On a beautiful mid-November day, a group of Midlands educators took a walking tour of the burgeoning North Main business district. Hearing from local entrepreneurs about why they chose to locate in this area, these educators also learned about the skills and characteristics required to open a successful new business.
Called “How Entrepreneurs Change a Neighborhood,” the tour spotlighted owners of local businesses such as The War Mouth, Indah Coffee, Circa Barber Shop, and Amsterdam Lumber Company. Organized through the Midlands Education and Business Alliance (MEBA) and sponsored by Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company, this experience was a hands-on opportunity for area principals, administrators, and superintendents to learn how to help today’s students become tomorrow’s business leaders.
With the mission to foster collaboration between business and education, MEBA works to promote economic development by helping students make
a successful transition to adulthood with the skills needed to pursue their career goals. Working across Richland, Lexington, and Fairfield Counties, MEBA serves nine school districts, seven colleges and universities, and more than 100,000 students.
MEBA executive director Mary Snipes explains, “Experiential learning is ‘learning through reflection on doing.’ We love to design educator-business networking experiences to immerse the participant in the topic. Placing our participants in the field helps generate curiosity and clarity that adds value to the program.”
As part of the walking tour, DR Granger, owner of Circa Barbershop, shared his perspective and advice for high school students who want to open their own businesses:
“I would tell them to surround themselves with like-minded people. Don’t lose the vision of your goal. The world throws so many distractions at you, but if you can surround yourself with people who are also goal-oriented, you’ll have a better chance of success.”
He also noted: “Fear holds a lot of people back—fear of failure, fear of doing something different, fear of what your friends might say. But if you never jump for it, then it’s never going to happen.”
As Granger reflected on the vision and work it took to open a thriving new business, he fielded questions from the visiting educators on everything from how to choose a location, to marketing strategies, to appointment scheduling.
He also offered mentoring opportunities to interested students, providing them a chance to learn how to manage a business.
An ideal backdrop for exploring modern entrepreneurship in the city of Columbia, the area surrounding North Main Street (also referred to as NOMA, Cottontown, or Bellevue) is experiencing exciting new growth and development. This area north of Elmwood Avenue is home to several new businesses such as Curiosity Coffee Bar, Vino Garage, Studio 2LR, and is the projected location of many others, including CottonTown Brew Lab, Copper Barn, Cromer’s P-Nuts, and Revival.