By Carrie Pasternak ’08
Felix Forster ’09 (Rostock, Germany) has been helping Easton teenagers start up their own businesses for over a year now. He has been working through Resources for Independence and Social Entrepreneurship (RISE), a continuation of DreamsWork, which Forster developed last spring as a member of the student organization Collaborative Freedom (formerly FAAP).
RISE is a community outreach program that provides local teenagers with microloans in order to design, launch, and maintain small business ideas. Through a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Easton’s new teen center, Lafayette student mentors work with the teens to develop a business plan, which is then presented to potential donors. If and when a business becomes profitable, the loan will be repaid in order to build RISE’s endowment and its overall sustainability.
RISE is being co-funded by the economics and business department’s Hunsicker Entrepreneurship Studies Fund as part of the new Economic Empowerment and Global Learning Project (EEGLP). The original funding for DreamsWork was provided by a grant from Alex Morrow, owner of Saddle Valley Farm in Bangor and a member of the Boys and Girls Club of Easton’s Board of Directors.
Gladstone Fluney Hutchinson, associate professor of economics and business and EEGLP adviser, says RISE’s goal is to “expose teenagers to an exciting way to be rewarded for their investment in building their creative capacities, industriousness, and self-discipline. In the end, the EEGLP cares most that the kids appreciate how they can be agents of their own future, how bright this future can be, and the freedoms it could entail.”
EEGLP is also working to help reduce poverty in Honduras and promote economic recovery in New Orleans. The program was saluted by President Bill Clinton at the recent Global Initiative University Conference in New Orleans.
RISE is currently working with two student groups on business ideas. Easton teens Esteban Candelario and Edward Reyes, who developed their plan with Al-Amin Kheraj ’08, an international affairs major, as their mentor, are working on a rap CD under the name “Life Over Death” (L.O.D.). Through their music, the teens reflect on different aspects of growing up in Easton and on what their experiences have been like.
Forster is working with Easton teens Enrico Rios, Daniel Fonseca, and Victor Nieto on their business, a t-shirt label called B’ Legend Associates (BLA). BLA will focus on graffiti-art and the teens plan to sell their shirts at high schools, high school football games, and at Lafayette.
“The owners of L.O.D. and BLA have been particularly successful because of their commitment to developing a marketable product,” says Forster, a mathematics and economics & business double major. “They witness how their talents and interests grow into a larger business idea and can passionately engage in the development of their business proposal.”
RISE is also currently mentoring several teens looking to establish skateboarding competitions, bake-sales, dance and entertainment teams, and rock bands.
Forster says his involvent in the program has been extremely rewarding. “It provides me with the motivational fuel that reaffirms my ambition to engage in economic development for the creation of opportunities professionally in the future,” he says.