Nekita Sullivan has faced the struggles of starting a business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Paving the way for fellow entrepreneurs
Returning to her hometown of Aiken, Catie Rabun was inspired to invest in the city’s quaint but slightly sleepy downtown. Rabun majored in marketing, which afforded her a semester in Washington, DC, studying international business and trade, and enabled her to participate in a joint program in venture entrepreneurship with students at Otto-Friedrich University in Bamberg, Germany. Her education continued in 2010 at the University of Miami, where she earned a master’s degree in real estate development and urbanism.
Armed with a strong marketing skill set, a gutsy approach to investing in real estate, and a deep commitment to the concept of livable cities, Rabun, now settled back in Aiken, began to scour the area’s downtown in search of an affordable commercial property where she could hatch an idea that had been incubating in her head throughout college and graduate school. She formed a real estate development company with her father, David Sacks, which they named Caradasa, LLC, and eventually they bought a long neglected 20,000-square-foot office building that had once served as the operations hub for Regions Bank.
The complete re-purposing of the building began in December, 2013, and by April, 2014, Rabun saw the realization of her idea with the opening of The Mill on Park — the city’s very first mixed-use office space for start-up companies, small businesses and entrepreneurship. Caradasa has partnered with USC Aiken and the Small Business Development Center for programmatic support. The Mill on Park has become the largest office space in the city’s downtown district. With all of the 18 offices currently rented, Rabun knows now that her instinct to move forward with this project was on target.
“While I was warned about the risk of investing in real estate, I had a strong sense that this was not just a successful purchase but an investment in Aiken’s downtown life, business activity and future,” says Rabun.