Find answers to common questions about the application process,
the community ties of Start:ME businesses, the types of businesses that are eligible, and the program itself
Application and Selection
How many applications does Start:ME receive?
Between 60 and 100 applications in each community.
What makes an application strong?
Start:ME is looking for promising small business owners with a passion for their business/idea and a strong tie to the local community – living, working, and/or providing valuable products or services to community members. Strong applicants clearly and thoroughly outline their business and/or idea, commitment to their business, and tie to the local community.
When do applications close?
Applications for the Winter 2023 program close on October 10, 2022.
What is the selection process?
All applications are reviewed by multiple people, from both the Start:ME team and our local community partner(s). 24 finalists are invited to participate in virtual group interviews. 15-18 are selected to participate in each community program.
Why does Start:ME ask for demographic information?
Start:ME collects demographic information from all entrepreneurs that apply to the program. This information is essential for securing funding so that the program can be delivered to all participants free of charge. Start:ME values inclusivity and respects your confidentiality.
Start:ME is delivered by Emory University's Goizueta Business School in partnership with local nonprofit organizations. Emory University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, ethnic or national origin, gender, genetic information, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and veteran's status.
Is there an age restriction?
All applicants must be 18 years of age when the program starts in January.
Does my credit score/history factor into the program?
No, credit score/history is not considered for admission to the program nor for peer-selected grants. Credit is discussed as part of the curriculum for educational purposes only.
I applied to Start:ME previously and was not selected, can I apply again this year?
Yes, Start:ME welcomes applications from those that were not selected in past years. We encourage applicants to explain how they have further developed their business. Each year, our cohorts have included entrepreneurs not selected in previous years.
I have limited computer access, how can I apply?
Start:ME’s application is online and mobile-friendly. If you do not have access to a computer or cell phone, please reach out to your local coordinator to discuss other options.
What can I do now to get ready to launch or grow my businesses?
The Start:ME resources page (startmeatl.org/resources) lists many tools, upcoming events, and support programs. You can also sign-up for our monthly newsletter, which includes a number of upcoming events for entrepreneurs.
Which communities does Start:ME serve?
Start:ME is a place-based program, serving entrepreneurs who live in, work in, and/or provide valuable products to the local community. Start:ME operates in three metro Atlanta communities – Clarkston, East Lake area, and Southside Atlanta. Applicants should apply to the one community to which they have the strongest connection. To learn more about each of these communities, please visit startmeatl.org/communities.
I have no connection to the community, am I eligible?
Entrepreneurs with no tie to community are not eligible. If you are not eligible, please see the Start:ME resources page at startmeatl.org/resources for tools, trainings, and other organizations that can help you with your business.
Do I need to live in the community (Clarkston, East Lake area, Southside)?
No, however all selected entrepreneurs must have another strong tie to the community – working there, providing needed products/services to community residents, etc.
What does Start:ME mean by a business that benefits the local community?
Start:ME works with for-profit businesses across all industries – HVAC repair, electrical, art, fashion, catering, farming, and more. It is not necessary to have a social enterprise or nonprofit model to benefit the local community.
The selection committee is looking for an explanation about how your business or idea helps community members, for example by providing a space for neighbors to gather, employment/training opportunities for residents, products that are difficult to find locally, services that neighbors desire but can't find locally, etc.
What types of businesses are eligible to apply?
Start:ME is looking for business owners who want to learn business skills and build their business network. The program serves many stages of small businesses, from clearly defined business ideas looking to launch to operational businesses looking to expand or grow, across all industries. Meet program alumni via the Start:ME Shopping Guide to get a feel for the businesses we have served.
Where can I see the businesses Start:ME has worked with in the past?
Start:ME has served over 350 microbusinesses to date. Visit the Start:ME Shopping page (startmeatl.org/shop) to see a list of the entrepreneurs that have graduated previous years' programs.
What size of businesses are you looking for?
Most of the businesses that go through Start:ME are considered microbusinesses, meaning they have 1-5 employees (including the owner), have some sales/revenue, and oftentimes have other indicators of building their business (incorporation, employees/contractors, significant time commitment, etc).
Does my business need to be up and running?
No. Start:ME serves many stages of small businesses. If you are applying with a business idea, be as focused and detailed as possible in explaining your concept/idea, especially any steps you've taken to pilot the idea (such as selling to friends & family or participating in markets).
I only have an idea, am I eligible?
Yes. If you’re applying with an idea (or multiple ideas), you should focus on only one and explain it as clearly and succinctly as possible.
May I apply with more than one business?
No. Please only apply with one business. Explain it as clearly and succinctly as possible.
Does my business need to be profitable?
Does my business need to have sales?
No. Start:ME works with businesses that are in the idea or pre-launch stage along with those that have sales and are looking to grow. That said, most of the businesses that we have worked with do have some sales when they apply.
Does my business need to be incorporated?
No. Incorporation is not required to participate in the program and some applicants are not incorporated upon starting Start:ME.
What about nonprofits?
97% of Start:ME alumni operate for-profit businesses. The program is geared towards for-profits, particularly financials and fundraising, and does not cover grants or grant writing. Nonprofits that sell products or services to generate a majority of their revenue (funding) are encouraged to apply.
If I have never started a business before, am I eligible?
Yes. You do not need to have prior entrepreneurial experience to apply. Please share relevant professional, educational, or life experiences that help demonstrate why you (and your partners if applicable) are a great fit for this business. For example, if you are launching a food business, tell us about learning to cook at your grandmother’s feet, past work in food services, and/or your personal passion for the kitchen.
Are home-based businesses eligible?
Yes, most of the businesses Start:ME works with are run out of the business owner’s home. If you have an office or location outside of the home, that's great too!
Do you work with franchises or multi-level marketing businesses?
Franchise businesses or multi-level marketing businesses are not eligible for Start:ME. Please contact your program coordinator if you have questions about your eligibility.
What is the cost of the program?
Start:ME is free for all selected entrepreneurs. Participants are required to attend all sessions. Your tuition is your time.
Do I need to attend every session?
Yes. Start:ME is an intense program that relies on peer-learning and mentorship coaching. The curriculum builds on the previous weeks and relationships take time to grow.
I have a business partner, do we both have to attend all of the sessions?
No, both business partners do not have to attend all the sessions. However, one primary participant must attend all the sessions. Business partners are not allowed to switch in and out week to week. The partner who will attend sessions, if selected, should complete and submit the application.
When and where are sessions delivered?
This year, the Start:ME program will run from late January through April. The program will be hybrid - sessions will alternate between in-person and virtual weekly. Entrepreneurs will be expected to watch prerecorded materials before the sessions begin and complete accompanying session assignments. Sessions take place on the same weeknight evening each week - Tuesday for East Lake, Wednesday for Clarkston, and Thursday for Southside Atlanta. As a program of Emory University, Start:ME adheres to Emory University's Rights and Responsibilities. Learn more here. Additionally, we follow guidance set by host organizations and our community partners for in-person sessions.
Due to an increase in the community spread of COVID-19, we are requiring all Start:ME program participants to be vaccinated, with exceptions only for medical or religious exemptions. You will be asked to provide proof of vaccination during the program. As of September 2022, FDA Approved or Authorized Vaccines include Pfizer-BioNTech (2 doses), Moderna (2 doses), Novavax (2 doses), and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (1 dose). Boosters are strongly recommended. Please refer to the CDC’s website for the latest vaccine guidance.
Participants seeking a vaccine exemption will be asked to affirm that they have a medical condition or sincerely held religious practice, belief or observance that entitles them to an exemption from the vaccine requirement. Start:ME is a program of Emory University. Emory may ask for information supporting the basis for the exemption, which participants would need to provide in order to continue in the program.
During in-person sessions, masks are optional but strongly encouraged. Participants who have a medical or religious exemption will be asked to follow increased safety protocols during all in-person gatherings, including masking.
If you test positive for COVID-19, have been recently exposed, or exhibit any symptoms, we will ask that you not attend any in-person gatherings. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 may return with a mask after a five-day quarantine. Refer to the CDC’s website for full list of symptoms here. In-person gatherings may change to virtual depending on COVID rates and guidance.
How will Start:ME respond to evolving COVID-19 conditions?
Start:ME is delivered by Emory University's Goizueta Business School in partnership with local nonprofit organizations. Sessions hosted on Emory University’s campus are subject to the university’s requirements at that time. The university may change to a stricter operating status depending on community conditions. Current guidance is available here.
What level of English proficiency is needed to be able to attend the sessions?
Business trainings, materials, and mentorship are delivered in English. Applicants must have working comfort in English (both speaking and writing). Start:ME is not able to provide translators or materials in other languages.