ETHINKSTL-014-East St. Louis Initiative: Transforming A Community Through Entrepreneurship
Sometimes it takes someone (or a few someones!) from the outside to see the potential in your own backyard.
Enter the East St. Louis Initiative (ESLI.) You may not know it but for the last two years graduate students from Washington University have been listening to and talking with business owners and folks with startup ideas in East St. Louis. Their goal – to change people’s lives one small business at a time.
What that looks like today is a year-long intensive program that matches the passion and enthusiasm of individuals who have a new or existing business with the expertise of graduate students - MSW, JD, MBA and MPH candidates from the university.
Gülcan Yayla, originally from Turkey, joins us to tell us more about the ESLI founding story and how Ferguson played a role in its creation. She is joined by her current cohort of entrepreneurs, Brandon Walker, founder of Positive & Productive Innovations and Devon Moody Graham, founder of The Biz Spot. Spend time with us learn what inspires these entrepreneurs and how they are poised to grow their businesses.
Brandon is a locally grown ambitious and resilient individual in East St. Louis. He always aspires to grasp what he sees for his future and to do his best to bring awareness to the reduction of our greatest natural resources. Brandon’s idea is to bring a minority-owned energy efficiency services company to the city of East St. Louis and the surrounding areas. The business will bring awareness about the benefits of "Going Green" for the homes, schools, and businesses in the community. Emphasizing the importance of energy-efficiency, implementing energy-efficient strategies for clients, and getting recognized for those achievements are the goals of the business.
Devon is a “serial” social entrepreneur and founder of The Biz Spot. She is an entrepreneur at heart with a concentration in economic development and helping small businesses. She graduated from East St. Louis Senior High School in 2001 and majored in consumer and textile marketing at the University of Illinois in Champaign. Then she received her MBA degree at the University of Phoenix. She has recently founded the Biz Spot, an incubator with office space in East St. Louis. The Biz Spot offers consulting services to people who want to successfully run a business in their community. It also works with East St. Louis District 189 students and students in other schools on both sides of the river to build their interest in entrepreneurship.