College News

RISE program holds graduation for the spring 2024 class

Click to enlarge,  These individuals participated in the spring 2024 Real Investment in Sanford Entrepreneurs (RISE) program.

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These individuals participated in the spring 2024 Real Investment in Sanford Entrepreneurs (RISE) ... (more)

06.06.2024College General College & CommunityGraduations

SANFORD, N.C. - The Central Carolina Community College Small Business Center proudly presented certificates to participants of the spring 2024 RISE (Real Investment in Sanford Entrepreneurs) program. This cohort, comprised of dedicated entrepreneurs, underwent an intensive eight-class series aimed at nurturing and refining their business ideas. The graduation ceremony took place earlier this spring at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic & Conference Center at Central Carolina Community College.

The RISE program, a collaborative effort of the Central Carolina Community College Small Business Center, Sanford Area Growth Alliance - Chamber of Commerce, and Downtown Sanford, Inc., offers participants the tools and support needed to turn their entrepreneurial dreams into reality. Graduates who open retail businesses in downtown Sanford are eligible to apply for start-up grants.

Two outstanding individuals were awarded grants to kickstart their entrepreneurial ventures. Sheena Morrill, proprietor of Channeled Energies, a holistic hair and body care shop, and Michelle Bujnowski, owner of Luxury Skin and Lash, a day spa specializing in facials and lashes, were recognized for their innovative business concepts and dedication to the program.

Reflecting on her experience, Michelle Bujnowski shared, "The RISE program has been such an amazing learning experience! There were topics that I wouldn't have thought of on my own, so it's been really eye opening! It's been a great opportunity to connect with the experts on each topic and ask all my questions specific to my business. Everyone has been super helpful and supportive throughout the whole process!"

Sheena Morrill expressed her gratitude, stating, "The RISE program is an asset to Sanford entrepreneurs! Not only did I learn so much about owning and operating a business, I was also able to gain a tremendous amount of confidence to be able to do so! So grateful for the amount of support that is available to me!"

Kelli Laudate, Executive Director of Downtown Sanford, Inc., commended the graduates, remarking, "RISE continues to be such a valuable resource for budding entrepreneurs and this cohort of students is going to produce many new shops and services that will add true value to the Sanford small business community. We appreciate their hard work over the last month and look forward to promoting and supporting their ventures. We are thrilled for them to open their businesses in downtown Sanford and Jonesboro."

Susan Gomez, Director of the Sanford Area Growth Alliance Chamber of Commerce, expressed excitement about the economic diversity the RISE program brings to the community, stating, "It was exciting to hear all the business plans from our 8th cohort, and we are proud of our winners, Sheena and Michelle. The RISE program continues to add economic diversity to our community and supports our creative entrepreneurs. The different businesses presented by each participant will keep adding to the quality of place for Sanford, circulating money within our community to boost our local economy."

Terri Brown, Executive Director of the Small Business Center at Central Carolina Community College, underscored the importance of fostering entrepreneurship, saying, "I continue to be impressed with the commitment from our RISE students to bring their business ideas to life, and I am proud to partner with SAGA and DSI to foster the entrepreneurial spirit in Sanford."

The next session of RISE is scheduled for February 2025. Individuals interested in starting a small business in Lee County are encouraged to apply. For more information, visit or contact Terri Brown at, Kelli Laudate at, or Susan Gomez at