We recognize neighborhood youth are key stakeholders in the economic revitalization of our community. Early on in our work, we discovered our neighborhoods are full of driven and talented youth, tired of seeing their friends tempted by the allure of a quick buck in the local illegal drug economy. We began offering national best practice curriculum from the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) [provide link] to teenage Civic Leaders students as a way to give them the skills and experience to jumpstart their earning power early on in life. In 2009, students founded two youth businesses: Hodari Brothers Screen Printing and Isoke Sisters Jewelry. Students working at these businesses are getting real-world business experience as well as a modest income, all of this in their own neighborhood. As we relocate our youth businesses into the new Youth Entrepreneurship & Volunteer Center [link], we will expand those business’ capacities, add more youth employees and ultimately create more opportunities for more neighborhood youth. By 2015 we will add another youth business in the form of a neighborhood café. This will be located in the new facility.
Although not all of our Civic Leaders work for these youth businesses, all of our students are learning about entrepreneurship, financial literacy and business skills. In addition to offering NFTE curriculum, we partner with local business leaders to have them teach students. For example, retired financial advisor and longtime Metanoia friend Charlie Larsen has been working with our students for years, coming in several times a month to engage students in mock stock market simulations. Recently, Director Stacy Brown teamed up with Social Ventures Partners of Charleston member Sandi Clereci to create an original entrepreneurship curriculum targeted at the youngest of our Civic Leaders (6th-8th grade). All of our students set up Individual Development Accounts (IDA) through our local First Citizens Bank. IDAs work as a type of forced savings account. Students save up to $1000 of their own money, which is then matched 5:1 by Metanoia, the South Carolina Association of Community Development Corporations and MWV Specialty Chemicals. Students must then apply these savings towards education expenses or starting their own businesses.
In the summer, the Civic Leaders take part in a three-week long intensive business competition called Biz Camp. Students form teams to create their own business plan, develop strategy and then present their ideas to a judge’s panel of local business leaders. Last year AT&T sponsored Biz Camp.
Hodari Brothers (meaning “powerful” in Swahili) Screen Printing Company was founded by the young men of our Civic Leaders program in 2009. Using a grant from the SC Dept. of Commerce, they purchased screen-printing equipment and started printing shirts for a variety of clients, like the County of Charleston, College of Charleston, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of SC and MWV Specialty Chemicals. After realizing early success, they expanded to printing mugs and built their capacity for designing by adding a dark room and computer equipment. Since their inception, the Hodari Brothers have generated thousands of dollars of income, most of which they have applied to future education plans.
Inspired by the Delta Jewels of Helena, Arkansas, where girls made jewelry as a way to earn income, create art and talk about life issues with mentors, Rev. Evelyn Oliviera founded Isoke Sisters Jewelry in late 2009. The young women Civic Leaders in that first group chose the name “Isoke,” meaning “gifted” in Swahili, based on a bible study program called “Daughters of Imani.” What began as a way for our young women to express their creativity quickly became a dedicated youth business. The Isoke Sisters are dedicated to creating their own opportunities by using their talents to design, manufacture and sell exquisite necklaces, earrings and bracelets.