The club offers resources to African American entrepreneurs in the area.
Being an entrepreneur is second nature to Leslie Giscombe. His first job was baking and selling cookies, an informal offshoot of his mother’s catering business.
“I grew up in an entrepreneurial family,” Giscombe said. “My mother had a catering business, and started a day care in our home. When I was in elementary school I would see her making and selling things for other people.”
Giscombe first honed his skills while attending a private boarding school in Pennsylvania, selling snacks from his dormitory room to hungry students after physical education class.
After graduating from UNIS, United Nations International School, a school for children whose parents work at the UN, (his father worked at the UN), he attended college in Texas for a year, but decided to return home.
In the years following he worked several jobs, including construction, and it was then he decided to specialize and open his own kitchen and bath showroom in New York. When he moved to Palm Coast full time in 2002, he started up another kitchen and bath business until the housing market crashed in 2008.
“I decided to go back to school in January 2009,” Giscombe said. “I was reinventing myself.”
As a student at Daytona State College, Giscombe realized he wasn’t the only one starting over; he was surrounded by non-traditional students affected by the economy, and looking for a way to support themselves and their families.
This prompted him to start Regroup USA, a resource and support group for the older students at the college. He started a second Regroup while he was at the University of Florida.
“Very few of us get the opportunity to go to business school.” LESLIE GISCOMBE, Founder & CEO African American Entrepreneurs Club
While working toward his MBA at the Florida Institute of Technology, Giscombe started a counter top business, eventually adding design and layout.
“While I was in graduate school, I thought about specializing,” Giscombe said. “I took into consideration the demographics of Palm Coast. The houses were 15 years, and older, and the owners were in the market to improve them.”
With each business venture, Giscombe was learning the principles of empowering the local economy.
“If we can support entrepreneurs, and help them be effective, there are so many benefits,” he said. “You are benefiting your community; you’re benefiting that person so he can support his family and not feel like there’s no hope.”
Once again, Giscombe realized a need for a club, this time to support African American entrepreneurs, and in July of 2016, he began the African American Entrepreneurs Club.
“I would go to Entrepreneur Night at Office Divvy, it was not a club, and there were very few African Americans that showed up at their events,” he said.
Reaching out to the African American entrepreneurs he had met, Giscombe responded to the need and contacted Parker Van Hart, director of the Entrepreneurship MSE program at UF.
“From there it is history,” Giscombe said.
Van Hart was the guest speaker at the group’s second workshop on Nov. 3. Giscombe presented the program at the group’s inaugural meeting on Oct. 25.
“We started in July, as an online club,” he said. “We have 384 members across the U.S. About a third of those are local, from Orlando, Jacksonville, Daytona and Palm Coast.”
Members post notices and inspiration online for those starting a business, as well as those with existing businesses. Giscombe sees the club as a way for all entrepreneurs, those who went to business school, and those that did not, become successful.
“Very few of us get the opportunity to go to business school,” he said.
The club focuses on three components: education and mentoring, group economics, and a business directory.
“Our directory has more than 100 African American businesses,” Giscombe said. “We want to make it available to anyone in the public, to be able to go to our directory for any services.”