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Guest Column

Mentor Protégé program is a ‘head start’ for small business in Georgia

By Guest Columnist STACEY J. KEY, president and CEO of the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council

Getting a small business off the ground can prove to be a daunting task. In fact, the vast majority of new businesses fail within the first few years.

The Georgia Mentor Protégé Connection (MPC) is an innovative business development initiative designed to significantly improve those odds for small businesses in Georgia.

Stacey Key

A partnership between the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council (GMSDC), the State of Georgia and Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute, MPC offers emerging firms an opportunity to benefit from a one-year partnership with a mentor corporation.

The mentoring relationship can explore technology innovation, capacity-building, operational efficiency, business development or any other area essential to business growth.

The Governor’s Mentor Protégé Program, established by Gov. Roy Barnes in 2001, was the first state-sponsored mentor-protégé program in the United States. We are committed to ensuring that the legacy and vitality of this highly regarded program for building capacity and growing small businesses remain intact.

The objective of the program is to improve the long-term viability of Georgia’s small businesses through a one-year partnership with a corporate mentor. Emerging firms are able to build relationships, explore new technologies, learn about best practices and benefit from the wisdom of corporate executives who are committed to the long-term health and overall sustainability of small business in Georgia.

Historically, access to this kind of coaching and support has been a critical element of the success equation for small business across the nation.

Veronica Maldonado is the program director of the Georgia Mentor Protege Connection Connection

“We are very pleased to partner with GMSDC and support this unique mentoring program.,” said Mary Ellen McClanahan, director of Entrepreneur and Small Business Development at the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “The integrity of the Mentor Protégé Connection, the outstanding mentor companies and the impacting outcomes continue to make this a quality-driven program. Both small and large companies win.”

GMSDC has appointed Veronica Maldonado as the new program director for the MPC program. In her new role, Maldonado will direct the strategic plan and development of the program interfacing with Georgia’s corporations and emerging small businesses from across the state.

“As a product of a family of entrepreneurs spanning several generations, I am compelled to deliver a program providing a path to sustainability, progression, and economic growth for the small business owner in Georgia”, Maldonado said. “I am challenging Georgia-based corporations to rise to the call and invest time, talent and funding in this revised program at a time when the success of small business is so vital to our economy.”

Formerly the development manager for the Latin American Association, Veronica played an integral part in developing new business for the organization through strategically aligned partnerships, key donor cultivation, and innovative marketing efforts.

Protégé candidates must be small businesses headquartered in Georgia, and meet a set of requirements in order to be accepted into the program. The application process and program administration are managed by the GMSDC. Mentor firms are corporate entities with either a headquarters or a significant presence in Georgia.

Many thanks to our MPC sponsors and current mentor firms, which include:

• Georgia Power

• Turner Broadcasting

• The Coca Cola Company

• Lockheed Martin


• Citizens Trust Bank

• The Home Depot

• Turner Construction

• Hardin Construction


• Skanska

• The North Highland Company

• Accenture

• SunTrust

There are no specific mandates as to how the mentor-protégé relationship should work – firms are paired up with a willing mentor based on factors that include industry, the needs of the business, and growth potential.

Training and coaching are provided to both the mentor and the protégé, to ensure a mutually fulfilling relationship and make sure that program goals are met. Each mentor and protégé work to develop a one-year action plan to target specific areas for business growth and development. Serving as a mentor does not obligate a corporation to utilize the protégé firm as a business partner or supplier.

Clearly, the Mentor Protégé Connection is good for Georgia, as it provides mission-critical support to small businesses in our state during those early years when so many companies do not survive. We believe that MPC is a vital element of what sets Georgia apart as a wonderful place to do business.

For more information on the Mentor Protégé Connection, please visit www.georgiamentorprotegeconnection.org.

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