Black History Now-2012

Flickr credit: adria.richards

This year I’m continuing my series on Black Entrepreneurship. This will be a segment of Q & A’s on black entrepreneurs who are working hard at being awesome, while leaving their mark and building their legacies. I started this series last year to acknowledge my local black entrepreneurs, and decided to continue it because I simply enjoy shedding some light on the progression and success of everyday black people- dreaming, believing, and achieving in 2012. I know this isn’t exactly history, but it is history in the making, and that counts for something. I like to read about the everyday unsung heroes; the firefighter, the caretaker for the elderly, the advocate for the youth, etc. I want to share a fresh perspective from the people we know and grow up with; familiar people who are taking risks to own that dream business, or build that personal brand. Many small town or inner city raised blacks are at the forefront of community development. They step to the plate as leaders and mentors to students and troubled youth. They bring employment opportunities to the jobless and donate to charitable causes. I want to acknowledge the African Americans/ Blacks who bring about positive reinforcement against the negative stereotypes that deter hopes and ambition. My “interviewees” are full-time small business owners, solopreneurs, and side-hustle champions.  One thing they all have in common is that they are defining success on their own terms, and working hard to allign their brand with their vision. Black History in the making is definitely something worth celebrating.



Keeping The Dream of Homeownership A Reality/ The Isaiah Project

It is well known that in times of economic depression, a few brave souls will step out of their comfort zones, and start up their dream company. Some of them build castles in the sky, while others build foundations upon which legacies are born. Some start-up companies are derived from a job lay off or termination. Some start-ups see a lack of resources and are an attempt to fill a void out of necessity. During my networking, I came across a start-up in the works called The Isaiah Project.

The Isaiah Project rose out of desire to help people fulfill their dreams of home ownership. The program was initially conceived to walk unqualified applicants through a pipeline process that ultimately opens access to a mortgage they would have otherwise been denied. Traditionally, the story usually ends once a new homeowner receives their keys, but not with The Isaiah Project. In seeing the rise of short sales and home foreclosures the founder, Andres Viloria, saw an opportunity to help save families from foreclosure by making their home a primary focus to program participants looking to purchase a home. He also saw a serious need for shelter of displaced families. His vision is to assist those families who can no longer afford their mortgage, get placed in homes provided by investors. Once an investor provides a home to a displaced family, the family would then rebuild their lives and renew their faith in the great investment of homeownership. They would then begin the pipeline process of credit restoration, followed by lender approval, and finally once again securing a home,hopefully they will help another family in the same situation they were once in. Mr. Viloria says,  “People need to have a sense of hope in their lives and know that there is someone out there that understands and is looking out for their best interest.”

The Isaiah Project is still in its conception stages but the founder hopes to spark a national movement within the mortgage and real estate industry. The goal is to encourage companies to stick with their
clients during their journey to homeownership rather than leave them
hanging when times get rough.

If you have any suggestions that will aid in the vision of opening doors
to homeownership for those who are willing to work for their dream,
you can find more information here.

Becoming A Craft Show Vendor

Photo By: L. Davis

Thanks to social networking on Facebook, I was invited by a fundraising event planner to participate in a craft show that would benefit a local nonprofit. After reading more about branding and growing my business through different marketing venues, I decided to give it a try and become a vendor.

Because it was my first craft fair, I made sure to do a little research in preparation for the event. I found that because La Bella Baskets was an online store and my budget was extremely small, I had to do a lot of improvising, but I made it work. Here are some things I did to prepare for my craft fair:

  1. If you’re a newbie vendor I would suggest reading articles like this to get an idea of what to expect.
  2. Because my business is online, I decided to set up a booth to recruit people interested in a work from home opportunity. I brought my laptop with me so anyone interested could enroll right on the spot. I also made sure to advertise my gifts for anyone interested in purchasing from my online store.
  3. I ran around like a mad woman gathering supplies such as: a table and table cloth, chairs, etc.  
  4. I shared the event on my facebook and twitter business accounts.
  5. I hired my little sister to lend a hand and traded an “I owe you” with my good friend to help me set up and (wo)man my battle station.

 Here is what I learned:

  1. Even though I read up on vending at a local craft fair, I wish I attended one as a spectator first. I became very anxious because I didn’t have a cool banner or proper signage. If I had gone to another small town fair, I could have saved myself the unnecessary stress. I realized that most of them don’t have an over the top set up like the kind you would find at let’s say a big expo center event.
  2. I borrowed a table for this particular event because we were advised to bring our own table and chair. When I arrived, tables happen to become available, and so I used the provided table rather than haul mine out the car. Unfortunately, my table cloth was too small for the provided table. Next time, I’m bringing more than one table cloth.
  3. Hauling my stuff back and forth, even though I traveled light, was literally a pain in the neck. Thankfully, I was surrounded by friendly vendors who saw that I was new and offered a helping hand. They also suggested I get a cart or small hand truck to transport my items.
  4. I figured I could lure customers with free candy and that would get them to take my materials and ask questions. What I received was a lot of children running over as often as possible to take the candy and run. Next time, I think I will put the candy along with marketing materials in a nice mesh bag.
  5. Although I posted the event on Facebook and Twitter, I left out the actual address so my friends and supporters could stop by and show some love. I assumed that sharing the link to the event was enough and was sadly mistaken.

Overall, the craft fair was a wonderful learning experience. I made some new contacts with other vendors, was invited to do another craft fair, and hopefully earned some new business partners and supporters. Do you have any tips you would like to share? I would love to hear suggestions and I’m sure other readers would too!

Are you looking to become a craft show vendor? Besides looking in local newspapers and magazines, I’ve added some resources below to help you locate some events in your area.

Free Entrepreneurship Training

If you haven’t noticed, there has been a lot of talk about Entrepreneurship in the news. Why, you ask? Simple answer, unemployment rates are still high so the demand is great for those who can create jobs.  Sadly, the many people who have great ideas, services, and/or products aren’t sure how or when to get started. Well, a few weeks ago while attending a social networking event; I came across an organization that provided Free Entrepreneurial Development Training! Now before I go any further, this program is a local Southern Jersey/Philadelphia resource geared towards serving people of this region. However, don’t be dismayed, perhaps it’s destiny that you read about this particular program, maybe it’s time you became the person who steps up to the plate to create a similar agency in your area. Either way, let’s have a look inside what this program has to offer.

The nonprofit organization that provides free entrepreneurship training is called LAEDA– Latin American Economic Development Association, Inc. LAEDA has been around for about 23 years. (By the way, no you do not have to be Latin American to participate in their programs.) LAEDA was established to create small business ownership opportunities for all minorities and progressively develop the commercial marketplace in the City of Camden and beyond. The training program is a small piece of the bigger picture that offers budding entrepreneurs the opportunity to fine tune their ideas to best serve Camden, NJ. While taking their intensive training course, program participants will learn many things including: Marketing, Accounting, Technology training, and how to create a Business Plan, just to name a few. As a bonus, all graduates receive ongoing support including free seminars that are scheduled throughout the year.

I couldn’t believe they offered this program for free! There just had to be a catch. My curiosity led me to a phone conversation with the friendly and knowledgeable coordinator I met at the event, as well as the program coordinator who was extremely engaging and helpful.  I asked some questions and they had no problem supplying the answers. So here are a few facts you may not notice on their website:

  1. The program is not just for Camden Residents however, they ask that your business help serve the city of Camden in some capacity.
  2. You have to be accepted into the program, which there is a process that leads you to a face to face interview with the program coordinator and the CEO to see if you fit the criteria for program approval. If you don’t, they explain what you need to work on so that you can apply again more prepared.
  3. The general criteria isn’t as scary as you think it is, they just require that you have a business idea that is viable, feasible, and that you’re willing to do what you must to turn your dream into reality.
  4. When you are put on a very brief phone hold you are delightfully entertained with a compilation of fun Latino music that makes you want to dance in your seat.

In all seriousness, the program looks extremely helpful and the staff gave me the impression that they really care about their program graduates.  They even work with you if you develop stage fright about your business idea and decide to come back to them years later. Just read the testimonies.

So what are you waiting for? Dream Big, Soar High! If you know any more resources for Entrepreneurship training in New Jersey and beyond don’t be stingy, share the resources you never know if the next Bill Gates may come out of one these programs.

What Do We Want? Nonprofits! When Do We Want Them? Now!

Do we really need more nonprofits? Simple answer…YES!

 When I read this post by one of my new favorite nonprofit bloggers, I was a little taken back that she even encountered “Do Gooders” who were discouraging fellow idealists. I quickly recovered when I remembered the anxieties experienced by former coworkers who worried if our program was going to be the next budget cut. I’m not so naïve to think that the competition for funding isn’t great. However, as a person who has utilized and worked in social services I cannot sit back and watch the increased need for resources and hope someone else will step up to the plate to get things done. Looking back, being so worried about the next paycheck should have prompted us to take action to help secure funding and cultivate relations with donors and potential donors so that we would be less dependent on state funding.

One of the small lessons I can take from my experiences and share with those of you who are working in direct care for a program; be proactive in informing your Development and Communications department about the good work you and your coworkers are doing to improve the quality of life for your clients being served. One way to keep funding and help get more funding is to highlight real life testimonies and experiences.  Don’t be afraid to talk about how the lack of staff and lack of training on best work practices hinders your program from feeding a family in need or I don’t know, saving a life. Perhaps, as we share the needs of our programs we can encourage others to fulfill those needs because let’s face it; there are way too many problems in this world and not enough solutions addressing the needs of the people. Case in point, I live in a state where the housing department stopped taking applications altogether because the waiting list was too backed up. Why would anyone discourage someone who wants to open another homeless shelter or soup kitchen?

Nonprofits are needed but I wouldn’t be realistic if I didn’t say, we also need people who are willing to aid the causes of nonprofits too. In response to Mazarine’s post, I posed a question; How do we, (We being anyone who wants to do their part in fostering social change), find and encourage more philanthropic minded people so that established nonprofits don’t squabble and feel intimated by new change makers onto the scene? I would love to hear your suggestions.