Village Launch is eager to help a new group of entrepreneurs turn business dreams into business realities and side hustles into life- and community-changing companies    
The organization, based in Greenville’s West End, offers a 10-week entrepreneur academy, workshops, pop-up markets and more. But one of its most valuable services is creating mentoring relationships. 
Rhonda Rawlings, Neighborhood Engagement Director at Village Launch, explains that the organization’s recently launched mentor program pairs one mentor with one entrepreneur.  
 “The mentor really just opens up a different world for the entrepreneur – a world of networking that may not have been there for them before, a listening ear,” Rawlings said, adding that the mentors sit in on the entrepreneur academy classes with their mentees.  
“It’s a relationship that I’ve been told by mentors benefits them as well as the entrepreneur in many different ways. We have so many success stories.” 
One example is LaShonn Edmunds, founder of Cairs Shoes, a graduate of the entrepreneurship program and the winner of Village Launch’s “Put on a Pitch” competition. Rawlings said Edmunds has a condition called lymphedema, which can cause swelling of the ankles and feet. She designed shoes for herself that offered comfort without sacrificing fashion — then she decided to make a business out of it.  
 A Village Lauch mentor helped. Rawlings says the mentor “had a connection with a very large shoe company, and that shoe company is now looking to develop the shoe line for LaShonn.”  
It’s just one example of the opportunities the program creates. 
Jeanette Brewster, Program Director at Village Launch, says having a mentor can increase access to social capital and help new business owners network in ways that might not be possible otherwise.  
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And while there are many benefits to those being mentored, it isn’t a one-way street. Brewster says mentors can make a lasting contribution to their community.  
“The mentors are also building their own personal network as well, through the process of helping others,” Brewster says. “A lot of them tell me that seeing other people’s passions sparked that creativity within themselves.” 
Most of the entrepreneurs in the Village Launch program are women, Brewster says. And though all mentors are needed and welcome, there is a special push to recruit women to mentor other women. 
“It helps them not only gain confidence in their own business by seeing other women doing what they’re doing, but also gaining confidence in knowing they can give back and provide the same type of support to someone else,” she said. 
“I think women are the ultimate multitaskers,” Rawlings says. “Sometimes it seems really like too large of a hurdle to start something else or to maybe embark on a passion or a dream or a business that you have, but when you see other mentors and women mentors that have done it, it just gives you more of the impetus to say, ‘I can do it, as well.’” 
Rawlings encourages participants with a quote that she attributes to Oprah Winfrey: A mentor helps you find the hope within yourself. 
“I always think about that when I think about when our mentors and entrepreneurs have amazing ideas,” she says. “Sometimes they just need a little bit more of a push or someone to say, ‘Have you ever thought about this?’ to spark a different level of creativity within them.” 
A new class of entrepreneurs will begin the academy in August. Learn more about starting a business or becoming a mentor at  


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