Bagging groceries, flipping pizzas and sitting by the public pool as a lifeguard used to be the ultimate jobs for young people. But with funding from Kaiser Permanente, five motivated teenagers from Richmond’s Police Activities League (RPAL) will skip the chump change and start their own business.
“What we decided to do was become a graphic [design] company,” said RPAL’s development director, Tamara Walker. “People can actually come to us to create their fliers and business cards. The kids will design it, make it, and give them prices.”
In addition to consulting and designing business identities, the new company will provide photocopy services. The company is already operational and their shop is located within RPAL at 2200 MacDonald Avenue in Richmond.
Twelve RPAL members initially signed up for the small business program, but not all of them could complete the business and graphic design boot camp required to be a part of the start-up. Once the business is sustainable, the five remaining owners will mentor and take on new hires, Walker said.
Richmond Police officer and RPAL executive director Larry Lewis said the idea to start a graphic design company had been mentioned before because the kids involved with the league were already using the group’s computer lab to create art anyway. “We have five kids that are truly committed and involved,” he said. “Everyone will have a role in the company. They all have business cards and all have titles. Someone will be an accountant, a banker, artist and somebody has to work the equipment.”
The young group has already filled one job order, although it was an inside job—they created a flier to promote National PAL Mentoring Day in Richmond.
Ever Gomez, 14, a student at Leadership Public School, said his dream is to one day start his own business. A photographer at heart, he’s now learning new computer and graphic design software through his involvement with the new graphic design company. “Training was about what we need to know about business and how we can prevent from failing,” he said. “We learned some legal stuff, how to get people’s attention and how to market so people buy our products.”
Roshaun Williams, 16, a student at Kennedy High, loves music and fashion. When she’s not producing music at RPAL’s studio, she can be found designing t-shirts out of her house. “I enjoyed learning the legal stuff,” she said of the summer program. “Like what we’re not supposed to do just in case of copy right infringement. As I get older, instead of recording songs I can incorporate business into what I’m doing—like making t-shirts or helping others with clothing ideas.”
RPAL is a nonprofit organization designed to build better relationships between the police department and city youth. Their programs are designed for 5-18 year olds, and include hosting a homework club, computer center, recording studio and boxing gym. Outdoor activities offer young people a chance to take in sporting events, bicycle rides and off-road motorbiking.
On the surface, it may be hard to see why a health care provider such as Kaiser Permanente would want to fund a 12-week training program for a start-up with a Chief Executive Officer who hasn’t even graduated high school. According to Glenda Monterroza, Kaiser Permanente’s community benefit specialist, RPAL’s entrepreneurial program objectives are in line with Kaiser Permanente’s community health work on violence prevention because they support youth programs that focus on economic and career development, mentoring and academic improvement.
“This project empowers young people to build their leadership, entrepreneurial and business skills through a mixture of lessons and hands-on activities,” she said. “The youth in the entrepreneurial program have a unique opportunity to use the skills learned in the program to create tangible business products through the development of a youth-run printing business.”
Walker said Kaiser Permanente’s funding paid The Williams Group, a corporation out of Pittsburg, for a 72-hour entrepreneur boot camp that the five young people took before getting the business started. The curriculum included the fundamentals of business economics and life skills training. Travis Lyrics, a Richmond independent graphic design instructor, was also hired to teach Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to the students.
To get the budding company up and running, local businessman and former print shop owner Donald Hasan donated a large format printer and Xerox machine. He said he made the donation because he felt the project was worthwhile. “They’re going to get a lot of benefit out of it,” he said. “There’s a lot of printing that goes on down here. Maybe they can get some of those projects.”
The small business program is all about planting a seed in young people’s mind, Hasan said from his thrift shop across the street from RPAL. “It all depends how far they want to go with it,” he said.
With hard work, determination and some luck, the new business owners will be taking it to the bank.
For more information on how to get involved with RPAL’s small business program, contact Tamara Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org.