Oakland-Based Entrepreneurship Program Wins National Recognition

OAKLAND, CA (August 8, 2011) – The Oakland-based Urban FIRE (Financial Intelligence, Responsible Entrepreneurship) training is a true get-down-and-dirty program that takes the best lessons of successful entrepreneurs and creates a process that works in real life. Urban FIRE was presented with an Award of Merit in Housing and Community Development from the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) at NAHRO’s Summer Conference in Louisville, Kentucky on July 28, 2011. The Award of Merit focuses on the best national practices to alleviate poverty. From this elite pool of Merit recipients, Urban FIRE was further honored with a nomination for the prestigious National Excellence Award. Winners will be announced in October 2011.

Despite the economic downturn, inspired entrepreneurs build success with the help of Urban FIRE, an entrepreneurship training program targeted to low-income and inner city adults in Oakland, CA. In partnership with the Oakland Housing Authority and the National Community Development Institute, Urban FIRE is recognized as an effective program that helps adults reach their full potential by generating economic activity, promoting self-empowerment, and increasing personal responsibility through business development. Begun in 2006, Urban FIRE has trained 418 individuals, assisted in launching or expanding 106 local Oakland businesses, and inspired countless entrepreneurs to participate in a community-wide circle of self-sustainability. For Daaimah Waqia, 2009 Urban FIRE graduate and owner of Yes Ma’am Food Service, “Urban Fire was a life saver. The course helped me understand the dynamics of entrepreneurship and gave me the platform to launch my business with confidence.”

Moreover, the program also explores what it means to be successful. “Money is not the ultimate goal of your business,” Fermin Alvarez, 2010 graduate and co-owner of Our Cuban Kitchen, explains. “Money is just one component that will help you survive. But where success actually lies is in your happiness.” Sandra Scoggin, 2010 graduate and life and business partner of Mr. Alvarez, adds, “That’s one of the things that is so great about the program. It really makes you
look at what success means for you personally… in terms of what your values are and what you want to achieve.”

Boku Kodama, Urban VOICE Executive Director, appreciates the praise, but he knows there is always room to strengthen the classes. “A core principle of Urban FIRE is constant improvement, so I view the program as a work in progress. I don’t see this award as a Certification of Completion; that we’ve arrived. I see it as a Certification of Ignition; that we’ve only begun to light the flame of self-determination and economic empowerment in Oakland.”

In 2009, Urban FIRE partnered with the National Community Development Institute to expand the entrepreneurship program through a five-year grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The goal is to launch Urban FIRE trainings in other cities across the country by 2014, so the program can have a greater impact on more lives in more places. For more information, please visit www.urbanfire.org or contact Boku Kodama (boku@urbanvoice.org, 510.655.1304) or Thu Banh (tbanh@ncdinet.org, 510.763.4120 x212).

NCDI, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has over a 30-year record of successful capacity-building work with San Francisco Bay Area nonprofits and community-based organizations nationwide. Since 1999 NCDI has worked with over 200 Oakland nonprofit and for-profit microenterprises and community-based organizations. Services include provision of employment and microenterprise development opportunities for youth and formerly-incarcerated adults; identification and training of residents and organizational leaders to serve as community builders or consultant capacity builders and to strengthen efforts to promote the economic stability for residents traditionally underserved by financial institutions.

Urban VOICE (UV) was founded in 1997 as a technology training center for low-income residents of Oakland. In 2004, due to escalating federal deficits, UV was forced to shut its doors as a training center, but soon reemerged as a production company emphasizing social justice documentaries and microenterprise development organization to generate a new pool of entrepreneurs amongst Oakland’s low-income and very-low-income residents.

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