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100 Black Men of Tampa Bay teach business skills, confidence

EAST TAMPA — Sashailee Willie promises to serve the tastiest vanilla-strawberry cake in all of Tampa Bay at her pastry shop.

"I'm going to call it the Sweet Spot," Sashailee said.

Timotheus Williams envisions owning a gaming studio that combines arcade-style fun with some of the most popular choices for home consoles.

"Of course we would have Call of Duty," Timotheus said of the popular video game. "You have to have Call of Duty."

Sashailee, 16, and Timotheus, 17, crystallized their business visions during a four-week summer entrepreneurship program at Middleton High coordinated by the 100 Black Men of Tampa Bay. Seventeen students were expected to complete the course today with a better grasp of business principles and perhaps a firmer grip on their futures.

"Before the program, I wanted to start my own business," Sashailee said. "But after this initiative, I'm more confident about what it takes to start a business."

Thanks to a grant from Bank of America, 100 Black Men had the resources to partner with Computer Mentors Group, ENABLE Business Development Institute, Society of Emotional Intelligence, the National Association of Black Accountants and Open Cafe to develop a curriculum for the Middleton students that emphasizes not only entrepreneurship, but leadership, Web design and financial literacy.

Sean Dickerson, president of 100 Black Men, hopes to expand the program beyond four weeks and eventually replicate it at other schools. He says the changing dynamics of the business world require teaching different lessons.

"We're no longer in a world where the masses go to work for some big company that will provide us with a stable job for the next 20, 30 or 40-plus years," Dickerson said. "We now live in a fast-moving economy that thrives on recognizing or creating consumer trends, efficiently analyzing the mounds of information at our fingertips and integrating that information with technical advances, all while speaking the language of ROI (return on investment), COGS (cost of goods sold), and other business terms that are typically not taught in a traditional education."

It's the practical applications of the program that pleases Dickerson the most.

Students worked on developing an actual business plan and a corresponding website using HTML code.

During a session earlier this week with Hank Clemons from the Society of Emotional Intelligence, the kids were attuned to his lesson about team building. Nyjel Dukes, who works as a facilitator in the program, said the students have been receptive the entire month.

"It's less about them thinking about starting their own business and more about overcoming the thought, 'We're black, we're not going to be able to get out of the situation we're in,' " Dukes said. "Even if they don't want to own their own business, understanding the finer points of business and leadership will help them advance if they're working for someone else."

Dickerson said not every student may end up owning their own business, but they will come away with immeasurable intangibles.

"I think we absolutely instill hope," Dickerson said. "In speaking with the students during the first few days of the class, they were apprehensive.

"But going into the class now, it's hard to take their attention away from what they're doing. I can see a shift in many of their faces from one of apprehension and fear of the unknown to confidence and readiness for the next task. And that's a great feeling."

100 Black Men of Tampa Bay teach business skills, confidence 08/04/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 6:41pm]
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