When Matt S. Erskine, assistant secretary, U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) visited Philadelphia, he learned how the agency’s investments are spurring economic growth in the city.
While touring The Enterprise Center, Erskine was briefed on the soon-to-open $6 million Center for Culinary Enterprises (CCE) — a comprehensive commercial kitchen designed to be a catalyst for creating food-related jobs and businesses.
In 2010, EDA made the initial $1.5 million investment in the CCE, a 13,000 square foot facility that will house shared-use commercial kitchens for use by emerging food businesses.
The EDA prepares the nation’s regions for growth and success in the international economy.
“When we do our work, I think it’s important to see the impact here in the communities. We work all across the country co-investing and supporting locally grown economic development, plans and strategies. We’re super excited to be a part of the Center for Culinary Enterprises,” said Erskine.
“What makes EDA special is that we’re really the only federal government agency that is exclusively devoted to economic development, and our bottom-up approach in supporting the economic development and strategies that our local partners bring together.”
TEC President Della Clark says the $1.5 million in EDA funding made it possible to launch the commercial kitchen project. TEC was able to leverage EDA’s investment into attracting state and local government, private foundation and corporation funding.
Clark says the CCE’s goals include giving food entrepreneurs the opportunity to legitimize their businesses by having access to commercial kitchen space.
“Many people have come to us over the years with food products and had recipes but they didn’t have a place to go and commercialize those products, develop that recipe and work on it — and this will afford them that opportunity to do so,” Clark says of the CCE.
“We will be able to take those entrepreneurs who are working out of their home and help them legitimize.”
The center plans to launch or accelerate at least 10 new food businesses each year that will create between 36 and 63 jobs annually. The center will also work to place 50 individuals in workforce positions in the culinary industry and train 100 high school students in restaurant and hospitality management.
CCE clients will have the opportunity to take part in a business incubator program called Philly Food Ventures, where TEC’s business development professionals will provide technical assistance for culinary entrepreneurs.
According to Clark, the center has forged a key partnership with Bon Appétit at the University of Pennsylvania. The food service management company has made a yearly commitment to purchase about $500,000 products from CCE entrepreneurs. Bon Appétit was also instrumental in helping design CCE’s commercial kitchen space. Clark says TEC seeks to form similar partnerships with other area universities.
The CCE is slated to officially open on September 14 at 11 a.m. at 310 South 48th Street.
Willie C. Taylor, regional director, EDA Philadelphia Regional Office, says the CCE has spurred interest from other states around the country who are interested in starting similar commercial kitchen projects.
“When the EDA makes an investment, it’s not just for the local residents and businesses to benefit. We try to make investments that are also replicable and serve as models of potential best practices nationwide,” says Taylor.
As he toured TEC, Erskine was impressed with the number of young people who were on site to learn about entrepreneurship.
“President Obama wants to support innovation in whatever form it takes, as long as it shows that innovation is leading to job creation and investment activity,” Erskine added.
“Here’s how a community is creating jobs — and it’s right in line with what the president is trying to do.”
Erskine’s also visited the EDA-funded University City Science Center which supports technology commercialization and technology-based economic development on the campus and in the Greater Philadelphia region. The center provides lab and office space for start-up, growing and established companies. In the region about 15,000 people are employed by 93 companies who have graduated from the Science Center.
During 2011, the Science Center’s QED Proof-of-Concept Funding Program received $1 million from the EDA. The Science Center’s QED Program is the nation’s first multi-institutional proof-of-concept program for life science technologies.
Erskine was in town for the 2012 EDA Philadelphia Regional Conference where more than 300 stakeholders and grantees convened July 9–11 at the Loews Hotel.
The Enterprise Center (TEC) hosted the seventh annual Passing the Torch Gala on Thursday, Oct. 4. The Center’s signature event, which took place at the organization’s headquarters in West Philadelphia, honors intergenerational, minority-owned businesses and recognizing their contributions to the city of Philadelphia.
The Enterprise Center, founded in 1989 by the Wharton Small Business Development Center, provides access to capital, building capacity, business education and economic development opportunities to high-potential, minority entrepreneurs.
Della Clark, president of the organization, asked Cathy Hughes, founder and chairman of Radio One Inc., to collaborate on a fundraiser for the organization in 2005. Radio One is a $350 million family-owned firm that is among the nation’s largest Black-owned businesses. Dyana Williams, WRNB-FM on-air personality and friend of Hughes, suggested having an entrepreneurial legacy awards ceremony in honor of small businesses that have managed to survive generations. The first annual Passing the Torch event took place in September 2006 with Hughes serving as honorary chair with her son, Alfred C. Liggins III, CEO of Radio One and chairman of TV One.
“This year’s Passing the Torch Gala is one of the major events taking place during Philadelphia MED (Minority Entrepreneurship Development) Week, from Oct. 1 – Oct. 5. A weeklong celebration of minority businesses throughout Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, MED Week and Passing the Torch are a perfect fit, as both were born out of the desire to build and honor successful minority businesses and entrepreneurs in Philadelphia,” said Clark.
The outstanding 2012 awardees were Keven Parker of Ms. Tootsie’s Restaurant Bar Lounge, recipient of “The Legacy Award,” and Ricardo Burton of Delicious and Nutritious, recipient of the “Lighting the Torch Award.” One of Philadelphia’s most influential elected officials representing Philadelphia’s 4th District, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, presented the Legacy Award to Parker.
The multi-talented Parker launched the popular establishment with his mother, Tootsie, 18 years ago. The mother and son team effort, centrally located in South Philadelphia, has certainly grown by leaps and bounds. Today, this entrepreneurial endeavor thrives under The KeVen Parker Company. Ms. Toostie’s is next door to Parker’s Luxury Suites and KDP Lifestyle Store.
“Anytime you get recognized, it’s a beautiful thing, especially to be recognized by your own people. It’s amazing to be recognized for doing what I love to do. This is what I love to do,” Parker remarked.
Malyka Sankofa, TEC-lab director, presented the Lighting the Torch Youth Award to Burton.
Burton is an exceptional young man who is a freshman at the Franklin Learning Center in Fairmount. At this early point in his life, he is also an entrepreneur and business owner. He founded his own organic and gluten-free cookie company, “Delicious and Nutritious,” after attending TEC’s “Summer Tec Lab in 2011. Even though Burton is not gluten-intolerant, many of his friends and family are. That was this amazing young man’s inspiration for developing a delicious, healthy product that others could enjoy! When asked what he considers his greatest achievement, Burton said, “Getting my business off the ground and it’s growing. I’m making my mark on the world.
Legacy Awards are given to entrepreneurs who have taken or are taking the reins of their predecessors’ successful businesses. Past honorees include: Earl Graves Jr., son of Earl Graves Sr., publisher of Black Enterprise; and Oscar Joyner, son of media personality Tom Joyner, CEO of Reach Media; along with Matthew Beach, son of George Beach of Beach Creative Communications; Harold Epps, successor of Willie Johnson of PRWT Services Inc.; Bennett P. Lomax, son of Dr. Walter Lomax of the Lomax Companies; The Moore Family, family of Theodore Moore, Elohim Cleaning Contractors Inc., and Nakia Stith, daughter of Gregory Stith of Top of the Clock Security Inc.
Congratulations to the 2012 awardees, the board of directors, TEC leadership and all involved. Chester Riddick of Alpha Office Supplies served as this year’s honorary chair. He, along with host committee: Bruce Demps of Radio One; Brandon Pankey of Sports and Entertainment Financial Group LLC; and Delilah Winder, director of The Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises, did a spectacular job.
Passing the Torch is made possible by the generous support of Deloitte, University of Pennsylvania Purchasing Services, Biddle Services, CBIZ and PIDC.
For more information about The Enterprise Center, visit them at www.theenterprisecenter.com.
Have a fantastic week “Out & About” everyone!
It was déjà vu in West Philadelphia on Monday August 6, as the multi-purpose room at the Enterprise Center on 45th Market Street, transformed into the American Bandstand studio.
The Enterprise Center, which is located on the exact location where the popular televised dance show WFIL-TV was produced decades ago, held an anniversary celebration where some of the original dancers of the program returned for a reunion.
There were 1950’s checkered tablecloths on the tables, a DJ from 98.1 FM and people dancing on the floor to songs from the Bandstand era.
“Today’s event is recognizing American Bandstand and what it meant to Philadelphia and what it meant to the people who are here attending today,” said Della Clark, president of the Enterprise Center. “This was their life at 13, 14, and 15-years-old and to come back to the old studio which represented their hopes and dreams.”
Clark said the reunion revitalizes the hopes and dreams that were once inspired by American Bandstand.
The broadcast, said Clark, identified local talent and helped to shape such talent. In this way, the Enterprise Center has the same goal.
“So we are just keeping the tradition alive,” she said. “As we say in the Enterprise Center ‘The beat goes on.’”
Bunny Gibson was an original dancer on the hit show and said she was excited about the event.
“American Bandstand was a real turning point in my life and probably one of the biggest things that ever happened to me,” she said.
Gibson met her husband, who saw her dancing on the show and arranged to meet with her. As a result of her appearance on Bandstand, she went on to perform in other venues.
“If it wasn’t for Della Clark, this whole building might have been torn down,” she said. “God bless her for saving our studio and now, thanks to her, I just think it’s great that we are giving back to the community and the studio is still helping people.”
Nicholas Fiorentino, known as “Nicky Blue” was also a regular on the show and referred to Bandstand’s host, Dick Clark, as a “stellar guy” who helped shape and mold him as a young man.
Recording artist, Dee Dee Sharp was on hand to attend the anniversary and was greeted by a throng of regulars anxious to meet her.
“Dick Clark actually promoted my record in 1962,” Sharp said. “I’m 67 now and was about 16 years old [then]. American Bandstand changed my life because no one knew who I was.”
The doors to the long-anticipated Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises are finally open.
The West Philadelphia-based, 13,000 square foot, multi-use center will provide culinary entrepreneurs with the opportunity to rent commercial kitchen space, and access to the resources needed for business growth and success.
The center — a project of The Enterprise Center (TEC) — has been nine years in the making. The development seeks to turn what was once a former, dilapidated supermarket into a new hub for economic development.
TEC officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday morning to mark the opening of the facility, at 310 South 48th St. in West Philadelphia.
Della Clark, president of TEC, says the new culinary center should be viewed as an engine to accelerate job creation.
“While this can be viewed as an incubator, we really want you to leave with the impression that this is an accelerator,” Clark told the entrepreneurs, business, community and government officials who attended the grand opening.
“What we’re looking for is expediency into job creation. When you take a tour of this facility, it’s not about a kitchen, it’s not about a stove or a refrigerator — what we are talking about here is jobs,” says Clark.
“What we are a talking about here is opening innovation and creativity and the doors of the Center for Culinary Enterprises so that entrepreneurs can come in, perfect their product, perfect their cuisine, hire people and create jobs.”
To that end, the center projects to launch or accelerate at least 10 new food businesses per year. CCE officials will work to place 50 individuals annually in workforce positions in the culinary industry and train 100 high school students in restaurant and hospitality management.
Clark is encouraging institutions such as University of Pennsylvania and Drexel to purchase products from the culinary center.
For Zana Billue, owner of Zana Cakes, Inc. the new facility has been a long time coming. Billue, who assisted TEC with developing a feasibility study for the center, says having access to the center will enable her to expand her specialty dessert company. She’s excited that the kitchen incubator is finally open.
“It’s going to give me the opportunity to expand the business because now I can bake at a higher volume than I’ve been able to bake before. So that will allow me to generate more money and hopefully hire one or two more people to assist,” says Billue, whose business specializes in making assorted pound cakes for corporate and individual clients.
She says working out of the center will makes her business marketable to clients who were concerned that she didn’t have the capacity to handle larger orders.
“It also, for lack of a better word, legitimizes your business,” she added.
The center features four licensed, state-of-the-art, shared-use commercial kitchens to rent to culinary entrepreneurs and support spaces for clients including cold/freezer and dry storage and loading facilities, conveyer dishwasher and small ware supply. The facility’s kitchen facilities are available for rent 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
CCE clients will take part in Philly Food Innovation — a business acceleration program where TEC’s business development professionals provide technical assistance tailored for culinary entrepreneurs in both one-on-one and group settings.
The CCE also features the eKitchen Multimedia Learning Center — a fully-operational demonstration kitchen inside a digital, small smart classroom and television studio, allowing for in-person and distance programming.
The center is directed by Delilah Winder of Delilah’s Southern Cuisine Company.
The $6 million facility was supported by philanthropist Dorrance Hamiliton, Wells Fargo, FirstTrust Bank, city, state and federal funding.
“This is one of the greatest outpourings that we’ve seen in West Philadelphia for economic vitality, putting people to work and making more and more progress,” Mayor Michael Nutter said in reference to the combined investment in the facility.
Nutter said more projects like the new center should be replicated throughout the city.
“We need more of these in other parts of the city Philadelphia. Let us not stop at one,” he added.
During the grand opening, Matt Erskine, assistant secretary, U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration, addressed how the recession has caused communities to form strategic partnerships in an effort to spur economic recovery and job creation.
“We’re seeing the recovery and to accelerate that recovery we need examples of projects like this across the country where regional community partnerships, business, government on all levels, nonprofit foundations, individuals and strategic partners are coming together to make this happen,” says Erskine, whose agency made a $1.5 million investment in the CCE.
Erskine said the new center should serve as a model for what needs to be done for job creation.
The new center will also be the home of new retailers including Desi Village, a Pakistani restaurant and Café Injera, a coffee shop and sit-down eatery featuring Ethiopian flavors.
The Mayor’s Commission on African & Caribbean Immigrant Affairs Business & Trade Committee’s forum on navigating the import and export business was held on Thursday Jan. 24 at the Enterprise Center in West Philadelphia.
The event, hosted in coordination with the Minority Business Development Agency Business Center of the U.S. Department of Commerce attracted small business owners from across the city to hear business professionals discuss how to take advantage of the growing opportunities in Africa.
“This is a fantastic event,” said Chairman Stanley Straughter. “Many small, medium-sized minority firms, who just have no idea on where to get technical assistance and financing to help support them in their efforts to do exporting and importing so this program is designed to do that.”
During the event, two panels were held where panelists took the opportunity to explain the opportunities and resources available for businesses seeking to do import and exporting business in Africa.
“We have a great opportunity here to move people to the next level and to help them get the resources and tools they need to expand their business enterprise and, more importantly, how to move forward,” Straughter said.
Straughter said another great thing about the event was that it focused on Africa. According to Straughter, eight of the ten fastest growing economies are in Africa.
“I’m talking about supporting Africa where we have a middle class that is growing at the same rate as the middle class in China,” Straughter said. “Consumer production and purchasing and production in Africa will soon be over $2 trillion.”
“In the final analysis, when we are making money we are creating jobs both here and abroad, and we are helping to elevate our communities and creating economic growth,” he said.
Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell was also present at the event. She told the crowd of business people the commission was a premier organization and has led delegations throughout the continent of Africa. She also praised Straughter and the members of the Commission for their work.
“We have people all over the world and represent some 38 countries throughout Africa and the Caribbean, and we are proud of the leadership on our commission and their commitment to try to get business here and abroad,” she said.
Councilman David Oh chairs the committee on global opportunities and described the event as an “excellent opportunity.”
“One of the things that we are so interested in is increasing the capability of Philadelphians,” he said. “We have a population here in our city that [is] involved in small business and yet, so many of them that have connections around the world, or could have connections around the world, could really get their products out to other countries but don’t know how.”
Oh said that the forum should increase the possibility for small businesses to become global players, which will help increase jobs in the city and local neighborhoods.
Businesses in Philadelphia seeking such assistance can find support from the Small Business Services committee of the Mayor’s Commission of African and Immigrant Affairs, said Kayo Malomo, co-chair.
“Our responsibility is to provide high-level, technical support to local businesses in the Philadelphia area, especially African- and Caribbean-owned business,” Malomo said.
Cleaning your front could help attract customers to your business.
This was one of the messages delivered by speakers at the Visual Merchandising for Retailers Workshop held at the Enterprise Center at 4500 Market St. in West Philadelphia on Thursday.
During the workshop, speakers instructed attendants on the methods and techniques that could be used to help increase sales.
Anne Cecil, director of design and merchandising program at Drexel University, was one of the speakers at the forum and said that the front of a business is the first contact that business owners have with their customers and that what a customer sees can make the difference in whether they stop and shop or keep moving and go elsewhere.
“What you present on the outside of your business will be what they expect on the inside,” Cecil said.
Sweeping up leaves and trash may have a significant impact on businesses. She compares it to receiving guests in her home.
“I need to make sure that the front of my house is clean, in shape and welcoming,” Cecil said. “On top of that, businesses have to find a way to differentiate themselves from the other businesses out there and position themselves within the customer’s mind.”
In the same way, businesses in business corridors need to consider attracting those passing by on public transportation, cars and pedestrians and for this reason strategically decorate their window displays accordingly, utilizing the middle, top and bottom of windows.
Cecil noted as much it is important to attract customers to your place of businesses, it is also important to get them inside and to create a pleasurable shopping experience once they are. What a customer sees, hears and even smell can make it more likely that a customer will stay and purchase an item or walk out empty handed to go elsewhere.
Another trick of the trade: Putting interesting things to the back and on the side walls of your stores will help attract customers inside, getting customers inside is the, after all, the goal since they cannot purchase unless they enter.
“The longer they stay in your store, and the deeper in your store they go, the more they will spend,” Cecil said.
Cecil began her career in retail and has more than 30 years of industry experience. She moved into education in 1980. She has spent 20 years educating people on designing and merchandising.
“It’s as simple as this, once a neighborhood starts to get anything that looks like it’s in disrepair and people do not address it and repair it quickly, that neighborhood will decline rapidly,” Cecil said.
She said the answer is just as simple as caring about one’s property and making sure that it is simple and clean.
“If you are in an overwhelmingly depressed area and people start letting their property decline and you are the only one doing anything about it then it might not help,” she said. “But if you can get everyone on your block to sweep up than all of a sudden your block looks clean and inviting and people will come.”
There’s a new resource in town for budding entrepreneurs.
The Enterprise Center (TEC) is now home to the Expertise Center, which serves early-stage entrepreneurs looking for business development advice and assistance from experienced business professionals.
“We are finding more and more entrepreneurs who are in need of one-on-one support and that direct contact for specific issues,” said Aleea Slappy, director of training and education at TEC.
“We already have workshops that address the overarching issues around writing a business plan, finalizing a business idea and obtaining capital, but each business is different so we realized that sometimes entrepreneurs need somebody to address the issues that they are having.”
TEC has established a space where entrepreneurs can receive a free one hour personalized session with business professionals to discuss their business development challenges.
“Finances on the front end should not be a barrier for you not having basic knowledge to start a business, so we’re kind of moving that barrier out of the way. We see that this is a need in the marketplace,” Slappy said.
Expert volunteers will be on hand to address issues such as accounting, business plan review, credit assistance, management and leadership, financing, technical assistance, marketing, technology and social media and contracts and procurement. Clients will also have access to industry experts in the areas of construction, cosmetology, food, retail, professional services and transportation. While TEC officials have launched the new center with a group of experts, are still seeking professionals who are willing to volunteer some of their time.
“We are really in need of more experts who are willing to commit — whether its four hours a month or whatever it is — to sit down and met with entrepreneurs,” Slappy stressed.
A small group of aspiring business owners and professionals turned out on June 27 for the official opening of the Expertise Center.
Jocelyn Poesnecker, an author and illustrator of children’s books was on hand for the opening. She seeks to target her series of children’s books to area day care centers, schools and libraries throughout the city. She’s hoping to gain some advice about book publishing and marketing from the TEC.
“I am looking for advice on how to market my books,” said Poesnecker, who is a former singing teacher.
James Jackson, an aspiring entrepreneur, was also in attendance. He participated in TEC’s Start Up seminars in an effort to get some insight on starting a line of t-shirts.
“It’s beneficial because it starts the wheels turning in your mind. I felt like I finally made some connections. I’m trying to build a foundation with the right people around me,” Jackson said in regard to seeking assistance from TEC.
TEC officials encourage clients interested in utilizing the services of the Expertise Center to first participate in a Start Up seminar which are offered on Wednesdays. The Start Up seminars cover topics including access to capital, business basics, licensing and certifications and small business resources in Philadelphia.
The Expertise Center is open by appointment Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Located at 4548 Market Street, TEC provides access to capital, building capacity, business education and economic development opportunities to high-potential minority entrepreneurs.
For information call (215) 895-4010.
Congressman Chaka Fattah has announced that the Enterprise Center (TEC) will receive a $275,000 grant to deliver strategic business consulting to eligible minority business enterprises.
The grant comes from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) and is geared to help MBE clients achieve higher levels of growth and competitiveness.
“The primary use of these funds will be for job creation and retention for minority business owners. The economic well- being of Philadelphia, the commonwealth and our nation is tied to the long-term growth and development of small and minority-owned businesses. These funds will help to ensure their future success,” said Fattah.
Fattah is the lead Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and related agencies, which includes funding oversight for the Commerce Department.
The $275,000 grant will allow the TEC-based MBDA Business Center of Pennsylvania (MBC-PA) to assist MBEs nationwide in accessing global market opportunities and financing; identify and secure of alternative sources of capital; promotion of the advantages of achieving size and scale; educating MBEs on the benefits of strategic growth alternatives; and provision of service referrals to MBEs of all sizes.
“We’re been a federal contractor of the U.S. Department Commerce since 2004 so the importance of having this contract is extremely important to the work that we do in serving the minority and women business community,” said James Sanders, director of MBC-PA.
“We are here to help these firms to move further up the business life cycle from first-year growth to five-year growth and 10-year growth and so forth. There are firms that have been in business for 20 years but they are still at the lower level of the business life cycle with five or ten employees, so our job is really to assess those firms, their infrastructure and their ability to handle large size contracts and to create jobs.”
The MBDA is a U.S. Commerce Department agency that helps create and maintain U.S. jobs by promoting the growth and competiveness of minority-owned businesses.
MBC-PA is part of a national network of more than 40 business centers that help provide agency clients with the technical assistance, access to capital, contract opportunities and markets that they need to create jobs.
With the credit crunch, many entrepreneurs are finding that they are just not bankable and therefore unable to acquire the capital needed to either start or maintain their businesses.
The Enterprise Center, long known for its direct assistance to businesses and residents in the West Philadelphia area, are holding their “Becoming Bankable Workshop,” Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 6 p.m. in an effort to help those with credit and banking problems to improve their credit scores and also to guide them through the process of becoming bankable.
“The Enterprise Center has been around for 25 years helping minorities owned businesses grow and excel. As we do this, we quite often encounter individuals that have good business idea, lots of expertise and a real ability to run a business, yet they’re not bankable,” said Iola Harper of the Enterprise Center.
The reasons why businesses and individuals are deemed unbankable varies, she said.
“Either they have issues that are preventing them from getting approved to get the capital they need and so this workshop is set up to help people understand not just credit but the difference between personal credit and business credit,” Harper said.
Having been turned down for a line of credit needs not be the end for an individual or entrepreneur seeking to finance a business, said Harper and the Becoming Bankable Workshop is designed to help those in such a situation.
“During this workshop we really want to help stair-step them into becoming bankable if they’re not, if they have gotten turned down for a loan before what they need to do so that they could get approved for a loan,” said Harper.
Banks are usually the first financial institutions which individuals and entrepreneurs think of when they think of loans for themselves or their businesses. However, banks are not the only source of funding and Harper says that those attending the workshop will also be introduced to other non-traditional sources of possible finances as well.
“We’re going to talk about micro-loans, and were going to talk about crowd funding as a way for individuals who may not have the credit history to get access to capital,” Harper said. “This is going to be an all-encompassing workshop.”
While there are various types of funding sources available which many would- be entrepreneurs and individuals may yet be unaware, Harper understands that each individual is different and, for this reason, those attending the workshop will receive one-on- one credit counseling by a credit counselor who can help customize a plan for each participant individually as receive their credit scores for free.
Tickets are $15 and the workshop is open to the public.
“The return on that investment is amazing because not only do you get information on how to get bankable if you’re not but also get free credit counseling and an opportunity to sign up to get your credit report for free,” Harper said.
Those interested in attending should RSVP as soon as possible by calling the Enterprise Center at (215) 895-4000.
Youth of the Enterprise Center’s Executive Incubator program aren’t only learning what it takes to become entrepreneurs. They are also getting an opportunity to show what they learned in a real life experience.
The youth who participate in the youth entrepreneur’s incubator program at the Enterprise Center are those who were selected after submitting their ideas and doing a presentation.
The young people participating in the program are taught everything from how to originate an idea, market it, create a business plan and how to operate and sustain a business of their own.
“The youth had to participate in a business plan competition so whether they are in school program or the summer program, at the end of that period of time they are responsible for standing up before the group and presenting their business idea,” said Malyka Sankofa of the Enterprise Center.
A panel of judges decided which youth became a part of the Executive Incubator program.
“The Executive Incubator is about 10-years-old and our youth program has been in existence for approximately 15, and for that length of time we have been helping youth start their own business,” said Sankofa.
While there are other programs of the kind, the Executive Incubator is that other groups typically make participants join in a group and work on a single project as a team, the Executive Incubator allows the youth to work on their own projects, says Sankofa.
The other difference is that other programs offer students mock money for their projects, the Enterprise Center provides its youth with the real deal.
“It’s their money and we try to get them to invest the money into their businesses. Some youth do and some youth don’t. It teaches them that its okay to take a portion of their earnings and maybe do something nice for yourself but if you don’t reinvest in your business you don’t have anything to continue it with,” said Sankofa.
Since its inception, Sankofa estimates that approximately 250 youth have participated in the program and she has had the pleasure of seeing some of them go on to start their own successful businesses.
“We have lots of students who reach back to thank us and tell us what they are doing now. Some do pursue their businesses or start others.”
Sierra Horsey-Morris, 16, is a young entrepreneur in the Executive Incubator program and desires to be a broadcaster.
“This program give kids $500 stipends to start their business and they come up with a business idea and it’s a good idea to give kids a taste of what it is [to be an entrepreneur].
Jerron Corley attends Parkway West high school where he got involved in the business plan competition where his plan was selected for the Executive Enterprise Center. That was two years ago and Corley says he has learned a great deal since then.
“It gives me a better sense of how to deal with the different aspects of business such as finances and product development,” said Corley.
Corley says that there are not a lot of youth in the business world and for this reason the work of the Enterprise Center’s Executive Incubator program is a much needed one.
“I’m here at the Enterprise Center to start my own business and,” said Zenovia Barnes, 15, who is developing on a business for all-natural beauty products.
“Being involved in the Executive Incubator program has helped me greatly by helping me generate ideas and get on track with starting my own business,” said Barnes.
On Dec. 20 four of the students will host a launch party where they will be displaying their goods and services from their respective businesses at a kiosk at Philadelphia International airport. At this time, the students will get an opportunity to pitch to actual consumers.