Food may be the love language of the Classic City. From staples to newly established restaurants, Athens is never short on good eats. So, in a town with a lively food scene, how can a small business stand out?
For Rashe Malcolm, chef and owner of Rashe’s Cuisine, the answer came in the form of the Contractor Academy, a training program for local business owners offered by the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC), a unit of Public Service and Outreach.
The Contractor Academy provides resources for small businesses, ranging from caterers to real estate developers, looking to work with larger corporations or government agencies. On Oct. 23, Malcolm joined 14 other business owners in the second of four sessions held in Clarke County. The day’s topic? Marketing and business development.
From cooking lessons to personalized meal prep, Malcolm understands that it’s not just her food that drives business. “The Contractor Academy has made me realize there’s a way I can present my services to enhance how I introduce my product, so people will look at it in a different light,” she said.
Over the course of six weeks, SBDC consultants helped contractors position their businesses to break into new markets and expand their client base. Sessions covered strategic planning and execution, financial readiness and scalable infrastructure.
The Contractor Academy is one of many SBDC resources helping local business owners grow their accounts. Bart Njoku-Obi, a consultant with the SBDC Office of Minority Business Development, explained, “The individuals here have the opportunity to come back and connect directly with our consultants to take the principles they’ve learned in the program and apply them.”
“I’m really changing my business, and a lot of it is through advice that I’ve been getting from the SBDC,” said Julie Lorenz, CEO of Olis, an Athens-based company that makes lab instruments called spectrophotometers. For Lorenz, the Contractor Academy refreshed her perspective and got her thinking beyond the day-to-day grind of running a business. “One of the most important lessons that these classes teach us is to make time to work on your business—not just in your business,” she said.
“Because I took this class, I don’t have to be just another restaurant. I don’t have to be just another caterer,” she said. “I can be an expert in this field, providing services that others, who didn’t come to this class and didn’t do the research, may not be able to tap into.”
The SBDC serves communities through 17 regional offices across the state, six of them in partnership with other University System of Georgia universities. The first Athens Contractor Academy was supported by the University of Georgia Office of the President, in collaboration with Athens-Clarke County Economic Development, Envision Athens and the Northeast Georgia Business Alliance.