Launch Durham

Maintaining financial stability as an entrepreneur can oftentimes be a daunting task, but it is going to be getting slightly easier thanks to a local organization. The Helius Foundation is developing Launch Durham to help small businesses get on top of their finances and thrive in an unforgiving global marketplace.

Launch Durham

by: Josh Factor

Launch Durham is a business training, entrepreneurship mentoring, networking, and micro-loan program. Over 100 hundred applications were received by December 13th, 2017 for the first round of the program. Launch Durham is open to small companies, microbusinesses, freelancers, and individual entrepreneurs or teams in the start-up phase.

I recently exchanged email with Founder and Executive Director of the Helius Foundation, Geraud Staton, to discuss where the foundation came from and where it plans on going in the future.

Geraud Staton

Geraud Staton

He created the organization a few years ago to help a handful of entrepreneurs. He and the Helius team soon realized the need was much greater than initially anticipated, and thus the Helius Foundation agreed to pilot Launch Durham with its partners to address those demands.

His desire to help people stems from his time serving in the military, where he learned the importance of service to a greater whole. Staton also underlined that perpetual self-improvement is an important value in his own identity and it’s something that he wants for others as well.

Before founding Helius, he was with North Carolina Hazard Mitigation and worked closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help clean up in the aftermath of Hurricanes Fran and Floyd. Facing the devastating human impact of those catastrophic storms, he realized the true importance of helping other people. He experienced it first-hand.

Staton chose to focus on financial literacy because he believes it is one of the first steps towards bettering oneself.

The Launch Durham program aims to help local entrepreneurs build their businesses and become financially literate. On this first round as Launch Durham gears up, they can only accept fifteen applicants into the program. Launch Durham’s goal with The Helius Foundation is to help at least fifty small businesses and entrepreneurs per year.

As these applicants; companies, microbusinesses, freelancers, and entrepreneurs grow and learn, the program helps them to become potent examples for the next round of owners who face similar sets of challenges in becoming a successful, sustainable entrepreneur.

The Launch Durham program will entail an eight week, one-night-per-week class that will teach the fundamentals of business and help create a fully-operational business plans. Additionally, the class will teach enrollees how to get their businesses to generate cash flow and become profitable as soon as possible. Real world, real talk.

Staton pointed out Launch Durham wouldn’t even be possible without the foundation’s partnership with many local organizations such as the Durham and North Raleigh Rotary Clubs, the City of Durham NC Works and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, ReCity, Durham Tech,  and North Carolina Central University, particularly the Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC).

As for long-term goals, Staton hopes to grow the Helius Foundation to enable he and his team to help more and more businesses annually. Eventually he hopes to expand to helping businesses beyond the Triangle. There is a similar program in Chicago called Ladder Up which helps businesses maintain financial stability throughout the Windy City and across the whole state of Illinois. There are other states and other models where small local businesses are receiving focused help. We can both learn, emulate, and share results as Launch Durham grows and evolves.

If you’re interested in applying or would like to learn more, you can visit the Helius Foundation at their website theheliusfoundation.org or in person at 112-B Broadway Street in Durham.

I wish Mr. Staton and the whole foundation the best of luck in their endeavors and look forward to seeing the positive impact they make on Durham, the Triangle, and beyond.

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Josh Factor is an avid young writer and a native of Durham, NC. He is a 2016 graduate of Elon University, where he majored in English.

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