AANM Growth Center assists entrepreneurs, business development

July, August sessions to provide tools for immigrants, refugees, public

DEARBORN — The Arab American National Museum is housing a small business incubator program focused on providing services and support to entrepreneurs in underserved neighborhoods and communities in the Detroit area.

The Growth Center @ AANM is dedicated to local economic development and assisting disadvantaged immigrants, refugees, artists, women and other minorities through business coaching, classes and micro startup loans.

Positioned in the heart of southeast Michigan’s Arab American community, the Growth Center’s programs and services are delivered in a culturally appropriate manner in reflection of metropolitan Detroit’s diverse population. The center enhances AANM’s mission in making an impact in the community.

“The Growth Center @ AANM enables us to leverage the museum’s resources in innovative new ways that are responsive to the evolving needs of the communities we represent and serve,” AANM Director Devon Akmon said. “This work, which fosters a rich ecosystem for entrepreneurial learning and development, reinforces the museum’s placemaking strategies.”

The Growth Center’s programs and services include: entry-level entrepreneur and small-business training and workshops; business technical assistance; peer mentorship and support; connectivity to resources in the local entrepreneur ecosystem; and popup retail space to provide direct market access, as well as hands-on training in retail product development, pricing, customer service and visual merchandising.

Refugee entrepreneurs also are eligible to apply for a microloan at the Growth Center. This program provides qualified applicants — including refugees and political asylees — a character-based loan to help launch or grow their business venture. Applicants may qualify for a microloan following a process of evaluation conducted by the Growth Center team.

“The Growth Center’s microloan program is specifically for clients who hold refugee or political asylum status to help fund business startup costs,” Growth Center Supervisor Audrey Ramadan said. “The idea of offering a variety of programming and support that can help clients in reaching their ‘American Dream’ via small business is rewarding.”

The Growth Center will have a major presence at the 25th annual Concert of Colors, a five-day diversity-themed music festival in Midtown Detroit taking place July 12 to 16, produced by AANM in collaboration with Detroit’s leading cultural institutions.

On July 15 and 16, the Growth Center will present Souk Al-Growth Center (The Growth Center Market Place), with popup shops that highlight over a dozen small businesses established in Detroit and the metro Detroit area.

Themed “Detroit Strong,” the popup shops will be on Parsons Street, adjacent to the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center on Woodward Avenue. The shops will feature a collection of antiques, accessories, gift items, handmade crafts, food and beverages. For more information, go to http://concertofcolors.com/eatandshop.

Earlier this year, the department launched two advanced business-training classes designed for aspiring entrepreneurs and taught by Growth Center staff and instructors from ISM Inc., a Troy-based entrepreneurship-building company that provides cultural and diversity training services.

The two classes are:

• Ignite, a seven-week course taught in English, assists entrepreneurs who are at more advanced startup readiness. By the end of the course, students develop a full business plan in a viable field of their interest.

• Explore, a basic three-week business training series conducted in Arabic, is designed to support aspiring entrepreneurs who are faced with language, cultural, social or economic barriers in business startup. By the end of the series, students develop a full business plan in a viable field of their interest.

The Growth Center held a graduation ceremony for its first Ignite class June 6, where students received certificates for completion of seven weeks of training.

Some of the students in the course reside at the City Hall Artspace Lofts, across the street from AANM. Students developed potential business ideas ranging from cleaning services, non-profit organizations and party coordinating.

Artspace resident Amy Libby, a graduate of the Ignite class, said she was curious about the Growth Center after a friend of hers had taken a class and recommended it to her. Libby has a passion for Halloween-themed party planning and will be putting her services on the market this fall.

“I had a couple of good business ideas, and I thought it would be fitting to take this class,” Libby said. “I think the Growth Center staff was really helpful and professional and the entire experience was informative. I had a passion and I was able to turn it into a potential business model.”

Dearborn resident Belal Hammoud said he aspires to start a cleaning service company and was able to receive assistance in conceptualizing a business plan during the Ignite courses.

“I joined the Growth Center so I could gain new skills and experiences,” Hammoud said. “This class definitely gave me a framework for my business venture. I see myself maybe developing another business after this.”

The Growth Center offers continual business coaching and assistance for grads of any of its offered programs to ensure that entrepreneurs are steered towards the right path to success.

Explore classes will begin on July 18. The course is being offered for $75.

Ignite classes are set to resume Aug. 22. Costs are $100 for AANM members and $125 for non-members.

Call 313-203-2681 for questions and registration information.

Follow the Growth Center on Facebook to get more information on upcoming classes: www.facebook.com/GrowthCenterAANM.