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RISE Program

Welcome to The RISE Program! So, you are thinking about starting a new business? Or you have been in business less than two years? Running your own business is exciting and sometimes overwhelming and we want to make it as smooth as possible.

Attached is a program outline with many resources to assist a new business and we are honored to assist you.

Through the RISE Program, you will develop a business plan, which is a roadmap for your business; gain insight for financing and banking options; understand legal references; and overcome your fear of bookkeeping and taxes. All this and many other details that are required to make your new business a success.

All attendees must apply online. Classes are free, but participants must be pre-registered and approved to be guaranteed a space. Class size is limited to twelve individuals.

Apply Now

Program Overview

This eight-class program will introduce entrepreneurs and existing business owners to the concepts and practices that will give interested individuals the tools necessary for business success. The evening classes will be held at the Dennis Wicker Civic Center, 1801 Nash Street, Sanford, and will run from 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm. At the end of the program, each participant should have produced a basic small business plan, and will have the opportunity to present their plan and business concept to a team of business professionals.

For those participants who have not yet opened a brick and mortar location, there will be consideration for a small business grant assistance package. **There is no guarantee that a grant will be awarded**. If a participant is chosen, the winning business will receive up to a $5,000 reimbursable grant provided for rent and utilities (as funds are available), one annual Base Level membership to the Sanford Area Growth Alliance Chamber of Commerce, plus extensive marketing, and business support. Additional details will be provided at the class.

In order to qualify for grant funds, the selected business must locate within one of the following locations: Downtown Sanford 17-block district.

100% Attendance is mandatory for those interested in being eligible for the grant.

The RISE Program is an entrepreneur-development program presented by the Central Carolina Community College Small Business Center, Downtown Sanford, Inc, and the Sanford Area Growth Alliance Chamber of Commerce. Other partners may include Business Link NC, the Women's Business Center of NC and SCORE (Senior Core of Retired Executives).


The RISE program was a very valuable tool that guided me to take a deeper dive into all aspects of my business plan and helped set me up for success. The classes were very eye opening and thought provoking. I would highly recommend the program to anyone planning to or new to opening a business.

Cheryl Crist
Future Business Owner

I cannot say enough amazing things about the RISE program! Thanks to Terri Brown and the various business experts, I now have a solid business plan, knowledge and the confidence to finally start the business of my dreams. Through this program I gained the tools to open a sustainable business and met some great future business owners along the way! After working alongside fellow participants and hearing their business ideas, I’m even more excited to see Sanford continue to expand and thrive!

Porshia Wicker
Future Business Owner

The RISE program has assisted Angie to develop a business plan that truthfully represents the potential of her business. Consultants have been solicited, advice gathered and ideas tested - all with the help of the RISE program. Her business model has been reviewed, legal advice given, and insurance requirements discussed- all with the guidance of the RISE program. Staple items such as tax law, good book-keeping practices, and inventory control were presented during RISE class time. Class time often included the guidance from Lee County inspectors, the City of Sanford Chamber of Commerce, the North Carolina Secretary of State and small business lending agencies. The RISE program affords it students the access to a vast array of resources. Resources that, otherwise, maybe would have been missed.

With the help of the RISE program, my wife, Angie Mundy, is realizing her dream. She will be opening GiGi's Creations, a catering business in the old historic town hall of downtown Sanford. There are still a million things that need to be done before the doors of the business can open, but with the assistance of the RISE program, a million other things have already been marked off the list.

Jim Mundy
GiGi's Creations

I’m happy to sing the praises of the RISE program. It was truly a wonderful experience for me despite the physical limitations surrounding the pandemic. I was able to experience an authentic sense of belonging and community with like-minded, local business start-ups. The program encouraged me to set aside precious time each week to focus on my business goals and pushed me to do the necessary research to inform my choices going forward in this business adventure. I especially enjoyed the segments of the class work regarding marketing and financial planning. My greatest anxiety before the RISE program was related to digital marketing. Through many group work activities and presentations, I learned how I can use different avenues of digital marketing more intentionally to achieve specific goals. Terri is an excellent facilitator who is able to provide guidance and not get in the way of your own discoveries. The most beneficial element of the program for me was the access to LivePlan which is an excellent resource

Chelsea Fields
Eyelight Cafe & Comics

The RISE program has become a great starting point for me in launching our business. The RISE program helped me realize at an early stage that I needed to set goals for what I wanted my business to represent. I really enjoyed meeting the different types of business owners who had dreams of bringing their businesses to Sanford. Each person in the class inspired me to keep pushing and working toward my goals, because you are never too young or old to plan for the future of your business. From the class I was able to set 5 yr and 10 yr goals. The RISE program helped me to determine the profits and loss of our business and gave me great tools to use in the process.

We knew we wanted to make and produce candles and wax melts and see an income in order to help fund our clothing store and for the purchase of inventory needed to run it. We did not anticipate it becoming so successful.

Keiomi Fernandez
Kay's Fashion Boutique

RISE has taught me the quick ins and outs of how small businesses should work and has also opened my eyes to different ways of solving problems within my business! I got a lot out of the tax & accounting portion I feel like this will benefit me later!

Cassidy Hare
Lemon Springs Vinyl Queens

The RISE program took the overwhelming task of starting your own business and provided us a step-by-step plan for how to successfully achieve our goals. Each aspect of business, including marketing, financials, and legal considerations was broken down into weekly classes that made starting a business seem less daunting and more attainable.

Jan Badgett Smith
Seva Yoga

The thing I think of most from the RISE program was learning how important it is to tell your story. Taking the time to put together the origin story of 919 Service Group has helped me not only gain new customers, but has also allowed me to foster the relationships I have gained to make them returning customers.

Jasmine Bartoe
919 Service Group

RISE provided us with all of the necessary tools and information needed to understand what is required to start turning a dream idea into a business and a strong business plan.

Angel Mills and James Haynie
Phoenix Phyre

The most rewarding aspect of the RISE program experience was learning the essential steps required for operating a small business

Rebecca Love
With Love Boutique

We really enjoyed the RISE program and the section about bookkeeping and taxes stood out the most to us

DZ and Keona Carr
Flooded Screen Prints

The RISE program gave me some tools to be successful and the confidence to expand my business. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of this program

Akeashia Hooker
Hook and Kee Creations, LLC

What I found most valuable participating in the RISE program was all of the exposure to Sanford and Lee County’s resources. I feel fortunate to have been given the advice and expertise of all speakers and contributors, and am encouraged to know they will continue to cheer us on!

Luke and Maggie Cranford
High Cotton Couture

The participants were so friendly and I think we will all be each other’s biggest cheerleaders in this journey

Melissa Caddick
It’s Cheesy!

Class Syllabus


    January 31, 2024


    February 26, 2024, 6 – 9pm

    This session will be an overview of the program, an opportunity to speak with City/County zoning and inspections staff, and a tour of the Downtown Sanford District (transportation will be provided).

  • CLASS ONE: Starting a Business/Building a Plan

    February 28, 2024, 6 - 9pm

    This session offers an introduction to the program, the basics of starting a business, and how to put together your business plan. Discussions will include developing an entrepreneurial mindset and evaluating the feasibility of your business idea. You'll also discover the resources available to help you start and successfully operate your business. This seminar will teach you the important components of a business plan and help you lay the foundation for a winning plan. Discover how a business plan is used by potential lenders, the dos and don'ts of writing a plan, and the steps for making the process easy.

  • CLASS TWO: How to Find Your Customers (Market Research)

    March 4, 2024, 6 - 9pm

    Market research isn't just for startups; it's an important ongoing process for every small business. Developing a focused and effective marketing plan requires up-to-date market analysis. Discover the variety of market research tools that will give you critical information about your industry and customers. Get the data you need to test the feasibility of a new business, find the competition, and potential customers interested in your proposed product or service. (Business plan review)

  • CLASS THREE: Financing Your Business

    March 6, 2024, 6 - 9pm

    Financing continues to be a challenge for many small business owners. Get to the heart of business financing in this seminar that answers your questions. Explore the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of funding sources and how to choose the right one for your needs.

    This seminar will also include information about the importance of maintaining a good credit score, how to check your credit score, and how to build or repair your credit. (Business plan review)

  • CLASS FOUR: Marketing Your Business

    March 11, 2024, 6 - 9pm

    Marketing for the 21st Century small business is more dynamic and challenging than ever. Discover how to most effectively and efficiently use the many marketing tools available. Gain insights to understand and reach your customer, analyze your industry and business environment and differentiate between branding, advertising, and grassroots marketing techniques. Explore the components of an effective marketing plan in this comprehensive seminar. (Business plan review)

  • CLASS FIVE: Legal Considerations of Starting a Business

    March 18, 2024, 6 - 9pm

    This session will address the potential legal issues facing small business owners. Discussion will include business structure, licensing, zoning, protecting your business assets, and employer responsibilities. (Business plan review)

  • CLASS SIX: Basics of Bookkeeping and Understanding Financial Statements

    March 20, 2024, 6 - 9pm

    Gain a workable knowledge of how to properly record financial transactions for your business. Discover the three most important financial reports and how to use them to make the best-informed business decisions. (Business plan review)

  • CLASS SEVEN: Business Taxes

    March 25, 2024, 6 - 9pm

    Gain a solid understanding of taxes required for small business owners and develop the best tax strategy for your business. Become familiar with the latest tax forms and procedures for both state and federal taxes. Discover how everyday business decisions can have tax implications that can affect your bottom line. This seminar is important for both new and experienced business owners. (Business plan review)

  • CLASS EIGHT: Class Presentations and Graduation

    March 27, 2024, 6 - 9pm

    Participants will give a short presentation on their business idea and receive feedback on their plan. Graduation follows with certificates, photos, and press releases.

Participant Information & Guidelines

  1. RISE partners will award grant packages as funding allows, totaling up to $5,000 for the top business proposal(s). In order to qualify for grant funds, the selected business must locate in the locations listed in the program overview, and must not have already opened a brick and mortar location in Downtown Sanford.
  2. Statistics show that most new business failures are a result of the lack of business planning. MANDATORY attendance of the eight class program series, plus a written Business Plan, is required in order to be considered for the grant. Each applicant must be able to demonstrate that an actual business will be started, including the products or services to be provided.
  3. A reimbursable grant, up to $5,000 for rent and utilities, (as funding allows) will be awarded to the individual(s) who, in the opinion of the judges, demonstrates the business idea and plan most likely to result in a successful new business venture.
  4. In order to take advantage of the reimbursable grant, the business must open within 12 months of completion of the RISE program.
  5. To be eligible for the grant, the proposals should address one or more of the business needs:
    • Retail
    • Restaurant/Food/Beverage Service
    • Other Businesses that, in the opinion of the Review Committee, contribute to the overall economic vitality of Sanford-Lee County.
  6. Business proposals will be scored using several criteria - strength of business plan, experience, match with local needs, etc. Grants are competitive for up to $5,000 per business, and are required to meet the following requirements:
    • Retail requires a minimum of one (1) full time and one (1) part time employee, and is open to the public 35 hours or more per week.
    • Restaurant/Food/Beverage requirements are minimum (1) full time and one (1) part time employee, and open to the public at least five (5) days per week.
    • Other business requirements are a minimum of (1) full time and one (1) part time employee, and is open to the public 5 days per week.
  7. THE DECISION OF THE JUDGES IS FINAL. Judges will be an Independent Review Committee.
  8. Attendance is mandatory for all classes to be eligible, including the business plan presentation.
  9. Each grant recipient agrees to meet at least monthly with a designated "mentor" to share information, go over the books, etc. Mentors will be SCORE or Chamber Member volunteers, unless otherwise approved by Review Committee.
  10. Each grant will provide up to $5,000 rent and utilities, reimbursable upon presentation of receipts at the end of each month, as long as the business owner continues to participate with the business counselor, and maintains regular and consistent open hours.
  11. If located Downtown Sanford, selected businesses will be required to participate in downtown activities, including special events and extended hours campaign. In exchange, DSI and the Chamber of Commerce organizations will provide additional marketing through local media for the business at no charge.
  12. If the business closes less than six months after opening, the grant recipient will be required to repay the entire grant amount received to Downtown Sanford, Inc.


Downtown Sanford, Inc
Kelli Laudate, Executive Director
(919) 718-4659 ext. 1400

Central Carolina Community College
Small Business Center
Terri Brown, SBC Coordinator
(919) 718-7558

Sanford Area Growth Alliance (SAGA)
Susan Gomez, Chamber Director
(919) 774-8439 ext. 1502