How GMEN is Driving Value for Georgia’s Micro Enterprises with Guest Angela Walton

Georgia Micro Enterprise Network or GMEN was one of two Georgia organizations to receive the SBA’s community navigator grant in the pilot round of funding. On this week’s episode of The Playbook, host Mark Collier, area director for the UGA Small Business Development Center, sits down with Angela Walton, GMEN’s hub officer leading the program implementation.

Transcription:

Mark Collier:
Welcome to The Playbook, Angela.

Angela Walton:
Thank you, Mark. So great to be here.

Mark Collier:
All right. Well this is an exciting time to be a Georgia business owner, especially a micro business owner with the GMEN on the scene. But before we get into that, kind of tell me a little bit about yourself and your background.

Angela Walton:
Sure. Well, Mark, I am homegrown native Atlantan.

Mark Collier:
One of the few and the proud.

Angela Walton:
One of the few and the proud. You don’t get to meet very many Georgia peaches, but my background, my trade by engineering, electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee. Go Vols. And it’s always interesting how you navigate yourself to a certain area of business. I always worked in engineering in factories. Over time, I learned that I can help people take complex situations and make them easy to understand.

Mark Collier:
I like it.

Angela Walton:
And most engineers don’t do that. So that’s how I morphed into the business of grant writing of real estate development of helping other entrepreneurs.

Mark Collier:
Fantastic. All right. So NAVGA. I know that’s an acronym, so kind of give me some background on what NAVGA stands for.

Angela Walton:
Absolutely. It’s a way of navigating Georgians through business entrepreneurship and that’s really what the tagline is all about. And so our entire focus is assisting entrepreneurs and microbusinesses in starting, growing, scaling and having their businesses thrive here in the state of Georgia.

Mark Collier:
Well, fantastic. So now that we’ve kind of identified what NAVGA is, what should people know about NAVGA’s mission and vision?

Angela Walton:
Thank you for asking. So our sole vision is to assist again, micro enterprises as well as entrepreneurs to get the information that usually folks in underrepresented areas have time accessing. And that’s the technical assistance that they might have trouble accessing or understanding. It includes so many different areas, but our entire goal is to hold your hand through that process, to coach you through that process, to educate you through that process so that you can grow your business and have your dreams come true if that’s what you want to do in an area of business.

Mark Collier:
No, that makes perfect sense. And we share the same mission, what we do at the UJAS BDC, because we understand just as you do that it’s not about just how many businesses you can put into play, how many business can start, but how many businesses are sustainable. How many businesses will survive the long haul where they can provide jobs yes and provide to deliver economic development to the communities. That’s what it’s all about in my opinion.

Angela Walton:
Absolutely. And Mark, I have to tell you, I’m so grateful that you are a partner with the SBDCs. We have many partners. But because of your help, we’re able to get around the state and help even more people.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely. Well, that’s what we’re here to do. we’re both public servants who are here to serve the Georgia small business community. All right. So you mentioned us as a partner organization, talk about some of your other partner organizations and how they’re helping you guys deliver that value that you want.

Angela Walton:
Absolutely. So we have six organizations that we work with around the state. One of them is Southwest Georgia United. They’re actually located in south Georgia in Cordele. They are a community development financial institution, which means they have access to capital. And they can help anyone around the state of Georgia, no matter what city or county you’re in. Also Albany community together, another organization that helps with accessing capital. A number of our folks, we have the Alan Entrepreneurial Institute, which is the mind behind Stone Crest mall, the New Black Wall Street.

Mark Collier:
The New Black Wall Street. Yes, I’ve been in contact with them to deliver some of our services as well. Great organization.

Angela Walton:
Absolutely, and I thank you. Yes, they are. We also work with Operation Hope all about financial well-being. We work with the Russell Innovation Center for entrepreneurs, it’s actually where GMEN is headquartered. Hundreds of stakeholders of color and diversity. We work with the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Again, being diverse, getting to underrepresented communities is what we’re about. And then finally Invest Atlanta, which is the economic development arm for the city of Atlanta.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely. Yeah. I’m very familiar with Invest Atlanta. We do work with them as well. So again, it’s all about all of our organizations coming together for the betterment of Georgia’s small business community. All right. So let’s get a bit more granular. What kind of technical assistance is available for small business owners when they come to you?

Angela Walton:
Yeah. So the technical assistance, and can I define technical assistance? We use that word a lot. And what it is, it’s the support, it’s the resources. It’s that one-on-one counseling. It’s the education behind some of these tenants that I’m going to talk to you about. One is the business development. Do you have a business plan? What are your HR systems? Your business policies. We also will help people with marketing and advertising. Social media platforms, your website. Also information technology is something that I just spoke to with one of your partners. You might have a website, but now you need to deal with cybersecurity. You need to talk about that. Contracts and procurement. Definitely our relationship with Invest Atlanta is all about certifying businesses to have contracts phenomenal with the city of Atlanta, whether it’s state local education, government, whatever we want you to have those contracts. Also strategic business planning, business growth, disaster planning. Succession planning, exit planning. Sometimes the business has to close and move on.

Mark Collier:
Yeah. There are life cycles in businesses.

Angela Walton:
There are life cycles. We need to talk about that. Financial, whether that’s accounting, bookkeeping, access to capital, and also legal. Your contracts, what are your business certifications? What are your intellectual properties? So those are some of the subjects that we handle and work with business owners on.

Mark Collier:
Okay. Well, fantastic. Seems like you take a full 360 degree view.

Angela Walton:
We try.

Mark Collier:
Of the business owners and seeing what they need. Matching services to meet their needs. Phenomenal. So what does the application process look like for let’s say a small business owner, he hears what you’re saying today. It all sounds good. What are those first steps that he or she needs to take?

Angela Walton:
Absolutely. The first thing we want you to go to www.nav-ga.org. Go to that website.

Mark Collier:
Scroll that website, address the bottom—

Angela Walton:
But what you’re going to do is you’re going to go to that website. You’re going to read about all of those areas that I just talked to you about. You’re going to read about our partners and you’re going to decide, okay. I think I want to take this item, take this item, we’re going to ask you to register on that site. And when you register on that site, we’re going to ask you some information. And we’re going to ask you have you started your business? How old is your business? Maybe even your demographic, because we’re all about helping underrepresented and underserved communities. And you’ll fill that information out. And then within three to five business days, you’re going to hear from one of our counselors. And we’re going to get you started on a roadmap of whatever your desires are and making sure they’re attainable, making sure that’s what you really want to do.

Mark Collier:
So that first meeting is more like our discovery meeting. It’s more like a diagnostic kind of sit around. You kind of gather what their goals, challenges, and pain points are and then kind of align your services to best meet their needs.

Angela Walton:
Absolutely, it’s an assessment. It’s a self assessment. And then when you sit in front of us, it’s an assessment that we go in together.

Mark Collier:
Okay. Well, fantastic. All right. So how can viewers kind of stay connected or ask additional questions if they have, or questions of you?

Angela Walton:
Thanks for asking. Again, go to our website. www.nav-ga.org. Also bookmark that. And we are on social media platforms. We’re on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Keep in contact. We also have a weekly live newsletter where we talk about opportunities all around the state. Free resources. And we have guest speakers about all of these different tenants of what people need, and we have conversations. So tune into us weekly.

Mark Collier:
All right. Well, fantastic. You have to add me to your list of guest experts. I would love to come in.

Angela Walton:
Absolutely. We can’t wait to have you.

Mark Collier:
All right. Well, fantastic. All right, Angela. Final motivational message that you have to encourage all entrepreneurs out here?

Angela Walton:
I tell you, I thought about this and it’s something that I have to tell myself every day. Keep dreaming. Write the business down. Write it on the wall. Connect with someone who is a subject matter expert. Educate yourself. Connect yourself. Be willing to be coached and just do something today. Start something today towards your goals and toward being in that realm of driving your business. I would like to share with you. You didn’t ask me how much does this cost.

Mark Collier:
All right. How much does this cost business owners? Drum roll.

Angela Walton:
Drum roll, please. It costs you your dedication. It costs you your commitment to your dreams and what you want your business. Out of your pocket, it costs you nothing. It is free. This program is around for two years to receive this free technical assistance from subject matter experts. So I just encourage everyone to look us up.

Mark Collier:
I will do it. I will have the website scrolled. I will encourage all small business owners in Georgia to reach out to GMEN. Angela Walton, GMEN hub officer. I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy day to come in and kind of share the details of your program and how you guys are delivering great value to Georgia businesses.

Angela Walton:
Thank you. Can I share one more thing?

Mark Collier:
Sure.

Angela Walton:
We’ve been doing this for 25 years.

Mark Collier:
I love it.

Angela Walton:
Isn’t that awesome? So we’re good at what we do and we want to keep helping folks.

Mark Collier:
Fantastic. Thank you.

Angela Walton:
Thank you.


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