The following post is from Akeem Allen ’17, founder of CREED , a spring 2015 hatchery business.
In 1985, Steve Mariotti founded the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship; an entrepreneurship education program targeted toward low-income youth in inner-city areas all across the United States. Since its inception, NFTE has been able to impact over half a million students, and present opportunities through entrepreneurship that those students would not have the chance to take advantage of otherwise.
Before coming to Babson, I was a high school student at Pathways Academy of Technology and Design in Hartford, CT, and was a student in the NFTE program there.
During my NFTE year, I founded my own photography business that placed an emphasis on the use of photo-enhancing technologies to provide my customers with “great work” or “opus magnum”.
The business is still run today, and I am fortunate enough to continually be connected with NFTE as an alum, and as the Administration Support in its New England regional office. I am blessed most of all, to be able to give my time and talents back to current NFTE students.
In light of the successes of the NFTE program in the US, and being a product of it myself, the ever-present reality is that in low income communities and school systems, entrepreneurship works.
This past summer, I spent my time volunteering and doing mission in Mamelodi—a blacks-only township that was set up in the now defunct Apartheid government. The remnants of this old social structure still affect Mamelodi– the education system is sub-par, students in the area are left behind academically, thus being unable to take advantage of all the resources that South Africa has to offer.
To combat this, a non-profit organization called the Mamelodi Initiative was spawned, with the mission of empowering the members of the Mamelodi community to enable them to make the changes they would like to see in their own community.
Along with 36 other Christian college students, I traveled to South Africa to become a volunteer for the Mamelodi Initiative’s Winter Program, which tutored about 300 7-10th graders in Math and English. And although these students faced adversities in their community through drugs, violence, HIV/AIDS, etc., it filled my heart to see that their faith, and God’s love allowed them to keep pushing to get an education, in order to become someone who could make an impact in their community.
Most of all, I realized the need for entrepreneurship in their community, and entrepreneurial ideas that my students would talk about during our one-on-one times. In order to equip them with the same skills I was given through NFTE, the CReating Entrepreneurial EnDeavors (CREED) program was formed. The basis of the CREED curriculum is the NFTE curriculum, and many of the business fundamentals that I have gained through NFTE have effectively been passed on to South African learners.
From January 5-10, and 12-14, I returned to South Africa to pilot CREED’s first holiday program at the University of Pretoria Mamelodi campus. During this program, myself and two South African volunteers delivered the CREED curriculum to twenty-six local grade 11 students— who were put through an eight-day intensive entrepreneurial education experience.
Ultimately, the program was met with overwhelmingly positive results, and learners reach out to me frequently to discuss my return, and the program’s return in June of 2015.
Starting CREED has taught me much more about myself and my entrepreneurial spirit than anything else. After being able to reach Mamelodi, I realized that I was never limited in my ability to impact the world through entrepreneurship. Regardless of if I was running a for-profit company or a non-profit like CREED, I could impact lives in a way that would effectively shape the future of an entire nation.
Now that’s BIG.