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National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship Honors Student Entrepreneurs at 12th Annual Conference

Five outstanding student entrepreneurs are being honored at the 12th Annual Conference of the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship, being held this week in Phoenix, Arizona.

Phoenix, AZ, October 14, 2014 --( The National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE), the nation’s leading organization focused on promoting entrepreneurship through community colleges, has honored five outstanding student entrepreneurs at its 12th Annual Conference, underway now in Phoenix. The student awards, made possible by donations from the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) and the C. Lowell Harriss Scholarship Fund, are given to enrolled students who have demonstrated innovative and creative accomplishments in businesses they are operating while attending college.

1st Place - $2,500 cash prize plus a $1,500 travel stipend to attend NACCE2014: Megan Brown and Chris Allen, owners of Waynesville Soda Jerks, LLC.

Brown and Allen established Waynesville Soda Jerks in 2013 as an artisan beverage manufacturer focusing on handcrafted, locally sourced, natural sodas. Both founding partners are enrolled at Haywood Community College in Clyde, NC, in the Associates in Applied Science – Entrepreneurship Program and are clients of the HCC Small Business Center. Operating with the approval of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, products can currently be found seasonally at the Haywood Historic Farmer’s Market and year-round at the Strand @ 38 Main in Waynesville, NC. The company is headquartered in the HCC Student Business Center in the Center for New and Expanding Business through the Smoky Mountain Development Corporation.

What sets Brown and Allen’s company apart is that they strive to handcraft artisan beverages not only of the highest quality, but also with a purpose. By using local produce and an all-natural approach, they aim to have their product seen as a de-vilified treat. They bring the mindset of the local food movement to the beverage market by reconnecting consumers to the source and spotlighting the quality and importance of the local agricultural economy. To meet these goals, they highlight fresh, seasonal offerings sourced as directly and sustainably as possible, providing the consumer with a distinct clarity of ingredients. These efforts have been awarded certification from local agriculture advocacy groups Buy Haywood and the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project The company is poised to become a full-scale beverage manufacturer with bottling and distribution capabilities.

2nd Place - $1,500 cash prize: Diana Monell of Lady D Bookkeeping Services, LLC.

Diana Monell has over 30 years of bookkeeping experience and is passionate about helping small businesses with prepare and address financial accounting needs.

Diana realized that small businesses have the same accounting needs and requirements as all other businesses, but they often lack the resources to hire an actual employee to address those needs. She also realized that there are a growing number of Latino-owned businesses in the Phoenix metro area, and that the number of Spanish-speakers pursuing careers in accounting is not growing at the same rate. So the opportunity to offer contract bookkeeping services and take advantage of being bilingual gave Monell a unique advantage.

This past spring Monell enrolled in a course on Entrepreneurship at the South Mountain Community College (SMCC) in Phoenix, AZ. This class provided the direction and structure Diana needed to formalize her business. By the end of the spring semester, Diana resigned from her employer of seven years and established Lady D Bookkeeping to provide bookkeeping services first to her former employer and then to additional clients. Monell’s goal is to provide accounting support services - not replace an accountant who is vital to any business. This includes preparing all of the records for an accountant to carry out monthly, quarterly and year-end reports quickly, efficiently and without incurring extra costs. Monell is enrolled at SMCC this fall, pursing the completion of her degree.

There were two 3rd place winners, who each received $750:

Lovelyn Omari, Asabea Braiding, LLC.

Lovelyn Omari’s firm is a mobile braiding service and provides services for all types of hair, including single braids, kinky twist, box braids, Senegalese twist, micro braids, and more. Omari migrated to the United States from Ghana as an adolescent. In Ghana she had enjoyed assisting her mother with her hair-braiding business. Before enrolling in a course in Entrepreneurship at South Mountain Community College, Omari already had the makings of a business: loyal clients (some for 15 years), a Facebook Fan Page, and a growing Instagram following. She just hadn’t made it official.

Omari took full advantage of all of the resources and information presented in the entrepreneurship class. She formally filed her business with the Arizona Corporation Commission, used and commissioned a logo, launched her website, set up social media accounts, and took advantage of an opportunity for 12 months of free business banking. By the end of the semester, Omari’s business was firing on all cylinders.

J. Gus Barnes, AZ180, LLC

Gus Barnes launched, an online community and business directory, in April 2014. His mission is to become Arizona's number one trusted referral site where people can find local businesses to shop, eat and more by offering discounts, rebates or receiving points on select purchases. Having been involved with other small businesses, Barnes understands the challenges most entrepreneurs face when trying to garner new clients and customers. He launched AZ180 to give these businesses and customers a place to connect and share information.

Like Monell and Omari, Barnes attended a course in Entrepreneurship at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix. He used the class to help him sharpen his marketing strategy and “pitch” for the website.

All three winners from SMCC participated in a course funded via a grant from the Coleman Foundation, a long-term supporter of NACCE members that are implementing innovative entrepreneurship programs and services.

About AIER & the C. Lowell Harriss Scholarship Fund
The American Institute for Economic Research provides independent research and critical analysis of economic and financial issues. AIER researchers provide ordinary people with expert advice and insight they can use to improve their lives and communities. AIER established a scholarship Fund in memory of C. Lowell Harriss, an economist whose groundbreaking theories on land tax reform led to a widening of public spaces and improved quality of life in the U.S. and beyond. He taught economics at Columbia University for 43 years, from 1938 to 1981. For more information on AIER, visit

The National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) is an organization of educators, administrators, presidents and entrepreneurs, focused on inciting entrepreneurship in their community and on their campus. NACCE has two main goals: 1. Empower the college to approach the business of running a community college with an entrepreneurial mindset, and 2. Grow the community college’s role in supporting job creation and entrepreneurs in their local ecosystem.

Founded in 2002, NACCE is at the heart of the "entrepreneurship movement.” Through membership, an annual conference and exhibition, regional summits, a quarterly journal, monthly webinars, a dynamic list-serv, and training resources, NACCE serves as the hub for the dissemination and integration of knowledge and successful practices regarding entrepreneurial leadership, entrepreneurship education and student business incubation. These initiatives and resulting actions advance economic prosperity in the communities served by its member colleges. NACCE is a founding member of the White House-led Start-up America Partnership. For more information, visit

NACCE has over 300 member colleges, representing nearly 2,000 members and approximately 465,000 students.
Contact Information
National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship
Jeanne Yocum

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