The Academy - Corner to Corner


  • Corner to Corner - Nashville, Tennessee

Focus Area

  • Self-Sufficiency

“We demystify the business process and make it accessible to every one of our neighbors. As long as they have that passion, that creativity, that drive, all we’re doing is boosting what they are already passionate about.”

Will Acuff, Co-founder of Corner to Corner

The Issue

Across the United States, the median Black family has 1/10th the wealth of the median White family. This racial wealth gap affects everything from a family’s ability to own a home, to buy a car, or to help finance an education for their children. It also contributes to a lower rate of business ownership in the Black community. 

Entrepreneurship and owning a small business are seen as ways out of poverty, but in 2019, only 2.3% of businesses in the U.S. were Black owned. The resulting economic inequality is not only a financial loss on the American economy, but also a loss of talent, excitement, and drive in neighborhoods across the country. 

There is a particular opportunity for growth in business ownership among Black women. Nationwide, only 0.5% of Black women own businesses compared to 13% of White men. This gap reveals an opportunity to boost communities. In Nashville specifically, if 13% of the Black population also owned businesses, there would be an estimated $250 million annual economic bump to some of the most underestimated communities. Entrepreneurship may be a powerful path to closing the racial wealth gap.


The Intervention

Corner to Corner is a community led nonprofit located in Nashville focused on creating meaningful economic growth with historically underestimated Nashville residents. Through a 10-week entrepreneurship course known as the Academy, they hope to change these numbers and close the racial entrepreneurship gap.

In the Academy, entrepreneurs learn alongside peers and community leaders to develop the skills they need to plan, start, and grow their own small business. Each weekly class is 2.5 hours long and follows a nationally licensed curriculum with a proven track record of teaching people what they need to know most in order to turn their business dreams into a money making reality.

Topics covered in the course include knowing your customer, how to reach and retain customers, how to distribute products or services, accounting, creating a business plan, and more. In each class, participants share their “customer count”, which is the number of customers or potential customers they spoke to that week. There is also a speaker at each class who is either an entrepreneur who can share about their experience or a subject matter expert in a field such as law, marketing, or accounting. In week nine of the class, participants pitch to each other and vote on their favorite business idea. The entrepreneur with the most votes represents the class at the graduation block party during week 10 where they share their businesses with the community.

They work particularly on creating a culture of business ownership among Black female entrepreneurs and 88% of their graduates are Black women. All classes are community-led by a past graduate of the Academy—instructors who walked the same path themselves and have seen the fruits of the hard work they put into their own business dream. They form close relationships and guide the entrepreneurs in a way that celebrates their growth.

The Academy is also community-located. Each class takes place within the neighborhood community where the entrepreneurs already feel ownership and know that they are safe, seen, and celebrated.

So far, Corner to Corner has served nearly 700 entrepreneurs with their business training course. According to the Small Business Administration, they had a $13 million impact on their neighborhood economy last year alone


Research Question

What is the impact of a community-based entrepreneurial course on the likelihood that graduates of the program start a business, income, housing stability, credit score, and the ability of graduates to reach the goals that they set for themselves?

Intended Outcomes

Graduates from Corner to Corner’s 10-week business entrepreneurship course will have:

  • An increased likelihood of starting a business.
  • Higher incomes from business ownership.
  • Increased earnings and greater financial well-being (employment, credit score, housing stability, etc.)

Research Study Design

LEO is partnering with Corner to Corner to study their entrepreneurship training program, the Academy, through a randomized controlled trial (RCT). LEO’s research team will evaluate the impact of The Academy on graduates’ income, housing stability, credit score, the likelihood that they start a business, and the ability of graduates to reach the goals that they set for themselves.

Since Corner to Corner has increased their advertising efforts, there are expected to be more eligible individuals applying than there are available spots. Corner to Corner has agreed to randomly assign those eligible individuals to either the treatment or control group. Those in the treatment group will have access to the Academy and receive instruction on the fundamentals of business from previous graduates and community business leaders over the course of 10 weeks. Those in the control group will not have access to the Academy, but will be directed to several other community resources relating to health, education, and rent assistance. 

Through surveys taken during and after the course, LEO will then compare the outcomes of participants who were offered a place in the Academy to those who were not offered a spot. Some entrepreneurship training programs have been studied before, but the Academy is unique in its focus on Black women. If the evidence shows that their intervention is effective in improving outcomes and encouraging Black women to become business owners, Corner to Corner will have a greater ability to expand the program and ultimately serve more individuals.


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