Executive director of Thrive High Point discusses growth, new initiative

As Thrive High Point transitions to its second phase this summer, seasoned local marketing and career professional Telisha Roberts was appointed as its executive director. The TBJ recently sat down with Roberts to discuss her goals for the upcoming move to “Thrive 2.0” and the new initiative Shop on Washington.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

TBJ: Tell me a little bit about ThriveHP and its mission.

Roberts: ThriveHP is a program that is a part of Business High Point and the Chamber of Commerce. It’s a program that takes care of small businesses, minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses and businesses that are underserved.

We offer technical support, training, counseling, grant funding, one-on-one mentorship — pretty much end-to-end services, because that can look different from one small business to the next depending on the product or the service that they provide. It looks different depending on if they’re a startup versus if they’re already in a brick and mortar and if they are well on their way. So, no matter where the business is in its lifecycle, Thrive has something for all of those businesses, and we help those businesses move to their next level in that lifecycle and what success looks for that entrepreneur.

TBJ: What made you want to step into the role as executive director?

Roberts: I grew up side-by-side with my grandfather. I was raised by my grandparents after the death of my mom when I was 8 years old. My granddad had a dry cleaning business. Even when his health was failing, he would go to work every day, and I would be right there with him. He taught me how to use the cash register and how to interact with customers that came into his dry-cleaning business. I always had a passion for small business. I saw the sacrifices that my granddad made, so I know and understand those sacrifices. Working here with Thrive is almost like paying homage to my granddad.

TBJ: What are your primary responsibilities as executive director?

Roberts: My primary responsibilities are everything right now in this new role. We’re in a transition phase right now, and July 1 will be the end of the transition. I’m doing everything from trying to get to know the businesses that are already here in High Point, bringing in new businesses, understanding where the businesses are in their lifecycle and understanding what their needs are.

Now, every business will get a one-on-one plan of how Thrive is going to help them grow their business. We are getting training set up and onboarding mentors and new vendors that will help us with those classes and the things that the businesses need. The Shop on Washington Street project is interesting and cool, and I’m super excited about it. Businesses from Thrive will go into these new shops on Washington Street, so it’s end-to-end. It’s really hectic right now, but I love every single minute of it.

TBJ: Tell me a little bit more about the Shop on Washington initiative. What are your plans?

Roberts: In its heyday many years ago, Washington Street was called the Black Business Wall Street (of High Point). There was a vibrant community of small businesses there and just a thriving community. The idea is to bring that back to that area, revitalize that area and bring shops back to that area using Thrive businesses. So, Thrive businesses will actually come into those shops on Washington Street.

We’re in preparation right now to get ready for the applications to get those small business owners ready to go into those shops. We are super excited about what that will look like, and I look forward to sharing more about what that looks like. Pretty soon we’re going to have a website where people can go and learn a little bit more about the Shop on Washington Street project and where we are at. There’s a lot that has to happen. There is construction that has to happen, and then the buildings have to be outfitted for the different types of businesses that will go in there. We are preparing for all of those things.

TBJ: What is your timeline for the Shop on Washington project?

Roberts: The website will go up later this year, and we are trying to target the August or September timeline. We should have a website up sometime in the fourth quarter or late third quarter of the year. It will include a lot more information about where we are as far as next steps.

We are hoping that we could get some businesses ready maybe in the 2025 or 2026 timeframe. There’s a lot of contingencies that have to happen, and when you’re talking about construction, there’s just so many outliers that could get in the way. So, we don’t like to have these hard dates yet, but we do have dates that we’re trying to work towards. So, I would say that 2025 or 2026 would be what we’re working towards. A lot of things have to be in place in order for us to actually kick it off.

TBJ: Tell me a little bit more about Thrive High Point 2.0 and what this transition entails. Are there other initiatives that are you’re planning?

Roberts: If I had to boil it down to one word, I would just say “more.”  It’s detailed, it’s personalized and it’s intricate. All of those words really speak to this one-on-one approach that we’re going to take with building businesses. With small businesses, everyone is at a different place in the business lifecycle. Everyone comes into a business with different amounts of knowledge, expertise, capital and things of that nature. Thrive 2.0 is more of a personalized approach to building small business one group at a time. The 2.0 approach really is almost like a triage. It says, “what do you need right now?”

I like to think of it as the Nike approach. You can go on the Nike website, and you can personalize your shoe. You can say “Okay, I want my Nike swoosh to be this color and I want my strings to be this color,” whatever makes it uniquely yours. We’re going to take that “uniquely yours” perspective on building small business and make sure that they have a personalized development plan that is uniquely theirs.

TBJ: What has been your experience with beginning this role in a transition phase? What have you learned?

Roberts: In any transition, it’s about collaboration. The great thing here is that everyone that I have been able to work with in High Point has been super collaborative and super helpful. The spirit of High Point is very collaborative. Everyone has been so willing to help. The transition has been pretty neat, and I’ve met a lot of excellent people.

TBJ: How do you hope that ThriveHP 2.0 will impact and affect local communities, specifically local businesses and professionals?

Roberts: My hope is to grow the number of businesses that are in Thrive, which will in turn grow the number of businesses that are part of the Business High Point structure, and that Thrive businesses get opportunities to do more in the communities.

My hope is that I will be able to pinpoint and help people in our communities see the type of impact Thrive businesses have on the High Point community, whether that’s economic development and growth, profitability or bringing more people from outside of High Point into High Point. We want to have some specialized things too that bring people into High Point so they can see all the cool things that are happening.


By Maddie Stopyra – Reporting intern, Triad Business Journal

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