Advancing National Service

Meet the Entrepreneurs Tackling Neighborhood Problems

December 12, 2014
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Meet the Entrepreneurs Tackling Neighborhood Problems
Aaron Tanaka is a community organizer and economic development consultant based in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood. Facebook
These innovators realize that change starts at the local level.

Entrepreneurs are everywhere and their impact on their respective neighborhoods resounds. The Business Alliance of Living Local Economies (BALLE) — a nonprofit that supports local economic projects to benefit communities — recently named their 17 BALLE Fellows. Here are five of them.

Jose Corona, Oakland, Calif.
Corona is the CEO and president of Inner City Advisors. Working with entrepreneurs in the local, health food movement, Corona’s company provides startups and small businesses with mentorship in how to recruit and train workers. Currently, he works with companies making natural nut butters, roast coffee and local meat.

His most recent addition is the Fund Good Jobs initiative which invests in small businesses  offering living-wage jobs, benefits and advancement opportunities.

Aaron Tanaka, Boston
Since 2005, Tanaka has been working to improve the lives of workers in the Boston area. He began by helping start the Boston Workers’ Alliance, which represents unemployed and underemployed workers. In 2010, his “Ban the Box Campaign” to remove the question regarding prison history from job applications was included in Massachusetts’s criminal record reform bill.

Recently, he co-founded another organization: the Center for Economic Democracy. Youths were the focus of its last major project, which renovated a park and playground and supplied laptops to three public schools.

Jay Bad Heart Bull,Minneapolis
After moving from the Indian reservations in North and South Dakota, Bull settled in Minneapolis. While there, he noticed how the city’s wealth didn’t spread to the Native American population. So, as president and CEO of the Native American Community Development Initiative, he changed that. He brought a Native American-owned bank from Hinckley, Minn., to open a branch in Minneapolis. Further, he highlighted the unique Native American culture by opening an art gallery in the city.

Euneika Rogers-Sipp, Stone Mountain, Ga.
Rogers-Sipp left the south for college in London, but the draw of her hometown was too much, returning to form the Sustainable Rural Regenerative Enterprises for Families. The mission of the group is to revitalize the Deep South’s economy. Her first project started in Gees Bend, Wilcox County with quilting. The quilts were a symbol of the African-American culture, and with that Rogers-Sipp created a cottage industry to jumpstart a cultural tourism economy. She is now doing similar projects in other towns across the south.

Andrea Chen, New Orleans
A high school English teacher, Chen was dismayed to find that many of her 11th and 12th grade students could barely read above a fourth grade level. That’s why she started Propeller — a business incubator and co-working space — to support entrepreneurs and policymakers who want to fix societal problems, such as blighted land, poor schools and food scarcity.

To read about more of these entrepreneurs, click here.

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