In its inaugural round of innovation grants, the South Carolina Department of Commerce is awarding $2.4 million in funds to 14 organizations across the state to further high-tech and entrepreneurial economic development. Of those recipients, Lowcountry Local First will be awarded $100,000 for their work in entrepreneurship and innovation through small business and agriculture.
“We are elated to have been chosen as one of the first Innovation Fund recipients,” said Lowcountry Local First Executive Director, Jamee Haley. “This funding is pivotal in Lowcountry Local First’s mission to foster a diverse entrepreneurial economy through programs such as Local Works (a community coworking facility) and Dirt Works Incubator Farm where we offer resources of mentorship, educational opportunities and connecting to capital in the Charleston metro area. The SC Department of Commerce is forward thinking by recognizing that innovation starts with organizations already invested in this region and delivered by many different sectors of businesses.”
Lowcountry Local First is not new to generating an idea and putting it into practice. Dirt Works Incubator Farm is the first of its kind in South Carolina, providing infrastructure and support for new farmers launching a business. Since 2010, Dirt Works has graduated 95 apprentices and is currently incubating six new farmers. This work is imperative in growing the state’s economic engine, which is agriculture. Incubation and apprenticeships were listed as one of the three key strategies in the Small Farms Mean Big Business Study released earlier this year.
Local Works, another project of Lowcountry Local First, will provide low cost, professional coworking space for local businesses in a creative and collaborative environment. This is an open-sector facility, and will compliment existing tech-sector spaces that are already up-and-running in Charleston. Set to launch in June 2014, Local Works will give members an opportunity for engagement and growth through member-hosted events, marketing tutorials, connecting to capital/funding, meet-up groups, and other networking opportunities. Ongoing services will also be offered such as business mentor pairing, face- time with successful entrepreneurs for Q&A/brainstorming sessions, workshops, and easy collaboration. Part-time and full-time space will be available, and Lowcountry Local First is taking applicants now.