Hats Off: Commemorating the First BeltLine MarketPlace Graduating Class

BeltLine MarketPlace graduates pose with Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.’s COO and Economic Development Director after the graduation ceremony.

Launched in July 2022 as a collaborative effort from Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. and The Village Market, the inaugural BeltLine MarketPlace pilot sought to eliminate one of the greatest barriers for new businesses – commercial affordability – while also providing entrepreneurs with the tools and resources needed to grow and scale. 

After receiving over 200 applications, six lucky entrepreneurs were selected to receive placement in containers on the Eastside and Westside Trails, point-of-sale and business management systems from Clover®, and tailored business support over the 18-month incubator period. 

On December 14, 2023, those entrepreneurs gathered with friends, family, and supporters for a graduation ceremony at CreateATL that capped off the experience.   

Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.’s Vice President of Economic Development Kelvin Collins kicked off the celebration, sharing background on the program and its evolution over the course of the 18-month pilot. Collins was then joined by representatives from Invest Atlanta who talked about how the graduates could continue to grow through the city’s numerous small business resources.  

After additional remarks from ABI’s Economic Development Director Kara Lively, each graduate was then introduced by a program partner, featured in a quick video, and given the opportunity to speak about their experience. 

“We knew once we got on the BeltLine, it would be on from there,” Talia Jones, Co-Founder and CMO for Good As Burgers said. “Success. Success. Success.” 

For the team at Cococakes by Coco, the BeltLine MarketPlace pilot was the perfect place for them to test out models for future franchise expansion, while also gaining insight into how to run a multi-location business. 

“We want to be on the cover of the [Atlanta Journal Constitution] talking about how we started the expansion of Cococakes through this project,” said Partner Kina Morgan. 

It wasn’t just the BeltLine MarketPlace participants who benefited from the pilot project, however. Program partners, like Atelier 7 Architects, talked about how being involved with BeltLine MarketPlace changed their company’s trajectory, as well.

“It was a great opportunity for us, and I can’t show how grateful we are to the BeltLine team,” said Founder Tony Pope. “This was bigger than just us and the boxes. We were weaving these businesses into parts of Atlanta no one was paying attention to. I mean, who would think to build a building under a bridge?”

Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.’s Chief Operating Officer Ruben Brooks gives commencement remarks to the graduating class.

The ceremony concluded with commencement remarks from The Village Market’s Communications & Program Manager Epiphany Barnes and ABI’s Chief Operating Officer Ruben Brooks. 

As the program looks to welcome its next round of participants in the spring, the seeds have been laid for an incubator that is sure to help countless Atlanta entrepreneurs moving forward. 

“We shattered the mold and demonstrated what is possible,” Grady Baby Co. Co-Founder Terrence Albritton celebrated. “We get the joy and privilege knowing future businesses [will] stand on the foundation we helped lay.”  

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