Free program helps entrepreneurs get started with new business

CHARLOTTE — Nikki Pounds’ human resources company, Unequivocally, is thriving after she found a lifeline in the National Institute of Minority Economic Development.

“In March of 2020, the world turned upside down with the pandemic and I had to figure out what I was going to do next,” Pounds said. “Because I lost every corporate client that I had, but I was not going to give up.”

Pounds learned to navigate finances, legal requirements and more through the Institute’s Women’s Business Center and Gamechangers Program.

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“How to set up your business entity the proper way,” Pounds said. “Understanding what it takes to become a small business enterprise, a minority business enterprise, a woman business enterprise. What the city, the resources it takes to get those certifications.”

In a new move, the Institute’s programs will now all be available under one roof at UNC Charlotte inside the Portal Building, including its community development financial institution.

“So, out of 2,000 CDFI’s nationwide we have five African American-led CDFI’s in North Carolina -- five, that’s all,” said Kevin J. Price, CEO of the Institute. “And one of them will be on UNC Charlotte’s campus.”

Price has a message for those who have entrepreneurial aspirations.

“We can support businesses from the concept stage all the way through scaling and everything in between there,” Price said. “We are available to help them, and we can connect them to corporations that are ready to buy their products. We can help them with their business plan, and we can help them identify capital for growth as well.”


Pounds said it made all the difference, doubling her business growth this year, and the biggest benefit is that the program didn’t cost her anything.

“And it’s all free, which is amazing, which is why I say pay it forward,” Pounds said. “After you scale your business, pay it forward and find out what you can do for them, as well.”

(Watch the video below: Target spending over $2B with Black-owned businesses by 2025)

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