Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is partnering with Morehouse College to offer a diverse group of Atlanta businesses owners a course on entering airport concessions.

The Airport Concessioner Accelerator Program just welcomed its first cohort of 20 business owners into the eight-week program. Participants will learn skills including marketing, securing capital and scaling their business for an airport environment. 

The Morehouse Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center is leading the program and focusing on minority and underserved businesses.

Executive Director Tiffany Bussey said this isn’t a degree program — it’s more practical.

“Our intent and our goal is at the end of the program, not that they become concessionaires, but that they understand what it takes to be a concessionaire and then make that strategic decision: 'Is this for my business or is it not?'" she said.

The cohort will meet in person and virtually with leaders in the airport industry through July. Louis Deas is the CEO of Try Deas and Other Treats and a member of the ACAP cohort. Deas said he views entrepreneurship as the pathway forward.

“I know that a lot of our leaders here in Atlanta — John Hope Bryant, Jay Bailey — talk about, especially John Hope Bryant, how, economic opportunity is basically the civil rights issue of this generation,” he said. “So we've got to continue to fight, continue going forward.”

Busey reports the MIEC has helped over 400 companies in the 20 years the center has existed. Kris Hale, founder of Dope Pieces Puzzle Company, said she joined the program as a networking opportunity for her small business.

“It's really hard sometimes to get your foot in the door,” she said. “With so many things being based on relationships, this is a great way to find your way into the airport or into those other opportunities that, as a solo person may be difficult.”

Participants will work with representatives from the Airport Minority Advisory Council and the Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs.