Cherokee Office of Economic Development · Cherokee by Choice.

Business as Unusual – MIT VMS Sister Programs Collaborate for Entrepreneurship Across State Lines

July 1, 2020

Woodstock, GA (July 1, 2020)

The North Atlanta Venture Mentoring Service (NAV) is celebrating the oneyear anniversary of its launch on July 1, 2019. NAV, an MIT VMS-trained model of team-based mentorship for entrepreneurs and startups, is powered by Fresh Start Cherokee – the entrepreneurship initiative of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development (COED).

Headquartered in Cherokee, NAV came to fruition as a direct result of the Cherokee By Choice Initiative – a five-year public-private partnership and economic advancement campaign.

NAV kicked off its pilot year with the adoption of a State Resolution recognizing July 1, 2019, as “Entrepreneurship Day in Georgia” and presented the first Cherokee Entrepreneur of the Year Award to Spencer Nix and Nick Downs, Co-founders of Reformation Brewery. With 10 venture companies and 27 mentors in its first year, NAV is well-positioned to make Cherokee and the Atlanta region the #1 place in the state to start and grow a business.

NAV celebrated its first year of operations by pushing the bounds of mentorship beyond state lines. Recently, NAV virtually co-hosted its first-ever city-to-city monthly mentoring meeting with sister program Innovate Charlotte in North Carolina to share best practices and form a collaborative relationship. From North Atlanta, Georgia, to Charlotte, North Carolina, 38 ventures are being supported by a group of 81 diverse mentors through the power of MIT’s team-based mentorship model – a proven model 20 years in the making with over 100+ chapters in 25 countries around the world.

“Now more than ever, it is important for our region to offer this support system for startupsNAV’s brain trust of diverse, expert guides for local entrepreneurs helps them not only become stronger entrepreneurs but build better businesses and healthier communities,” said COED President Misti Martin.

NAV is managed bJonathan Chambers and coordinated by Ellie Colt and is intentional with its approach to diversity and inclusion, with 25% of mentors and 70% of ventures led by women and minorities from 6 different countries.

Representing over 60 mentors, program leaders told stories of how their programs got their start. Ventures from both programs presented and spoke to how team-based mentorship has been vital to their business, especially during COVID-19. Harry and Leticia Hutchins, Co-Founders of Alma Coffee, farm-to-cup coffee brand headquartered in Cherokee County, shared how NAV has helped them lean into mentorship and successfully pivot their business model due to COVID-19. Similarly, Innovate Charlotte venture, Bustld, led by Samie and Ryan Roberts, an online marketing platform that connects engaged couples to wedding vendors, spoke of their experience with Innovate Charlotte. Both ventures spoke to how mentorship has given them trusted connections, provided unique entrepreneurial development opportunities, and has helped them identify blind spots in their business.

“Collaborating enables us to cross-pollinate between the two groups,” Dan Black, Innovate Charlotte mentor. For the foreseeable future, NAV and Innovate Charlotte will continue their collaboration in hopes of growing better programs for even stronger entrepreneurs.

If you are interested in learning more about NAV, visit


About the Cherokee Office of Economic Development 

Cherokee’s Leading Organization for Business & Film Recruitment and Industry Retention & Expansion 

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