Five local entrepreneurs celebrated a step toward their small business dreams as they graduated from the new Elevate Community Business Academy last month in Willmar. Elevate provides hands-on training in business planning and management tailored to underserved entrepreneurs.
Kandiyohi County & City of Willmar Economic Development Commission is offering the Elevate course at no cost to entrepreneurs in Kandiyohi County with funding from Southwest Initiative Foundation. The program’s goal is to create economic opportunity for all.
The first class of Elevate graduates includes (pictured, from left):
- Stephanie Thompson, Wings Gymnastics
- Abdiweli Yusuf, Amin Grocery
- Abdilahi Omar, Ain-U-Shams Grocery
- Abdiqani Mahamed, Hikam Trucking
- Hteh Hteh Hta Rue, Chaw’s Asian Market
Diana Anderson, Southwest Initiative Foundation President/CEO, spoke at last month’s graduation ceremony, highlighting how each individual business owner makes a difference in our communities.
“The investment goal of Elevate Community Business Academy isn’t just about your business. That’s a part of it. We see this as an investment in you,” Diana told the graduates. “Economic mobility for all residents is the Foundation’s stated outcome of all our work. Your success translates into success for your families and your community. Everyone wins when you are able to achieve your dreams!”
“It has taken an incredible amount of time, work, thought, and dedication for you to reach this milestone. Your business dreams are worth it, and I believe the best is yet to come for each one of you.” – Diana Anderson
Elevate’s 12-week course offers hands-on training and mentorship for business fundamentals like budgeting, marketing, bookkeeping and financing. The curriculum comes from Rising Tide Capital, a nonprofit based in New Jersey. Local business mentors Connie Schmoll and Abdusalaam Hirsi trained with Rising Tide Capital to help facilitate the academy in Willmar with Simeko Hartley and Rupa Mohan from Rising Tide.
Rising Tide typically works with startup businesses, but Elevate expanded the model by including several people who already owned their own businesses. A diverse business and retention study completed by Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar EDC in 2017 with funding from SWIF showed over 80 entrepreneurs in Willmar who had diverse backgrounds. Support to retain and grow those businesses is needed alongside startup help for more underserved entrepreneurs.
An entrepreneurial spirit is one of our region’s greatest assets. It’s been developed for generations, grown through our history of agriculture and innovation, and taken off to impact practically every industry while providing a global reach. Fostering this spirit is good for our communities, business owner or not. Business leaders are a key part of creating the type of community we all want to live in.