As Marcus Lawrence’s cheesecake business expands, a program at Goodwill of North Georgia, in partnership with the UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, is providing him with the skills necessary to manage his growing company and staff.

Lawrence is one of 20 students enrolled in a program called Goodbiz, which combines Goodwill’s entrepreneurial training with leadership training from the Fanning Institute. It serves Athens-Clarke County residents from disadvantaged, often low-income backgrounds who may not have the same access to business training as other entrepreneurs. Since the partnership began last year Goodbiz has helped about 15 people launch or prepare to launch revenue-generating businesses.

Lawrence launched his business, Cheesecaketopia, in 2012. He established it as an LLC in 2015 and has since hired two part-time employees. As business increases, he’ll need to hire additional staff.

Through Goodbiz he is learning how to mange the growth of the business and how to lead his team of employees.

“Understanding what leadership is like in a business setting is completely different than what I expected leadership to be,” Lawrence said. “I am a father of six, so I have to lead, but it is a completely different concept when you are dealing with adults in a work environment.”

Goodbiz teaches a unique blend of skills to people at all stages of a business, thanks to the partnership with the Fanning Institute, said Kerry Tracey, director of workforce development for Goodwill of North Georgia.

“Partnering really helps bring in some components that aren’t just about lectures, facts, numbers, and the things that you have to do, those hard skills,” Tracey said. “It also brings in some of the empathy, character development, the leadership development, and really building confidence.”

One unique aspect of Goodbiz is its initial focus on self-esteem, said Richard McCline, a senior public service associate with the Fanning Institute.

“The theory is that if you don’t feel good about who you are, you are not going to be able to do much,” McCline said. “Before we jump in to how to start a business, we jump in to how you start yourself from the inside out.”

Another unique aspect, McCline said, is a focus on self-efficacy.

“If I make you feel good about who you are, the next step is to make you feel good about what you want to do,” said McCline.

Over the 15-week Goodbiz program, the Fanning Institute also covers topics such as leadership, values and conflict.

The conflict class made an impression on Lawrence.

“I realized that my concept of conflict was negative and it should not be,” Lawrence said. “I think that is going to help play a huge part in growing my business.”

Raisa Drew, a case manager for Goodwill of North Georgia, said a lot of participants talk about the program’s emphasis on business values.

“I’m hearing a lot of the participants, when they talk about their businesses, talk about what their values are and how that is affecting what they want their services to be,” Drew said.

Writer: Charlie Bauder

Contact: Richard McCline