If you have been an entrepreneur long enough, there will be a time when you will realize you can use some coaching. Maybe sales have dropped off a bit, your marketing is not creating leads, or your hiring decisions are not going the way you planned. These scenarios are normal as every business has ebbs and flow. If you feel this is happening, you might need a mastermind. Someone who can walk you through the entrepreneurial craziness, and even connect you with others who can help. Lucky for you, Atlanta has many opportunities for this. Without further delay, here are five groups that provide coaching and experienced mentors to help you navigate those unpredictable small business waters.
This Georgia-based nonprofit organization has been around Atlanta’s small business ecosystem for nearly two decades. The ABA provides a forum for entrepreneurs to network, exchange ideas, and form partnerships. Members of this group can expect weekly meetings at The Georgian Club near Cobb Galleria to network and receive education on business principles. The group also gets together to participate in community service projects around the city. If you are in the Cobb area and are looking to build a tribe of go-to entrepreneurs, the ABA may be the best bet.
The Atlanta Tech Village began in 2012 after David Cummings sold his marketing automation firm, Pardot. He bought the sprawling complex in midtown, and from there created a place where technology entrepreneurs could come to work, mingle, and learn. The Atlanta Tech Village is more than just a coworking space, as startups housed at the complex have access to a variety of mentors and advisors. The Atlanta Tech Village hosts many events, but two of their hallmarks are Pitch Practice and Startup Chowdown. Pitch Practice allows aspiring entrepreneurs to pitch their business ideas and receive feedback. Startup Chowdown is a networking dinner event that happens right before so aspiring entrepreneurs can mingle with established business mentors. Are you still putting together your business plan and need some advice (or a place to work)? You are bound to run into a mastermind at the Atlanta Tech Village.
SCORE Atlanta is a nonprofit resource partner of the Small Business Administration. If you are a little strapped for cash and do not have the funds for group memberships, SCORE may be the perfect solution. SCORE holds regular no or low-cost business workshops that address issues such as starting a business, creating a business plan, business accounting, and other relevant entrepreneurial topics. In addition to workshops, SCORE also offers small business owners the opportunity to work with a free mentor. Owners can receive confidential business advice from a volunteer mentor face-to-face, at a SCORE mentoring center, or online. This is a great way to meet someone who cares about helping small business owners without having to break the bank.
The Emory Goizueta Business School partnered with community-based nonprofits to deliver a 14-week business training program for local entrepreneurs called Start: ME. The first location was in Clarkston in 2013 and has since grown to include East Lake and South Atlanta. This program is a one-stop-shop for comprehensive business learning. Participants receive business training, mentor support, and early-stage financing. The curriculum itself covers business planning, accounting, legal structures, marketing, customer experiences, and funding. According to their website, 89 percent of the owners who participated are still actively running their businesses. Also, the group lists the contact information of all Start: ME alums so those interested can connect with them. So, even if you cannot participate in the program, you can still leverage these contacts.
Similar to the Atlanta Tech Village, TechSquareLabs is a coworking space. However, they also have a purpose in being a place where entrepreneurs can receive coaching, mentorship, and guidance. Entrepreneurs have access to resources like Google for Entrepreneurs, business building services, and benefits from Amazon Web Services and Microsoft BizSpark. TechSquareLabs also hosts regular meetups, startup events, community lunches, and pitch events. Whether you are looking for an accomplished mentor that can steer you in the right direction, or an opportunity to hone your business pitch to receive funding, TechSquareLabs provides multiple avenues for small business coaching.
It is true that two heads are better than one. Having an accomplished mentor (or group of mentors) can help you avoid common small business pitfalls, and reach success faster than on your own. Getting out there to network is not easy, but there are so many “business masterminds,” available to help in this city that it is worth it to make an effort. The first step is knowing where to find them, and the above list gives you a starting point of where to look. Good luck, and be sure to take advantage of all the help this city has to offer.