By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE – Young entrepreneurs, the first graduates of the Stimulate Teach Empower Potentially Upcoming Professionals program, celebrated the program completion Aug. 27 at Southgate Veterans Memorial Library, 14680 Dix-Toledo Road.
The STEP UP program, designed for teens and founded by author and motivational speaker Tunishai Ford, is described by her as a “comprehensive, innovative and interactive training and mentoring entrepreneurial program,” sponsored by Ford’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization Your Own Uniqueness.
Ford said she wanted to reach teens from low- to moderate-income families, to encourage them to create income instead of working a minimum wage job. The program met for 11 weeks on Mondays, five hours per session, June 18 through Aug. 27 at the library.
The 16 program graduates are Imani Adams, Isabella Casey, Mikaela Casey, Dasani Crittendon, Jade Earnest, Jala Earnest, Rosemarie Filip, Ricardo Guadarrama, Tanaya Jones, Mohammad Monet, Joshua Myles, Jeffrey Richmond II, Alexis Smith, Mya Stanley, Quintez Sutton and Rodrigo Torres.
Participants received a business startup kit at the closing session paid for by a STEP UP program grant, which provided a backpack with office supplies and a computer case with a shoulder strap, suitable for a laptop computer.
Ford said the launch of the program was exciting, and she hopes to continue to inspire teens with STEP UP.
“We are going to continue to do this program,” Ford said. “We want to empower the upcoming generation. I know there are kids out there who desire to have their own business. All they need are the tools to do it.”
Ford said the teens in the first program have a wide range of entrepreneurial ideas.
Adams envisions selling sunglasses, lip gloss and hair products online, while Isabella Casey plans a child care and enrichment center, as well as a billing and accounting service. Mikaela Casey’s goal is to establish a store that prepares people with challenges to enter the workforce.
Crittendon, Jade Earnest and Jala Earnest plan to promote skin care products and cosmetics, while Jala Earnest has also set her sights on event planning and a day care center.
Guadarrama’s goal is to become an animal behavioral trainer with a veterinary practice, while Jones dreams of his own art studio, with sales of supplies and on-site lessons.
Monet’s mission is to expand into social media marketing. He currently prints posters, banners and other marketing materials. Myles is cooking up plans to be a restaurateur, while Richmond seeks the spotlight as an entertainer.
Smith plans a clothing store for women of all sizes to promote positive body image, while Stanley plans to provide affordable hair care. Sutton’s future may lead him to become either a graphic artist or a health care provider, while Torres’ pawn shop may someday open Downriver.
Richmond reminded participants to persevere when discouraged.
“If no one has every told you that your dream is too big, then evidently you’re not dreaming big enough,” he said. “Push for your dreams. There are always challenges. Be ready for it, and if you fail, get back up and do it again.”
For more information about future STEP UP programs, call 734-285-2041, email [email protected] or go to drtford.com.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)