Start:ME Spartanburg Wraps Up 4th Cohort

May 7, 2020 at 12:46 pm

In a season marked by a destructive tornado and the COVID-19 pandemic, 15 entrepreneurs are prepared to deliver a needed dose of commerce to the city of Spartanburg’s Northside community.

The University of South Carolina Upstate is pleased to announce the completion of the fourth cohort of Start:ME Spartanburg, an intensive 14-week business accelerator offered annually for free to aspiring entrepreneurs seeking to provide products or services to the Northside community.

A partnership between USC Upstate’s George Dean Johnson, Jr. College of Business and Economics (The George) and Spartanburg’s Northside Development Group (NDG), Start:ME Spartanburg has supported more than 50 entrepreneurs and awarded $60,000 in peer-selected loan investments to benefit the Northside community since 2017.

“We are very excited to recognize and celebrate the 15 Start:ME Spartanburg entrepreneurs who worked so hard these past 14 weeks,” said Brian Brady, director of USC Upstate’s GreenHouse Business Incubator and an instructor at The George. 

“We received more than 100 applications for this cohort,” Brady added. “That’s the largest number we’ve ever received. We’d especially like to thank the mentors who gave so much of their time and expertise to support our entrepreneurs this year.”

This year’s participants were:

•    Annie Foster, owner of Faces N More, a face and body salon.
•    Adia Herbert, owner of Mane Tame, a wig cleaning service. 
•    Tenisha Hackett, owner of Breakfast Buffet, a breakfast restaurant. 
•    John Johnson, owner of One in the Bucket Mobile Detailing, a mobile car detailing service.
•    Jaleesa Drummond, owner of Simply Elegant Events, an event planning business. 
•    Cecily Baker, owner of Be Patient Caregiving, an in-home health care company. 
•    Rocky Watson, owner of Red Carpet Car Detailing, a mobile car detailing service.
•    Jasmine Tinsley, owner of Serenity Health and Wellness, an integrative women’s wellness care provider. 
•    Chrishema Leggett, owner of Lotus Creations Co., a maker of natural soaps and candles. 
•    Ashonte Wofford, owner of ANW Fitness, a Zumba and fitness studio. 
•    Nicole Epps and Angelica Foster, owners of Ambishon Academy, a health care training provider. 
•    Rita Mims, owner of Breath of Life, a provider of CPR, health and wellness training.
•    Roshelle Carree, owner of Faith Hands, a hair braiding service. 
•    Kendra Lyles, owner of Red Chair Hair Studio, a mobile hairstylist. 

Three of the businesses will each receive up to $5,000 in peer-based loan funds to help them grow. The loan recipients, who were announced virtually on Saturday, May 2, were Cecily Baker with Be Patient Caregiving, Rita Mims with Breath of Life and Jaleesa Drummond of Simply Elegant Events.

Drummond was also selected for the Best Pitch Award. Angelica Foster and Nicole Epps with Ambishion Academy were chosen as the winners of the inaugural Community Impact Award.

“Start:ME Spartanburg is forging small businesses that anchor the local economy,” said Lekesa Whitner, support services manager for NDG. “I’m excited about our graduating class. These businesses will continue to energize the Northside community with human activity, production, consumption, exchange and distribution of goods and services.”

Program participants took part in weekly sessions focused on helping them develop critical entrepreneurial skills. They were mentored by a group of 30 local business leaders from Milliken & Co., Johnson Development, American Credit Acceptance, the City of Spartanburg, TD Bank, USC Upstate, the United Way of the Piedmont and Start:ME Spartanburg alumni companies. 

Other local partners that played critical roles in supporting this year’s crop of entrepreneurs included Northside Voyagers, Cleveland Academy of Leadership and Community Works SC.       

“During the past four years, I have seen more than 50 entrepreneurs graduate from the Start:ME Spartanburg microbusiness accelerator,” said Dr. Elise Harvey, assistant professor of marketing for USC Upstate. “The diligence, perseverance and dedication demonstrated by the Start:ME 2020 entrepreneurs in pursuing business ownership and success in turbulent times is unsurpassed. I have no doubt that these businesses will impact the Northside community and the larger Spartanburg community in remarkable ways.” 

For more information on Start:ME Spartanburg, please visit

Start:ME Spartanburg Impact Stats & Facts

•    53 micro-entrepreneurs representing 37 different micro-business ventures 
•    73% women
•    99% minority-owned
•    $60,000 peer-selected loan investments awarded
•    More than 50 Spartanburg business leaders serving as mentors/coaches