Program starts up in Albion this summer
By SYLVIA BENAVIDEZ
Be ready to create, explore entrepreneurship, and work hard; all of that is what the leaders say is at the heart of the Dream.build.rise Albion program. The opportunity is designed specifically for minority-owned businesses and women-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs. Applications are accepted online through Wednesday, June 2. Funding for the pilot program is being offered free of charge through a grant from the Albion Community Foundation and reduced fees and in-kind support from the members of the dream.build.rise E-Team – including Albion’s BOSS Up and the curriculum provider, International Strategic Management, and support from Albion’s Economic Development Corporation.
Building up the next generation of global leaders through business incubators worldwide that are culturally diverse is part of ISM INC’s mission. They also focus on best practices marketing and cultural diversity training for businesses. The curriculum may be new to most in the area, but the two women leading the project and learning to instruct the Exploring Entrepreneurship Program are familiar faces in Albion. Donisha Brewer and Mocara Ortiz grew up in the city and hope to provide mentorship and guidance for participants in the Dream.build.rise Albion program from May 24 to July 26.
Qualifying individuals primarily should be Albion residents or anyone who will be doing business in Albion. Young minority business owners and young women are encouraged to apply. Anyone who is already in business, the start-up phase, or even in the idea phase can take advantage of the training.
Brewer explained, “The start-up phase doesn’t necessarily mean I just started up this new business. You could have been in business for five years, but you are still extremely small. All businesses that want to grow or expand, we will go through marketing plans and business plans, and understanding your area, and is this a viable business. Will you be able to survive, or are you doing this just as a hustle?”
Last fall, the women organized an event in Albion on Erie Street where minority-owned vendors came and sold baked goods, fashion, cosmetics, etc., in a street fair setting. From that experience came a new business model for their dreams. “We were approached by the EDC to collaborate on a project for the community for minority-owned and women-owned businesses because that was something that we already had a passion about, and we were starting BOSS Up Inc. because we saw a need from the BOSS UP or Fall Festival of how many minority-owned businesses just did not know where to start with a business plan, with business cards, with learning how to get certifications and licensing so they can actually sell their goods on the streets. And so, once we saw that need, we started BOSS Up Inc., and the EDC realized this was something that was taking place in the community and something they wanted to be a part of because they had the resources and the structure to help minority-owned businesses in the community of Albion.”
The function of BOSS UP, Building Opportunity for Self-Success, is multi-level and operated by the two women and Ryan Showers. “We are a consulting company that works with various businesses and offer them an opportunity to do pop-up shops and sell their goods. We help with business plans, helping with the next steps of what their business should be. And we have the marketing side with BOSS UP productions where we can help them shoot commercials or infomercials about their business and create flyers.” Brewer explained.
Pop-up shops are an important way to examine the reality of a business by operating in a temporary location for a short amount of time. Ortiz said, “With the pop-up shops, you can find out if this is something you really want to do. Taking your idea and creating it in the pop-up shop to get the vibe to see if this is something you want to do every day or every once in a while or do I want to turn it into a brick and mortar business.”
Five years ago, she opened Kerizma, a beauty salon on the corner of Superior and Erie. She wished she had these skills taught to her as a young business owner, and she was young starting the business at 21. “More importantly, I wish I would have had the support. Because within this program, we’re here to help you. We’re here to ask you questions, not necessarily hold your hand, but be there from start to finish,” she said.
Ortiz said everything was trial and error for her.
“I did what I had to do. If it worked, it worked. If it didn’t, then I would try again and again. But if I had the support of somebody who knew what they were doing, it would be a lot easier to get where I needed to be more quickly, and I would have saved a lot of money too.”
Her goal was to do nails for only five years. “I will do it for certain people who still want my craft, but it is not my everyday thing anymore. I am going to focus on BOSS UP, and I am turning this into an actual store with men’s and women’s clothes. I am super excited to get other people’s brands in the shop and sell them,” she said. Ortiz has a lot of connections to get new products here and has even booked a trip to California to bring back styles for the younger generation in Albion. “I am excited to bring back stuff that is different.”
Brewer said she is excited for Ortiz, too, and wants prospective entrepreneurs to learn and be inspired by Ortiz’s journey. “I watched her grow from the beginning. Even from the first time she did my nails, we would talk and be dreaming, and manifesting, and putting things out there. To be with her five years later and to hear her success story and watch her expanding and growing and she is from Albion that gives me goosebumps.”
“I want to see more business owners like this. This is a testament that you don’t always have to move away to be successful. We need that in our own community in order to be sustainable. It’s so nice to see a minority woman who is so humble yet so focused and goal-oriented.”
Ortiz said that the short registration time is, in a way, the first lesson in running a business. “I like the idea of reminding people if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.” She explains, “If this is something you want to do, it should be nothing to get up and do it.”
In part two of this story, Ortiz shares what it took to keep her business, Kerizma, operational in Albion and how it prepared her for teaching the upcoming Exploring Entrepreneurship series and why she is passionate about minority businesses in Albion.
Photos by Sylvia Benavidez except as noted. Photos and story copyright, The Recorder.
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