12 Allen County minority business builders pursue Breakthrough, Cohort one of new program begins

Twelve individuals began Connected Communities Breakthrough Program and formed cohort one. This new program is offered through The NIIC and provides strategic preparation, implementation, and assessment to Allen County business builders from historically underserved community segments.

The program’s namesake is the funding grant—The Foellinger Foundation Connected Communities Breakthrough Program. It is a scaffolded, three-tier program. The program offers no-cost, community-based entrepreneurship opportunities that identify and enrich talent in an otherwise underserved market. “The NIIC’s Breakthrough Program is designed to directly support and nurture underdeveloped talent in historically marginalized communities. It provides opportunities for equity, prosperity, and social well-being,” said Cheryl Taylor, President, Foellinger Foundation.

Through this program, participants learn how to start a business. “The NIIC’s Breakthrough Program helps to address the needs of under-developed talent within our community who find it difficult to start their businesses. It is important to us at The NIIC that individuals within our community have equal access to opportunities for economic prosperity. Through this new program, we are doing our part to level the playing field for diverse and inclusive business builders,” said Karl LaPan, President and CEO, The NIIC.

Breakthrough Program participant Vanessa Hayden said, “I would like to gain information to help me start my business and learn more about obtaining resources that would help me get my business off the ground. I need to get it out of my head and into reality.” Her business concept is to create unique spaces that are conducive for individualized learning. She will do this by intersecting her interior design knowledge and more than 20 years of experience working with children in the Autism spectrum.

Julie Sanchez, NIIC Breakthrough Program Manager, said, “We recognize that there are real barriers to business ownership for some members of our community. This new program enables individuals to break through those barriers and discover that they can be entrepreneurs and business owners. Sometimes breaking through to that possibility and the entrepreneurial mindset are the first steps.”

“The Breakthrough Program is a virtual training model for increased accessibility by participants. It breaks through barriers of access to the training. The program may be delivered in person, virtually, or a hybrid of the two in the future based on participant needs. The business concepts are diverse. They include using the Breakthrough Program to help match skills to specific business opportunities. Some examples of current participants include a small independent record label company, and a business providing affordable educational and therapeutic services to underrepresented populations in Allen County,” said Sanchez.

It is expected each participant will complete the program in three to six months. The program includes eight paths, from awareness of entrepreneurial mindset to how to thrive as a small business owner. Participants gain access to one-to-one coaching sessions, training workshops, resource and capital connections, and access to the NIIC Navigator® Learning Management System.

The NIIC’s trusted community relationships of its partner organizations, including the Allen County Public Library, Amani Family Services, Blue Jacket, Prosperity Heights, The League, and the Women’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center (WEOC) help to identify future entrepreneurs and potential business builders. Individuals interested in the program may contact an Allen County partner organization or apply through the NIIC website. For more information or to register, visit TheNIIC.Org/Inclusive-entrepreneurship/breakthrough-program/.


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