In the summer of 2012, the North Area Community Development Corporation (NACDC) and When We Dream Together, Inc. introduced a unique 8-week program designed to teach at-risk teens entrepreneurial skills that they could employ in their own neighborhoods. Fifteen youth, ages 15-to-19, were paid a minimum wage stipend to grow sweet potatoes with the goal of turning the produce into a viable marketable product. Entrepreneurs, professionals and experts in several fields volunteered to teach leadership, conflict resolution and money management classes. Additionally, they were taught how to design a website and were given some marketing, advertising and product distribution tips. The program serves as an alternative to illegal and deadly activity by showing youth that there is opportunity and options to generate income right outside their doors. The model was designed to demonstrate that pride, ownership, and vibrant economic activity can be brought back to disadvantaged areas where businesses and entrepreneurism are desperately needed.
Now that the summer sessions have ended, we’re moving into the second phase of the program. Students will meet once per week after school hours for marketing, money management and small business classes and more training to prepare them for group, online and individual sales of their sweet potato-based product. The sweet potatoes will be ready for harvest by early October. It is our desire to have the product they’ve identified (a sweet potato pancake mix) and perhaps others developed, manufactured and ready for distribution before the holidays.
We have planted a powerful seed with this summer project. Our long term goal is create an economic model that can be implemented in any low-income community. Today, however, NACDC is seeking sponsors, business partnerships and funding to continue the 2012 classes and develop the student’s product(s) for sale and distribution. Please visit our website: https://nacda.wordpress.com/ to learn more about the project or to review photos and videos of the 8-week summer program. Call us at 314-341-4071. A representative will be happy to meet with you and/or your team to answer your questions and provide you with a more detailed business plan for the project. With your help, we are confident that we can make a powerful and lasting impression on our Sweet Potato Project youth this year and beyond.