There’s a common motif in the motivations of the aspiring entrepreneurs gathered around the table at the RecoveryPark offices in Poletown. The desire to give back. To provide opportunities for others who experience challenges of their own.
Kaniesha Wheeler wants to start a beauty salon that specializes in custom wigs for cancer patients. Kaniesha spent five years in prison before her release in 2004.
Stacy Barker hopes to create a mobile cleaning company that uses only environmentally-friendly products and would look to hire returning citizens. Stacy was incarcerated for 22 years before returning in 2009.
“We are the forgotten ones, but we have skills and ideas to contribute to bettering our community,” Stacy said.
Stacy and Kaniesha are members of the first class stemming from a partnership between Southwest Solutions’ ProsperUS Detroit program and RecoveryPark. ProsperUS is dedicated to training and supporting individuals who want to start or grow small businesses in Detroit neighborhoods, particularly individuals who traditionally have had difficulty accessing entrepreneurial opportunities and resources. RecoveryPark is dedicated to creating jobs for people with barriers to employment, particularly those who are formerly incarcerated.
The class is for returning citizens who are also parents of young children. There are 19 emerging entrepreneurs enrolled in this first cohort. The course is free. It includes 12 weekly classroom sessions, 10 hours of one-on-one business coaching, and financial coaching to help participants manage their credit and finances. In the program, students learn about creating a business plan, marketing, and microloan initiatives to help businesses like theirs get going.
The business ideas among students in this cohort include retail outlets, IT consulting, book publishing, cosmetology, party rentals, catering, cleaning services, and more.
“Returning citizens are some of the best and brightest entrepreneurs in the market, and this course is designed to help mobilize this talent right here in Detroit’s neighborhoods,” said Anna Kohn, Chief Impact Officer at RecoveryPark.
The primary aim of the course is to help participants increase their income to become more financially stable and to better support their children’s success. At the class this week, Chanell Scott Contreras, Director of ProsperUS, led a lively discussion of parenting challenges and strategies.