many services in Spartanburg for small businesses, and start working on your business today!
I applied to Start:ME previously and was not selected, can I apply again this year?
Yes, Start:ME welcomes applications from those that were not selected in past years and they are encouraged to discuss how they have worked on/built their business in the application. Although not guaranteed, each year, our cohorts have included entrepreneurs that were not selected in previous years.
I have limited computer access, how can I apply?
Start:ME’s application is online and mobile-friendly. If you do not have access to a computer or cell phone, email us at info@StartMeSpartanburg if you need any additional assistance. Past applicants have used computers at their local library or other community organizations.
Which communities does Start:ME serve?
Start:ME is a place-based program, serving entrepreneurs who live in, work in, and/or provide valuable products to Spartanburg's Northside community. To learn more about the Northside community, please visit startmespartanburg.com.
I have no connection to the Northside, am I eligible?
Entrepreneurs with no ties to the Northside are not eligible. Ties to the Northside community matters because the program’s core objective is to strengthen neighborhood vitality by supporting new and growing small businesses.
Do I need to be living in the Northside community?
No, however all selected entrepreneurs must have a strong tie to the Northside community – living there, working there, providing needed products/services to community residents, etc.
What does Start:ME mean by a business that benefits the Northside community?
Start:ME works with for-profit businesses across all industries – HVAC repair, electrical, art, fashion, catering, farming, and more. It is not necessary to have a social enterprise or nonprofit model to benefit the local community.
What types of businesses are eligible to apply?
Start:ME serves many stages of small businesses, from clearly defined business ideas looking to launch to operational businesses looking to expand or grow, from all industries. Meet program alumni at the Start:ME alumni page.
Where can I see the list of businesses that Start:ME has worked with in the past?
Start:ME has served many small businesses. Please visit the Start:ME alumni page to see a list of the entrepreneurs that have graduated previous years' programs.
How small of a business do I need to be?
Most, but not all, of the small businesses that go through Start:ME have 1-5 employees (including the owner) and some sales/revenue.
Does my business need to be up and running already?
No. Start:ME serves many stages of small businesses. If you are applying with a business idea, be as focused and detailed as possible in explaining your concept/idea.
I only have an idea, am I eligible?
Yes. If you’re applying with an idea (or multiple ideas), you should focus on only one and explain it as clearly and succinctly as possible.
May I apply with more than one business?
No. Please only apply with one business. Explain it as clearly and succinctly as possible.
Does my business need to be profitable?
Does my business need to have sales?
No. Start:ME works with businesses that are in the idea or pre-launch stage along with those that have sales and are looking to grow. That said, most of the businesses that we have worked with do have some sales when they apply.
Does my business need to be incorporated?
No. Incorporation is not required to participate in the program and some applicants are not incorporated upon starting Start:ME.
What is early stage business?
Start:ME is looking for business owners who want to learn business skills and build their business network. Start:ME is not looking for a specific amount of time that your business has been in operation and has worked with defined business ideas that are not yet operating to those who have been operating for 10+ years.
What about nonprofits?
96% of Start:ME alumni operate for-profit businesses. The program is geared towards for-profits, particularly financials and fundraising, and Start:ME mentors largely have for-profit experience. The program does not cover grants or grant writing. Nonprofits that sell products or services to generate a majority of their revenue (funding) are encouraged to apply.
If I have never started a business before, am I eligible?
Yes. You do not need to have prior entrepreneurial experience to apply. Please share all relevant professional, educational, or life experiences that help demonstrate why you (and your business partners if applicable) are a great fit for this business. For example, if you are launching a food business, tell us about learning to cook at your grandmother’s feet, past work in food services, and/or your personal passion for the kitchen.
Are home-based businesses eligible?
Yes, many of the businesses Start:ME works with are run out of the business owner’s home. If you have an office or location outside of the home, that is fine too!
Do you work with businesses that are franchises or multi-level marketing programs?
Franchise businesses or multi-level marketing businesses like Avon or Amway are not eligible for Start:ME as they are not a good fit for our curriculum model. Please contact us at info@StartMeSpartanburg if you have questions about your eligibility.
What is the cost of the program?
Start:ME is free for all selected entrepreneurs. However, participants are required to attend at least 12 of 14 sessions. Your tuition is your time.
Do I need to attend every session?
Yes. Start:ME is an intense program that relies on peer-learning and mentorship coaching. The curriculum builds on the previous weeks and relationships take time to grow. Entrepreneurs can only miss TWO sessions.
I have a business partner, do we both have to attend all of the sessions?
No, both business partners do not have to attend all the sessions. However, one primary participant must attend all the sessions. Business partners are not allowed to switch in and out week to week. The partner who will attend sessions, if selected, should complete and submit the application.
When and where are sessions delivered?
Start:ME delivers 14-sessions from January through April on consecutive Tuesdays from 6-9PM, delivered mostly at the Cleveland Academy of Leadership (next to the Northside Development Group). Some later sessions are held at the GreenHouse Business Incubator at the George Dean Johnson, Jr. College of Business and Economics.
What level of English proficiency is needed to be able to attend the sessions?
Business trainings, materials, and mentorship are delivered in English. Applicants must have working comfort in English (both speaking and writing). Start:ME is not able to provide translators or materials in other languages.
Are children allowed to attend session? Is there childcare?
Attendees must be 18 years or older at the start of the program. Start:ME does not provide childcare.
Is dinner served at the sessions?
Yes, dinner is served at the start of each session at no cost. Dinner is a great time to break bread together and build connections with fellow entrepreneurs and business mentors.
Start:ME Program History
Who created the Start:ME Program?
The Start:ME program is a partner of the Emory University Start:ME program in Atlanta. The Start:Me model has established a proven track record of success.
Since 2013, the program has helped 52 micro-entrepreneurs start or grow a variety of businesses including tutoring assistance, cleaning services, driving school, event planning, legal services, and retail establishments.
90% of participating ventures are minority and women owned businesses.
Loan investments of over $120,000 have flowed into the target neighborhoods.
Visit Emory's site at www.startmeaccelerator.org.