Unique University of Denver Certificate Supports Immigrant Entrepreneurship
At no time has it been more clear that the world is interconnected on so many levels than it has in the past year. As the pandemic spread across the globe, impacts at the community levels became apparent, and vice versa, reminding us all that global is truly local.
To help address the complex, urgent, and persistent challenges of our local and global communities, the University of Denver (DU) created its Grand Challenges initiatives, programs that bring together university and community change-makers to address the most difficult and far-reaching issues facing our society today.
DU Grand Challenges addresses three inter-related issues in our communities: improving daily living, increasing economic opportunity, and advancing deliberation and action for the public good. In order to fulfill this mission, four cohorts, comprised of faculty, staff, students, and community members, were established to focus expertise on one issue to improve daily living. They included Crime and Safety, Migration, Environmental Sustainability in an Urban Environment, and Housing and Food Security.
Thanks to a long-standing commitment to the public good, University College was given the opportunity to support the Grand Challenges mission. The Global Community Engagement program’s Academic Director Arianna Nowakowski was appointed to serve as one of two faculty co-leads on the Migration cohort. In that role, her work with the cohort and community partners helped realize a ground-breaking program several years in the making.
Global Goods for a Strong Local Economy
Thanks to a strong partnership with the World Trade Center (WTC) Denver, University College through the Center for Professional Development is now helping immigrants not only survive, but thrive, in the business world.
This fall, the Center for Professional Development launched a Business Development Certificate aimed at helping migrants and refugees to build their own business from the ground up. Drawing on the talents of experts in operations, sales, marketing, finance, strategy, and law, the courses were designed to lead students through business plan development, financial planning, legal pathways, and brand development to provide a comprehensive look at the essentials of business development.
“This collaborative public good initiative has been phenomenal,” says Nowakowski. “It shows what kind of change is possible when university and community partners come together around an issue of common concern. I’m honored to be part of it.”
The first cohort consisted of 10 students representing locations across the globe, including South America, Mexico, the Middle East, and Africa. These students were all referred to the program through the WTC, which has a goal of bringing prosperity to our local communities by supporting immigrant entrepreneurs transferring skills from their home countries. Through Grand Challenges, all students received a 25 percent to 75 percent scholarship for the program.
The four-course certificate includes Business Planning Fundamentals, Financial Planning for Business, Legal Pathways for Business Development, and Developing your Brand and Marketing Plan. The WTC provided the curriculum and recommended experienced instructors for the courses.
This program serves as a bridge to more advanced guidance offered by the WTC Denver’s Global Trade Activator program, providing a solid foundation in business and trade processes that can be built on.
“Many of our students have an entrepreneurial spirit, and they want to be involved in trade and start their business. They have really good ideas, but they don’t know how to go about it and are seeking guidance in American business acumen, business culture, and more,” said Renae Jacob, executive director for the Center for Professional Development. The program seeks to bring community members together to network, share experiences, and gain the confidence to build businesses here in Colorado.”
Several students in the first cohort had an interest in trade, importing goods from their home country to sell here in the United States or vice versa. Prior to taking the course, some were just starting out on the path to their own business, and others had started their work, importing everything from jewelry to handcrafted goods.
Kaye Nash, a student in the business development course, is working ongetting Purple Point Neurodiagnostics off the ground. The company will provide affordable neurological testing for people suffering from epilepsy and other neurological disorders in Cameroon, Africa.
“The courses played an integral role in teaching us how to strategically run our business globally,” Nash said. “The four-step process started with developing a detailed business plan to help us structure our business with the necessary steps to operate globally.”
Nash and her partners are working with the WTC for business guidance and were able to bridge that information with the knowledge provided by the courses.
“The World Trade Center has been guiding us and helping us understand how to run our business to be able to sustain and be successful, so the classes are the icing on the cake,” Nash said.
The WTC Denver has been a valuable partner in this initiative. In addition to referring students, it also provided the curriculum, helped students find access to online learning resources, and recommended experienced instructors. The instructors have all worked in the immigrant population before and are versed in global business,
“I consider this truly answering the calls of humanity when you have professors of this caliber who will take a student under their wings and help them build their business,” said Nash. These professors showed us that they see our vision, care about us as a person, and they believe in our business. That alone speaks volumes and is just priceless. As a woman of color, this whole experience has impacted and changed my life in more ways than I can imagine.”
For the University of Denver, these courses serve as an outstanding example of its efforts to support its community in a meaningful way, creating relationships that will last long after the business development classes have completed.
“It all ties together,” said Nowakowski. “The certificate is an example of DU’s mission of serving the public good by trying to improve the livelihood and resources for the immigrant population. More importantly, it is creating a direct connection with entrepreneurs that are making an impact in both their global and local communities.”