Program Report: Geraud Staton and Matthew Kane – Launch Durham and Launch Raleigh

Launch Durham and Launch Raleigh are all about helping people turn their brilliant, impassioned products or services into profitable, gratifying businesses.  As an example, Past District Governor Matthew Kane related the story of Chad’s Food Truck.  Chad made the best chicken sandwiches that won him loyal patrons and friends.  But Chad wasn’t making much money—until he turned to Launch Raleigh that was founded by the North Raleigh Rotary club two years ago.

A conversation Kane had with the leader of a non- profit about Southeastern Raleigh, a largely African American community with under-developed resources and little entrepreneurial activity, was the catalyst for this program.  Research led Kane to Launch Detroit, a program developed by Rotarians in District 6400 who wanted to find ways to help business women and men grow their businesses.

Like the Detroit model, Launch Raleigh consists of four components: business training, mentoring, networking and micro-loans of $500-2,500.  Classes last for eight weeks.  Meals are served before each class.  Three hours a week is spent in the classroom, and participants are expected to put in at least five hours on homework.  So far, Launch Raleigh has graduated three classes totaling fifty-seven students.  Typically, the number of applicants has been twice or three times the number of students accepted—average class size has been twenty individuals.  The number of applications for this fall’s class has exploded as word has gotten out through info-sessions and social media.

In addition to North Raleigh Rotary, Launch Raleigh has other partners.  Wake Tech provides instructors.  Shaw University provides class space.  Carolina Small Business Development Fund assists with arranging micro-loans.  Volunteer mentors and networking are tailored to fit the needs of students.  Every two weeks, four students and two mentors meet in a coffee shop or other comfortable space to discuss successful entrepreneurship and the challenges and opportunities facing them.

Kane’s son has created a website (www.launchmycity.org) that tells the story of Rotarians’ efforts since 2013 to create sustainable businesses in stressed economic areas and provides a template for cities other than Detroit or Raleigh or Durham to grow and nurture entrepreneurship.

Club member Geraud Staton joined Kane to tout the importance of growing entrepreneurship especially in communities where local businesses are largely absent or not thriving.  An early club entrepreneurial fellow (the brainchild of club member Christoper Gergen),  Geraud is executive director of the Helius Foundation that is developing Launch Durham.  Check the foundation’s website (www.theheliusfoundation.org) to learn more about Launch Durham and how we can help.

Submitted by Allen Cronenberg

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