Turning young people into entrepreneurs

A local group has helped young people find their inner entrepreneur.

WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA9) - Frustrated with a persistent crime problem near Kennedy Street, neighbors took action earlier this year. While added police presence was one proposed solution, the community members also called for a new entrepreneurship program, called "Community Carrot," which would take at-risk young people, and teach them in the skills of business.

In March, WUSA9 spoke with organizers and some of the members of the program. Now, as the program comes to a close, we stopped by again to talk about what's been achieved.

"My business is 'entrepreneur army,'" said Emani Wilson.

Like all the other students, Wilson has created a logo and a business plan. She created a social media marketing company, which offers services for as low as $50 for small businesses. When talking, she couldn't help but smile as she lifted up a binder full of official paperwork.

"I have my basic business license," she said.

Wilson is one of 14 young people enrolled in the program. In order to be accepted, the young people needed to be non-students, between the ages of 18 and 24. They also had to be facing multiple barriers, both financial and otherwise.

"It signifies all the work I've put in up to this point," she said. "It's a marker for how far I've come."

Alfonso Gregory joined us as well to talk about his new business, Shoe Resurrection.

"My business idea is basically about restoring shoes," he said.

Gregory showed us countless "before and after" photos, in which he took a dirty, dilapidated pair of shoes, and transformed them into brand new.

"You know how Jordans drop shoes every month," he said. "And people are saying 'that's the same shoe. That's the same shoe.' Well, you can keep that same, old shoe that you have, and bring that to me, and I can make it 100 times better than what it did before."

For some, the challenges were especially steep. Khalil Duberry-Dockery created his business, Vegan Buddy, while living in a homeless shelter.

"For me, homelessness is just another challenge," he said. "But I've always grown up on the harder side of life. And for me, it wasn't having a mother or father there."

A vegan himself, Khalil based his business on his own experience. Vegan Buddy offers mentoring for patients forced to change their diet after a heart attack or diabetes.

"I want to help people get healthier," he said.

David Sheon runs the program, and said it is invaluable, as far as creating the future business leaders of the area.

"Our young people have stepped up to the plate," he said. "Their ideas are every bit as creative as people who have access to millions of dollars of capital. They have just never had a voice or an opportunity to shine."

As of now, it's still unclear if the program will continue, due to funding concerns. The city provided $60,000 for the program last year, although so far no money has been allocated for this year.

"Where's the money," asked Sheon.

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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