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,” says 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,” says Brandy Walker, Fanning Institute public service faculty. “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 carrying out a business vision and working with others to grow, 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 says. “Her work made the curriculum much more digestible for the participants and much more dynamic.”

Scott Mitchell, owner of Travis Jean Emporium, an art gallery and gift shop in Macon, credited the academy with helping him lead and 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 says. “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.

Since going through the academy, Mitchell’s business has grown.

“I had 15 months of straight revenue increase from the previous year until June 2019,” says Mitchell. “Going through the academy helped me pursue avenues that have helped expand my business.”

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 says. “The academy helped me identify weaknesses and get people on board to help me in those areas. It helped me 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 that, her membership 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 says. “I have these connections now that I can reach out to and talk to. We’re all in this together.”

Moving forward, NewTown Macon will continue to utilize the Fanning Institute’s curriculum in teaching future classes of the entrepreneurial leadership academy.

“We were focused only on having qualified loan candidates, but backing up and adding leadership development to the curriculum ended up being a very valuable component of the program,” says Rogers. “Having the Fanning Institute’s expertise proved invaluable.”

Fanning Institute faculty and staff have the background and experience to design customized leadership programs for a wide array of organizations and communities, said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute.

“Our faculty and staff can adapt and tailor our leadership curriculum to fit any organization’s or community’s needs,” Bishop says. “We are pleased to partner with NewTown Macon and help them build a stronger business community in downtown Macon.”

For more information on designing a leadership curriculum for your organization, contact Brandy Walker.