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Liftoff Lab Program

Welcome to the Harnett Liftoff Lab program! So, you are thinking about starting a new business? Or you have been in business less than two years? Running your own business is exciting and sometimes overwhelming, and we want to make it as smooth as possible.

Attached is a program outline with many resources to assist a new business and we are honored to assist you.

Through the Liftoff Lab program, you will develop a business plan, which is a roadmap for your business; gain insight for financing and banking options; understand legal references; and overcome your fear of bookkeeping and taxes. All this and many other details that are required to make your new business a success.

All attendees must apply online. Classes are free, but participants must be pre-registered and approved to be guaranteed a space. Class size is limited to twelve individuals.

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Program Overview

This nine-class program will introduce entrepreneurs and existing business owners to the concepts and practices that will give interested individuals the tools necessary for business success. The evening classes will be held in Harnett County, and will run from 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm. At the end of the program, each participant should have produced a basic small business plan, and will have the opportunity to present their plan and business concept to a team of business professionals.

For those participants who have not yet opened a brick and mortar location, there will be consideration for a small business grant assistance package. **There is no guarantee that a grant will be awarded**. If a participant is chosen, the winning business will receive up to a $5,000 reimbursable grant provided for rent, utilities, or building improvements (as funds are available), one annual Base Level membership to the local Chamber of Commerce, plus marketing, and business support. Additional details will be provided at the class.

In order to qualify for grant funds, the selected business must locate within an approved, commercially zoned location.

100% Attendance is mandatory for those interested in being eligible for the grant.

The Liftoff Lab program is an entrepreneur-development program presented by the Central Carolina Community College Small Business Center, Harnett County, and the Angier, Lillington, Dunn, Erwin, and Coats Chambers of Commerce.

Class Syllabus

  • Introduction to Starting a Business

    September 25, 2023

    In this seminar, city zoning and inspections staff will discuss networking, zoning, building, and inspection considerations of starting a business in Harnett County and a commercial real estate agent will discuss commercial leases and what to look out for before signing a lease.

  • Starting a Business/Building a Plan

    September 27, 2023

    This session offers an introduction to business startup including how to describe the key problem or unmet need that you will address for your customers, how your company will address the problem you identified, and how you will meet your customers' needs. You'll also discover how to describe your target market and how to break them down into segments - that is, recognizable customer types with similar demographics, needs, and expectations. This seminar will conclude with a discussion on researching your competitors and identifying how your product or service differs from your competition.

  • Budgeting Your Business

    October 2, 2023

    Get the basics for small business budgeting from successful NC small business owner and operator, Steve Carver. Learn key budgeting vocabulary and components. Walk away with the knowledge to create a realistic small business budget for profitability.

  • Funding Sources

    October 4, 2023

    There's no magical pot of money at the end of the rainbow for small businesses, so entrepreneurs continue bootstrapping, but there are loan options (with a business plan in hand) to explore. Meet lending panel representatives from organizations like the Small Business Administration, Kiva, Thread Capital, and DAC100 and get prepared for future funding opportunities.

  • Marketing & Revenue Generation

    October 9, 2023

    Marketing for the 21st Century small business is more dynamic than ever. Who are my customers and how do I market to them? How do I determine the right pipelines to generate revenue & become a profitable small business?

  • Legal Considerations of Starting A Business

    October 11, 2023

    This session will address the potential legal issues facing small business owners. Discussion will include business structure, licensing, zoning, protecting your business assets, and employer responsibilities.

  • Taxes: What Small Businesses Need to Know

    October 16, 2023

    Gain a solid understanding of tax requirements for small business owners and develop the best tax strategy for your business. Ensure you have the knowledge and tools to comply with tax deadlines and laws.

  • Basic Bookkeeping & Understanding Financial Statements

    October 18, 2023

    Gain a workable knowledge of how to properly record financial transactions for your business. Discover the most important financial reports and how to use them to make the best-informed business decisions. Discuss bookkeeping tools and the importance of consistent record keeping and reporting for tax purposes and more.

  • Business Plan Presentation and Review

    October 23, 2023

    Participants will give a short presentation on their business idea and receive feedback on their business plan from a review team.

Participant Information & Guidelines

  1. Liftoff Lab partners will award grant packages as funding allows, totaling up to $5,000 for the top business proposal(s). In order to qualify for grant funds, the selected business must locate in an approved location (as determined by program guidelines), and must not have already opened a brick and mortar location.
  2. Statistics show that most new business failures are a result of the lack of business planning. MANDATORY attendance of the nine-class program series, plus a written business plan, is required in order to be considered for the grant. Each applicant must be able to demonstrate that an actual business will be started, including the products or services to be provided.
  3. A reimbursable grant, up to $5,000 for rent, utilities, and building improvements, (as funding allows) will be awarded to the individual(s) who, in the opinion of the judges, demonstrates the business idea and plan most likely to result in a successful new business venture.
  4. In order to take advantage of the reimbursable grant, the business must open within 12 months of completion of the Liftoff Lab program.
  5. To be eligible for the grant, the proposals should address one or more of the business needs:
    • Retail
    • Restaurant/Food/Beverage Service
    • Other Businesses that, in the opinion of the Review Committee, contribute to the overall economic vitality of Harnett County.
  6. Business proposals will be scored using several criteria - strength of business plan, experience, match with local needs, etc. Grants are competitive for up to $5,000 per business, and are required to meet the following requirements:
    • Retail requires a minimum of one (1) full time and one (1) part time employee, and is open to the public 35 hours or more per week.
    • Restaurant/Food/Beverage requirements are minimum (1) full time and one (1) part time employee, and open to the public at least five (5) days per week.
    • Other business requirements are a minimum of (1) full time and one (1) part time employee, and is open to the public 5 days per week.
  7. THE DECISION OF THE JUDGES IS FINAL. Judges will be comprised of an independent review committee.
  8. Attendance is mandatory for all classes to be eligible, including the business plan presentation.
  9. Each grant recipient agrees to meet at least monthly with a designated "mentor" to share information, go over the books, etc. Mentors will be SCORE or Chamber Member volunteers, unless otherwise approved by Review Committee.
  10. Each grant will provide up to $5,000 rent and utilities, reimbursable upon presentation of receipts at the end of each month, as long as the business owner continues to participate with the business counselor, and maintains regular and consistent open hours.
  11. If the business closes less than six months after opening, the grant recipient will be required to repay the entire grant amount received.


Angier Chamber of Commerce
Shelby Blackmon
(919) 639-2500

Coats Area Chamber of Commerce
Trisha Bristow
(910) 897-6213

Dunn Area Chamber of Commerce
Heather Lawson
(910) 892-4113

Erwin Area Chamber of Commerce
Sheveil Harmon
(910) 591-4207

Lillington Area Chamber of Commerce
(910) 893-3751

Harnett County Small Business Center
Charity Barbee
(910) 892-2884