STEP UP summer program to train teen entrepreneurs

Photo by Sue Suchyta Tunishai Ford

Photo by Sue Suchyta
Tunishai Ford

Sunday Times Newspapers

SOUTHGATE – The STEP UP program, offered by the non-profit Your Own Uniqueness, will provide training and mentoring for low- and middle-income entrepreneurial teens this summer at the Southgate Veterans Memorial Library.

YOU, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is offering the STEP UP program, designed to Stimulate, Teach, Empower Potentially Upcoming Professionals, to 13- to 18-year-olds.

The 11-week program will meet from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Mondays, June 18 through Aug. 27, with a lunch break, at the library, 14680 Dix Toledo.

Tunishai Ford, a retired teacher and cancer survivor, said struggling to overcome her health challenges gave her a better appreciation for life. Since then, she has written and published four inspirational books, works as a motivational speaker and trainer for women and youth, and serves as a life coach.

Ford said she hopes to reach teens from low- to moderate-income families for her pilot program.

“We chose that target area because we know it needs this type of training the most,” she said. “We are trying to encourage them to bring income into their homes instead of going to a minimum wage job.”

Ford said she wants to encourage teens with passion to start their own businesses.

“We want to stimulate them, to teach them, to empower them,” Ford said. “They are the upcoming generation. We are not trying to give them a handout. We give them a step up.”

Ford said the teens might want to provide a service or product, or want to start a mission, comparable to her non-profit organization.

“I know there are kids out there who desire to have their own business,” she said. “All they need are the tools to do it.”

Ford said there is a $35 registration fee for the classes, which are provided at no further cost.

“I want the kids to learn how to invest in their future, and not have something handed to them,” Ford said. “We want to teach these kids character building, discipline, and to be aggressive about what they want.”

Ford said she wants the teens to learn that if they have passion and a dream, they can achieve it.

“If your mind can believe it, your hands can make it come to pass,” she said. “You are never too young or old to live the dream.”

Ford said the teens will learn how to create a business plan, and they could end up hiring their peers.

“I think it is going to be fun and fulfilling,” Ford said. “The kids are going to learn how to live their dream, and they are going to have mentors teaching them how.”

Ford said the young entrepreneurs will learn how to market their own business, and speakers will cover the pros and cons of owning a business. Banking and business reinvestment will also be discussed.

Parents will be welcome to stay and learn, as well as to help.

“We are looking for volunteers and mentors,” Ford said.

Ford said she hopes to enroll up to 40 teens in the program, but will start it with 20 enrollees. There will be a screening process, and STEP UP wants participants to commit to the entire course.

“We are not looking for ‘try it out’ kids,” Ford said. “We are looking for kids who are committed to starting and finishing.”

For more information about the STEP UP program, call 734-285-2041, send an email to or go to

(Sue Suchyta can be reached at