LAUNCH believes that entrepreneurship isn’t for an elite few, but for anyone with a dream.
Based in Chattanooga, TN, LAUNCH is a local partner in our U.S. network. They provide business training and mentoring to aspiring entrepreneurs from underserved communities in an effort to bolster racial and economic equity.
“Entrepreneurship hasn’t always been available to everyone, but we’re trying to change that,” says Hal Bowling (pictured above, left), LAUNCH’s co-founder and Executive Director.
Since 2011, LAUNCH and their partners in other cities have graduated over 700 entrepreneurs from their 10-week business training course. Upon completion, graduates find long-term support in mentoring relationships and group meetings.
As LAUNCH is pursuing the goal of expanding to 20 cities by 2020, we had a conversation with Hal to hear about his work and vision for the future.
Q: What’s going on at LAUNCH right now?
A: Our focus is currently on finding partners in 20 new cities by 2020. We have nine partners at the moment, so we’re almost halfway there. The goal is to expand to mid-size cities that are on the rise and moving forward, but also have populations in need. We are also looking to partner with existing, like-minded organizations or brand new groups that want to get started.
Q: What is the hope for the expansion?
A: By 2020, we hope to have had 3,500 entrepreneurs go through our business training and 1,800 new businesses started. Each of those numbers represents one person with a better economic situation. It’s not all about the money, but it does help people move forward and be able to provide for themselves and their families.
Empowerment comes from that… from people feeling like they are able to pursue their dreams. A job empowers people in that way, creating a ripple effect that will impact generations.
Q: What motivates you to do this work?
A: My father was an entrepreneur. He grew up in poverty, but he started a business and that changed my life and future forever. Because of that experience, I know how entrepreneurship—or a simple job—can impact generations. The opportunity to empower people in this way is what’s most exciting to me.
I also love to work with the entrepreneurs at LAUNCH because they have often overcome a lot of obstacles in their life… or are still overcoming obstacles. I just feel blessed to know people like that; they are innovative and inspiring to be around.
Q: How has your partnership with Partners Worldwide benefitted LAUNCH?
A: I’m very grateful for our partnership with Partners Worldwide. They were instrumental in the early stages of our work—and still are. Over the years, they have offered us a lot of encouragement.
In 2013, we co-hosted an event in Chattanooga with Partners Worldwide. This exposure led to a group in Grand Rapids asking if we would help establish a similar initiative there, which is now SpringGR. Partners Worldwide also helped us establish a volunteer Business Affiliate team in Chattanooga that provides mentoring and support to the entrepreneurs we serve.
Most recently, Partners Worldwide has been helping us identify potential partners is other U.S. cities that are a good fit for the LAUNCH model.
LAUNCH’s goal to expand to 20 cities by 2020 is driven by the belief that entrepreneurship should be a viable option for all. It is an honor to walk alongside leaders like Hal who are catalyzing change in their communities. We are excited to continue our partnership with LAUNCH as they expand their impact across the U.S.