AIKEN S.C. (WJBF)– The City of Aiken is investing in small businesses through the Aiken Business Coalition Entrepreneurship Program.

“This program has literally been life changing and I’m so excited for how my business is going to grow,” business owner Natalie Subber said.

40 small business owners took part in the program, which is a collaboration between the Aiken Business Coalition, Greater Augusta Black Chamber of Commerce, City of Aiken, Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce, and Aiken County Branch of the NAACP.

First, each entrepreneur completed 10 business courses.

“The classes were phenomenal. They gave us so much information,” business owner Erica Jones said.

“We learned a lot about business credit, about marketing, sales pitches. I look forward to using it,” business owner Grace Preston said.

After completing their courses, the business owners were awarded grants through the City of Aiken’s allocation of the American Rescue Plan Act. The funding totaled $142,500.

“Now I have the funding to be able to get more equipment to better help the community and to better help my business. I’ll also be able to get my website up and running,” Subber said.

“I’m behind on technology so some of the funds will go to help me modernize my technology,” business owner Tera Jackson said.

Aiken City Manager, Stuart Bedenbaugh, says this is the first program of its kind in the state.

A brother and sister say they’re walking away with business knowledge and a stronger bond.

“I really couldn’t believe it. We kind of stayed on each other, made sure we were attending classes and things of that nature. But did we both expect to get the grant? No. It’s an accomplishment,” business owner Wayne Preston said.

“I was really excited for him and I’m looking forward to what it’s going to do for his business and I think he’s excited for me too. Our family is happy for us,” Grace Preston said.

Over the next six months, the business owners and program organizers will meet monthly to collaborate.