Washington native helps business owners

Published 2:45 pm Friday, July 29, 2022

Dionne Griffin McGee reflected on her time at P.S. Jones Middle School and wondered how different her life would have been if an entrepreneurial class was offered by the school. McGee did not  doubt she (still) would have worked in corporate America, but the class could have helped her realize her passion for entrepreneurship and working in corporate America. 


McGee is the president and CEO of DG McGee Enterprises which is a woman-owned project management firm specializing in customized programming (cohorts, incubators, accelerators and digital programming). In 2019, she was nominated as the Cathy Hughes Businesswoman of the Year, according to her website (dgmcgee.org). She has over 20 years of experience in corporate America in executive positions leading sales teams.


She wished there would have been “proof of possibility” when she was a young teen in middle school. Meaning, had there been a female entrepreneur who shared with students about her career, McGee believes “the light bulb would have come one many moons ago and I could have said ‘hey, that might work for me.’ I honestly feel like I would be further than I am and a lot of people would,” McGee said. 


McGee hopes to be that “proof of possibility” for women and minorities today by helping them actualize their entrepreneurial dreams. 


She has created resources that help them start small businesses. One of the resources is the Eastern North Carolina Entrepreneurial Promise, or ENCEP. This program is designed to assist small businesses in either Tier I or Tier II economically distressed counties in the eastern part of the state. Funded through NC IDEA Foundation, ENCEP, is a 10-week program offering mentorship, scaling opportunities, virtual instruction, targeted strategic advisory services, connections to capital providers and networking with peer companies, according to the program’s website (encep.org). Plus, ENCEP introduces marketing professionals, human resource professionals, attorneys to  small businesses owners in addition to assisting with generating capital and finding grants. 


Minorities and women wanting to take advantage of the program are encouraged to apply by July 31, 2022. The program is free to participants. Partner Community Capital and the National Institute of Economic Development are sponsors of the program. 


Starting a business in eastern North Carolina, Beaufort County specifically, is “necessary,” but presents many challenges such as a “lack of capital and access to resources,” McGee said. Adding that many of the economic development resources in Raleigh do not “trickle down” to the eastern part of the state. 


A unique challenge to women is they tend to have jobs and take care of a family. By the time they are done with work and taking care of family, they neither have time nor energy to devote to starting their own business. McGee shared that women she’s spoken to have wanted to start retail stores, bakeries or businesses that offer services, but do not have time or energy to do so let alone necessary resources. 


“I know a lot of female business owners that have amazing ideas, but a lot of times it doesn’t get off the ground,” McGee said. This is because women are wives and/or mothers who work full-time and may be a caretaker for a family member.


According to the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, there were 964,280 small businesses in North Carolina in 2021 making up 99.6% of NC businesses. Of that total, 358,783 were owned by women. Men owned 506,417 businesses and 41,983 were owned equally by women and men. 


McGee wants every business owner to succeed, especially women given her background working in male-dominated businesses. In the last ten years of her career she found a lack of diversity, equity and inclusivity. In addition, she found that her strong work ethic and value were not appreciated; therefore, she decided to give back to women to help those who experience either the same or similar challenges she faced.