Abdilahi Omar, owner of Ainu-Shams Grocery, and Hte Hte Hta Rue, owner of Chaw’s Asian Market, are two of five 2021 graduates of Elevate, a community business academy whose mission is to elevate businesses to success through education and mentoring. . The program aims to help underserved women and women identify entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color.
“The program is about uplifting, exactly as you can see, and supporting our business owners and new business creators,” said Abdusalaam Hirsi, assistant instructor for Elevate. Funded by the Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF), the first Elevate cohort started classes in March 2021 and the classes were all virtual. Elevate’s five students, Abdiqani Mahamed, Abdilahi Omar, Hte Hte Hta Rue, Stephanie Thompson and Abdiweli Yusuf, all graduated on June 16. They were known as The Fabulous Five.
In the speech at the graduation ceremony, Scott Marquardt, senior vice president of SWIF, said the evening was the product of two years of planning. He said SWIF was introduced to Rising Tide Capital about two years ago. Rising Tide Capital is a New Jersey-based nonprofit organization that founded the course and the program. After visiting New Jersey and seeing a class, Marquardt wanted to start a program at Willmar.
“We believe in you. We believe in your dream. We believe in what you want to do for this community and this region and we are honored to start with you and be part of your journey,” he said during of his speech.
During the 12 week course, the students met once a week for two to three hours. Rue said that at first she had some hesitation.
“I think first of all like, ‘Oh, I don’t speak English. So I think I’m not going.’ But it is very good for business. [said to myself], ‘Okay, I’m trying that,’ “she recalls.” This Elevate class is very useful for businesses starting a business or owning a business. So we like it, we love it. “
The second elevation class will begin in fall 2021. Kandiyohi County and Willmar City EDC, and SWIF are working to host a second elevation class starting in September. Information sessions will be held in July and August. Check elevatebusinessacademy.com for specific dates by mid-July.