Lowcountry Local First's Community Business Academy has been empowering and equipping Charleston area entrepreneurs for five years | Photo provided

Almost 300 entrepreneurs living in the Charleston area grow businesses with skills learned from Lowcountry Local First’s (LLF) free community business courses taught in English and Spanish. 

Now, area residents can benefit from business management classes taught in Portuguese thanks to LLF’s expansion of its Community Business Academy. Twenty-five people are expected to attend classes taught in Portuguese this fall, said LLF’s communications director Jordan Amaker. 

“We’ll be launching our first cohort of the Community Business Academy offered in Portuguese later this month — which is exciting,” Amaker told the Charleston City Paper. “It will complement what’s already being offered twice a year in English and Spanish and help us reach a new group of entrepreneurs. It will largely target the booming Brazilian population in Goose Creek and help spur independent business ownership and growth.”

Although fall classes have started, entrepreneurs can submit an inquiry form any time of year to participate in LLF’s 12-week program offered twice a year in various locations through South Carolina’s Lowcountry region. 

LLF launched its Community Business Academy as part of its Good Enterprises initiative in 2019 and started offering classes taught in Spanish in 2021. More than 130 businesses are run by graduates of the academy, with over 75% identifying as female and almost 90% identifying as a racial minority, according to a 2023 impact report. To learn whether courses are a good fit for you, visit goodenterprises.org and submit the program inquiry form. 

The business academy is quickly becoming an essential tool to equip diverse business owners in the Lowcountry’s Brazilian community, said Gleysi Rauel of Goose Creek, who is a real estate agent serving as an LLF community leader.

“Brazilians by nature are entrepreneurs,” he said. “They want to grow and make a life for themselves. And as the Brazilian community grows and thrives, partners like the business academy have become important allies in this journey.

“Back in 2008 when I first moved here from Miami, it was a different environment. Goose Creek was not experiencing the growth [or] the diversity that it is now. The people were more isolated, and there was not a sense of community … Goose Creek today is one of the most diverse places in the Lowcountry. It is a vibrant thriving community from Brazilians, Hispanics, African Americans, Philippinos, Arabs and many other backgrounds.”

Building a network 

Good Enterprises program director Raquel Padgett of West Ashley teaches classes at the business academy and coaches graduates among other roles, and has seen first hand what LLF accomplishes in the community.

It is a labor of love,” Padgett told the City Paper. “I have a long career focusing on business development for small and minority businesses and a business consulting group. 

“When I started out a couple of decades ago as an entrepreneur, I was lonely and misinformed about what it took to become successful. There were no programs back then to assist me — this is why I chose to dive into this program and help as many entrepreneurs as possible learn all about running a business successfully.”

The Community Business Academy meets the needs of Charleston area entrepreneurs by providing a safe place to learn about their ownership style and how to harness it to run a thriving business, Padgett said. And the academy links small business owners to a resource network, which alleviates barriers to acquiring capital and accessing services. 

“The impact in communities can be measured by increased employment and income rates, money circulating through communities and families, a stronger bond with locals as products and services are rendered, and a visible legacy that can be seen in a community and handed down,” Padgett said.  

Love Best of Charleston?

Help the Charleston City Paper keep Best of Charleston going every year with a donation. Or sign up to become a member of the Charleston City Paper club.