What is OTEF?  OTEF is the Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation, a not-for-profit whose mission is to connect disadvantaged populations to the same resources, connections, and training given to America’s best and brightest entrepreneurs.

Who started it?  Francine Hardaway, a former foster parent, her business partner, Ed Nusbaum, and their friend and attorney, Rob Dunaway. They decided over lunch that it was time to do something for the people in their community who were stuck in dead end jobs.

When was it founded?  The Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation (OTEF) launched in  November of 2005 as was granted 501c3 status by the Internal Revenue Service in 2006.  Following IRS approval, OTEF held the First Annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference at the Ritz Carlton in Phoenix, Arizona with the support  of New York Times Bestselling Author Michael Gerber, executives from the Kauffman Foundation, and 50 CEOs from across Arizona who shared their experiences with attendees.  Proceeds from the conference were sufficient to fund our first program and OTEF was on its way.

How is it funded? It is completely funded through community support and the proceeds of the  Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference, AZEC, which has grown into the  largest annual event of its kind in Arizona. The conference is in its sixth year.

Each year speakers from across North America take the stage at AZEC to share their insights and experiences.  Proceeds from AZEC are then used to fund programs that benefit disadvantaged and at-risk populations that truly need a hand up. AZEC and OTEF leadership is 100% volunteer with funds allocated to individual project direct expenses as approved by the Board of Directors.

What has OTEF accomplished?  In 2007, OTEF helped the women of SEEDS house, a domestic violence half-way house, plan, open, and run a coffee shop in Mesa, Arizona where they could work in a safe environment. The coffee shop,  Cup O’Karma, is still in existence and is a favorite of locals and college students from nearby Mesa Community College.

In 2008, partnering with a nonprofit that helps runaway youth, OTEF, in partnership with Tumbleweed, helped a group of young adults start a t-shirt printing business to supply other nonprofits and an art gallery where runaway youth could exhibit their art and receive part of the proceeds from sales. The t-shirt business is still in existence.

In 2009, OTEF shifted gears for the recession, partnering with the Scottsdale Jobs network to offer four “Blueprint for Survival” workshops to help laid off workers develop income streams through involuntary entrepreneurship.

In 2010, OTEF provided services to the Southwest Autism Research and Rehabilitation Center to help it set up sustainable business models for enterprises that train and employ autistic young adults.

In 2011, OTEF ran a program called “Roadmap to Launch” for startup companies that participated in StartupWeekendChandler, a joint program of the City of Chandler Economic Development Department and Gangplank, a non-profit collaborative workspace in downtown Chandler.