More than 50 people at the North End gathered over drinks, food and music on Wednesday to celebrate the launch of the North End Startup & Training Program (NEST) aimed at combating gentrification.
The program offers Indigenous, black and off-reserve Indigenous North End community members micro loans and mentorships that can help them kickstart their business startup ideas.
“We’re like a family. We’re like a nest,” said Tanika Bundy who is one of the early participants in the program.
Bundy is the owner of Queen and Kings Natural Products, which sells natural beauty and hair products.
“Being able to secure capital has been one of the barriers, so with this program the micro loan portion of it will help me with that,” she said.
Business owners and entrepreneurs can get a micro loan of up to $5,000 from the program. The money comes from businesses and organizations in the North End, such as the North End Business Association and local developers.
“The big goal is to make the business community in the North End reflective of the actual community. There is a longstanding black and Indigenous population,” said Evan Carroll, who helped initiate the program.
“We want to be able to do what we can to enable them to increase their business ownership, because employment is obviously important,” he added. “But until the business ownership is reflective of the community, then you’re not as likely to have that real parity.”
Carroll owns a consulting company called M. Carroll Consulting. He has teamed up with the owners of Alteregos, Common Good Solutions, and One North End to start up the program.
He says the program won’t only offer micro loans, but also business training and networking, such as sessions on marketing or finance.
Ashley Lorda is the owner of Bad Publicity Cosmetics and Clothing. She says the program is going to help her create a business plan and get the training she needs to grow her business.
She said she got help from Alterego’s owner Michelle Strum, who came up with the idea for the program.
“She basically taught me how to make a business plan and got me in touch with some amazing people to help me grow,” said Lorda who was able to get advice from a lawyer through the program.
“We really don’t have the funds in our community, but they have people that will volunteer an hour of their time for you,’ she added.
Carroll hopes the program will encourage people to apply.
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