Village Launch mentors say they get back as much as they give to entrepreneurs looking to grow their businesses in Greenville. During a recent Mentor Social, the energy pulsed through the room at Poe West as budding founders mingled with established dreamers.
Village Launch is a part of Mill Community Ministries. The program inspires, educates, and supports under-resourced entrepreneurs who live, work, worship, or serve communities on Greenville’s west side.
Jeanette Brewster is a photographer and web designer. She graduated from the 10-week Business Entrepreneur Academy (BEA) in 2019, but she stayed plugged in through photography and Village Launch events. These days, she runs the show as the Program Director. Brewster and Rhonda Rawlings, the Mill Ministries Neighborhood Engagement Director, hosted potential Village Launch mentors, program graduates, and applicants at the social.
Folks who answered the call for volunteers heard from a mentor who said the program has the power to be a life-changing experience for entrepreneurs and their families, but many mentors benefit from Village Launch just as much as the people they coach.
Bruce Plourde said he often leaves the sessions feeling charged and full of ideas to take back to his own business. He said everyone, no matter their role, offers something to the rest of the group.
Benjamin Austin recently moved back to Greenville where he grew up. He’s a commercial broker with SVN Blackstream, and he’s looking for ways to get involved in the community. Austin said he makes dreams come true in his job, and when he heard about Village Launch, he wanted to find out how he could make an impact.
Patrice Ajala said her life partner encouraged her to come to the event. Ajala is a retired sales executive who lives in the West End Historic District. While she may have decades of experience in sales, she applied to be a student in the Village Launch program after the social at Poe West.
Ajala’s vision for retirement is to build an online business selling her handmade specialty soaps, soap molds, bags, and masks. She knows she’ll need a social media presence to be successful, but she said she doesn’t even have a Facebook page. Ajala hopes to learn more about search algorithms and marketing strategies through the Village Launch program. “I need to know what I need to know,” she said.
Village Launch mentors can come from any industry or background. Two trained facilitators teach the curriculum, which cover topics such as marketing, money, and milestones.
Mentors dedicate a few hours a week to attend classes and meet up with their mentees. Most importantly, they share their experience, energy, and connections to help support entrepreneurs on their way up.
Relationships don’t end when the Village Launch program does. Many mentors provide support and share resources well past the 10-week mark.
The spirit of collaboration fostered during the program lives on, and the entrepreneurs find ways to support each other in growing their businesses. Village Launch hosts alumni events and Third Thursday Makers Markets where women and minority business owners can set up shop for free under tents outside Poe West. The energy of big dreamers pulses along with live music, food trucks, and a supportive community ready to show entrepreneurs they can change the world from Greenville.
You can support those dreamers by shopping at the makers market on the third Thursday of each month at Poe West. The market is open from 4pm-8pm. Want to see what it's all about? Check out our story showcasing a recent Third Thursday market.
Don’t forget, Village Launch still needs mentors. You can fill out the interest form at www.villagelaunch.org/mentor.