AEDS graduates it’s first Entrepreneurship and Business Development class
On the evening of June 2, 2016, African Economic Development Solutions and St. Paul Housing Agency staff, 7 graduates, and 14 proud family members gathered to celebrate a landmark event: the graduation of AEDS’s first class of Entrepreneurship and Business Development Training Program students. While AEDS has been partnering with the Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) to train aspiring entrepreneurs since 2008, this marks the first year AEDS has conducted a business training program with it’s own curriculum. Hassen Hussein, Director of Business Development at AEDS, designed the 12-week program and delivered the course. Several sessions were also taught by Idris Mohamed, founder of Minnehaha Adult Daycare Service Center, an adult daycare serving Somali immigrants and refugees. Not only does this new program allow AEDS to be more self-sufficient in helping entrepreneurs design and develop, but it also fills a gap. Many business development programs teach how to create business plans, Hussein notes, but they leave out the character traits essential to successful entrepreneurship. The AEDS curriculum teaches business basics like plans and bookkeeping, but is rooted in life skills- the passion and patience every entrepreneur needs to overcome the challenges of starting and maintaining a business.
The evening began with graduates and staff introducing themselves, their experiences in the class, and what they’ve learned. “Thank you’s” were abundant, and it became clear that the 12-week program had been a life-changing event for both AEDS staff and students. Graduates summarized their business plans- from transportation service to graphic design- and how the course helped them to achieve their goals, while AEDS staff revealed how inspired they’ve been by the hard work and dedication of the students.
One student, Nicola Giusti, spoke emotionally about how AEDS’s program had opened doors for her: while she’d had aspirations of creating an education publication with a social justice bent for quite some time and knew she could benefit from business development training, needing to take care of her two young sons had prevented her from enrolling in courses. AEDS not only allowed her boys to accompany her to classes, but welcomed them and encouraged them to engage. One of her sons, Lucius, graduated the course with her. Lucius’s current entrepreneurial goals capitalize on friendship: he plans to make a business out of friendship bracelets, and to later expand to friendship dolls.
At the end of the ceremony, AEDS and St. Paul Housing Agency staff presented the graduates with certificates and staff, graduates, and families mingled over delicious mocha-frosted layer cake from Rebecca’s Bakery. AEDS staff and partners spoke to a perhaps overlooked benefit of this program: quality networking. This course allowed entrepreneurs to get to know other entrepreneurs, and formed meaningful professional relationships which participants were encouraged to tap into in the future.
Congratulations to the graduates! And our sincere thanks to Elizabeth Pacunas and Alicia Huckleby of the St. Paul Public Housing Agency for attending the celebration and supporting our efforts in becoming a more self-sufficient community organization.