OTEF Entrepreneurial Education helps people in at-risk communities become self-sufficient. Over 1,000 entrepreneurs and several non-profit partners started businesses with OTEF’s support.
In 2006, OTEF hosted Arizona’s first social media conference and the Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference. Held annually from 2006 to 2013, AZEC brought national thought leaders to Phoenix to engage with and educate the nascent entrepreneurial ecosystem. In addition to catalyzing what is today one of the fastest growing tech sectors in the nation, proceeds of these conference provided funding that has supported programs in entrepreneurial education for members of the community ranging from elementary school students to seniors.
OTEF’s 1st Program at SEEDS House in Phoenix (2007) helped lay the foundation for a new entrepreneurial venture. Cup O’ Karma offers great beverages and snacks in a comfortable setting with free Wi-Fi, artwork and live entertainment Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. All proceeds from Cup O’ Karma support the programs and services offered by NATN, which includes the agency’s Support, Education, Empowerment and DirectionS (SEEDs) program. SEEDs residents participated in a 12-week entrepreneurship program offered by OTEF and developed a business plan, which includes owning and operating a coffee shop. SEEDs residents operate the café while learning employable skills such as customer service, community relations, marketing and outreach, purchasing and management.
OTEF’s 2nd Program launched in 2008 in with the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, allows young artists to combine creativity with entrepreneurial skills to create a brighter future and builds life skills. DIG—The Phoenix Drop In Gallery is a place where homeless youth are empowered; trained in the skills of artistry and small business with a goal to support at-risk youth to fully understand the material within closed workshops before opening them up to the public and our surrounding community members so they may impart their learned knowledge and skills to our community members in return building relationships with them as well developing healthy social skills.
OTEF’s 3rd Program launched in the Spring 2009, Blueprint for Survival, was designed to help our newest at-risk population, the displaced workers who are the collateral damage of the recent economic downturn. Blueprint for Survival helps participants understand the options and requirements in building businesses. Attendees are encouraged to collaborate with others, share resources, and explore potential partnerships while receiving real world advice on everything from existing support programs to how to deal with the stress of being laid off in an environment where once plentiful jobs have disappeared. Participants in the program come from a wide range of industries, educational backgrounds, age groups and economic backgrounds with one common and cementing characteristic—a will to survive the down turn. Not a bad start for a small group of entrepreneurs with a good idea on how to tackle tough challenges and build solutions.
In 2011, OTEF’s entrepreneurship training program was held in conjunction with the City of Chandler and Gangplank, a not-for-profit community collaboration space in downtown Chandler. Entrepreneurs with an idea gathered first at StartupWeekendChandler to collaborate in 54 hours of non-stop idea pitching, team formation, and preliminary planning. The teams that emerged from StartupWeekendChandler were invited to participate in a Roadmap to Launch program for eight weeks at Gangplank. OTEF conducted that program, and we’re happy to report that the room was full to overflowing all summer long, and about twenty-five attendees participated. In this program, disadvantaged entrepreneurs from Chandler and environs received the same Lean Startup training given to Silicon Valley’s best and brightest, thanks to the OTEF facilitation team. One of the participants, ChowLocally, a website devoted to bringing locally grown food to people in the Valley of the Sun, actually launched the company two weeks before the end of the program, and broke even in its first week of operations, although the entrepreneurs are not taking salaries just yet:-) Ten companies competed in an “Extreme Pitch” event to convince partners, potential customers, and perhaps even investors to evangelize their new products and services. Of course the trick is to keep these companies sustaining, and OTEF will keep in touch with them throughout the year, offering support and connections. Above is a photo of OTEF’s 2011 “class” at its graduation lunch. They’ve already bonded, and can also continue to help one another.