by Adrienne Chu
“Those hustlers you see on the street corner are really frustrated entrepreneurs.”
David Sheon heard his Petworth neighbor Gary Lockhart speak these words after a daytime shooting shook the 8th and Jefferson community last spring. David, an ANC 4D commissioner, helped to organize a community meeting at the Brightwood United Methodist Church, and it was there that he began to see the crime problem in a whole new way.
“It was like a shot through me,” David said, describing the impact of Lockhart’s words to him.
David is himself an entrepreneur and knows how important it is to be your own boss. “These young men and women don’t have the opportunities I had — funding, education, mentors. They know they could get a job flipping burgers,” but they are entrepreneurs, and they don’t want to work for someone else.
From this realization was born the new non-profit, DC Community Carrot, which aims to teach entrepreneurship to 18-24-year-olds not currently in school (their tag line is "because the sticks of incarceration don't work"). Everything came together very quickly, about nine months from idea to execution. Despite the quick turnaround, David’s ambitious plan has won two grants, one of which will pay 20 participants $8.25 an hour for 20-hours a week until the end of September.
Colin Clarke, a 23-year-old who lives around the corner from David, is just the kind of "opportunity youth" DC Community Carrot is looking to engage. Colin has a distinctive look — tall and gangly with a small afro, light brown skin, inspired clothing choices — and a personality to match. He also has a high school diploma, lives with his ailing father and has few job prospects.
“A lot of people in the African American community have business savvy they can’t harness,” Colin mused as he began to fill out an application. “I don’t have a lot of business experience, but I do have some good ideas.”
DC Community Carrot wants to translate those good ideas into businesses by providing participants with training in a number of entrepreneurial skills, including market research, financial literacy, and business planning, and matching each participant with a mentor. The goal at the end of the program is for participants to procure a business license or some certification specific to their business interest. The non-profit will also provide follow-up services to participants for three months.
Now DC Community Carrot is looking to fill those 20 slots with young people who have little formal education, come from low-income families, and have initiative and ideas. There is a deadline of February 17th to get applications in, so the nonprofit has organized two workshops to get as many youth as possible to apply.
The first workshop will be held Wednesday night, 2/15 at the Brightwood Park United Methodist Church (744 Jefferson Street NW) from 5-7pm, while the second workshop will be Thursday night 2/16 in the Petworth Library conference room from 4:30-6:30pm.
Until now, Colin’s good ideas have remained in his head. But soon he may have a way, through DC Community Carrot, to make them a reality. Within minutes of talking to him, it is clear that he has put a lot of thought into the big issues facing his community — and how he can make a contribution.
“I would like to create or market a service that will specifically help the African American community,” Colin said. “I would like to support the community because they could use it. Black folks have an obligation to help other black folks.”
To learn more about eligibility requirements or to get an application for the program please email David Sheon.