With Start:ME, Emory looks to connect Atlanta’s minority communities with startup know-how

Meet five graduates of the program who are making things happen
Better Business

Illustration by Israel G. Vargas

Business incubator programs command a lot of attention—and dollars—with the promise that they’ll sow the seeds of future corporate empires. But many cater to a crowd that tends to be both white and male. One survey of leading U.S. incubators found that 80 percent of supported businesses were owned by men and only 23 percent were owned by minorities.

Not Emory University’s Start:ME. The “entrepreneur accelerator” focuses on small-business owners in communities like Clarkston, East Lake, and Atlanta’s Southside. The Goizueta Business School’s 14-week program aims to give entrepreneurs the skills, networks, and seed capital to develop scalable business.

“When these entrepreneurs start to realize how strong they are, that brings us a lot of joy,” says program director Brian Goebel. “We see them grow in front of our eyes.”

Here are five graduates who are making things happen:

Timeless Framework — East Lake
Lanard Atkins, a licensed optician, turned his hobby of collecting eyeglasses into a business and now rents specialty eyewear to fashion-conscious folks and television shows like NBC’s Constantine. His favorite pair: diamond-studded Cazal moonglasses from the early 1980s. Atkins estimates their current value at $3,500 and trekked to Germany to purchase them.

Grow with the Flow — Tucker
Twin brothers Roger and Reggie Ramos’s company uses a simple model: Homeowners allow portions of their yards to be converted into productive market gardens, which Grow with the Flow plants and tends. Under the brothers’ business model, homeowners receive a portion of the harvest, and the brothers sell the rest to farmers markets and area restaurants

Kathmandu’s Natural Dog Chew — Lilburn
Nepal native Deepak Bhandari is not your typical dog-treat designer. A chemistry PhD, Bhandari launched Kathmandu’s Natural Dog Chew following a visit to Nepal, where he learned about a cheese-based canine chew. The Tucker resident then transformed the chew into a natural dog treat and made his first sales on Amazon earlier this year. 

Saboor Construction — South Atlanta
After spending more than a decade as a licensed electrician, Musa Abdus-Saboor, a second-generation voltage expert, struck out on his own in 2016. His company repairs and maintains electrical systems ranging from panels to fire alarms and customized lighting for offices and industrial facilities. 

Carla’s Boutik — Southside
Founded by College Park resident Carla Bailey, Carla’s Boutik traces its roots to 2000, when the store was known as Carla’s Boutique Accessories Collection. Originally carrying silver jewelry from Quebec, it now offers “global infused style” from every continent but Antarctica, including jewelry humanely made from animal horns, bones, and shells.

This article appears in our June 2018 issue.