Pilot Program To Assist Young Entrepreneurs

The Prudential Young Entrepreneur Program seeks urban start-ups

Calling all entrepreneurs in the 18-to 30-year-old age range looking to finance their business ventures. The Prudential Young Entrepreneur Program (PYEP) is a three-year pilot entrepreneurial development project funded by the Prudential Foundation, a non-profit, grant-making organization of the Newark, New Jersey-based Prudential Insurance Co. of America. The program is designed for young adults in urban areas who might otherwise not have access to similar avenues of opportunity.

“The PYEP is a great vehicle to train a young new cadre of entrepreneurs,” says Gabriella E. Morris, vice president of Community Resources and president of The Prudential Foundation. “We believe this is an important component to increasing economic development and improving the standard of living in our targeted neighborhoods.”

The program has helped launch 37 new businesses in Philadelphia, and Newark, New Jersey, urban areas. Since it began in 1999, a total of 195 young entrepreneurs have completed the program.

PYEP meets the needs of microenterprises (businesses with fewer than five employees and a capital need of $35,000 or less).

Bill Edwards, executive director of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) in Arlington, Virginia, whose agency oversees the program and its fiscal management issues, further explains AEO’s role. “This program allows AEO members to provide business training, technical assistance, and microloans to qualified participants in the two target cities.”

Darnell Thomas, 27, president and CEO of Darn Thomas Legwear Inc., in Philadelphia, expanded his one-kiosk retail sock business to seven kiosks in area malls with the help of PYEP. Thomas’ company revenues were $450,000 in 2000, a 150% sales increase since he participated in the program. “I feel that PYEP is a much needed program. I was able to fine tune my business plan and meet a great mentor who offered invaluable business advice.” He expects 2001 revenues to reach $1 million.

In 2000, 82% of the participants were African American.

Training for participants takes place in a business incubator in each city. Along with microlenders, the process guides entrepreneurs through the planning stages of business start-up to technical know-how. The microlenders provide the financing.

With the success that PYEP has experienced, participating organizations are looking forward to expanding into other urban centers around the country.

Association for Enterprise Opportunity, 16-01 North Kent St., Suite 1101, Arlington, VA 22209; 703-841-7760; www.microenterpriseworks.org

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