FY22 Annual Report: Success looks like JoAnn

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Entrepreneur Edge Helps underserved populations start their own business

Available statewide through virtual classes, Entrepreneur Edge provides Iowa’s current and aspiring small business owners with access to education, foundational business knowledge, mentorship, and individualized coaching to help them succeed in their endeavors.

Starting or growing a business is difficult. It can take months or even years to conceptualize an idea, find a selling platform, and grow a base of supporters to help get your business off the ground. Entrepreneur Edge is a program that empowers underserved populations, mainly women and people of color, to start and grow their businesses and become successful entrepreneurs. Since its inception, Entrepreneur Edge has served over 250 clients across the state.

One of these clients is JoAnn. Amidst personal struggles and homelessness, JoAnn opened her tutu business, Wawa Tusie, and her dream grew from there. She went from being a guest vendor to having a permanent location at NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids, and has recently had her best sales to date. As a participant in the program, JoAnn has lifetime access to the mentoring, coaching, and networking support of the Entrepreneur Edge team.

Faith Robinson, Entrepreneur Edge’s Administrative Professional, has been with the organization for four years. She explained that one of the most important things the program does is networking, which helps clients make connections with other business owners.

This past year, both staff and clients alike were excited that the program was able to go back into the community, rather than having everything online, as they had since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program recently changed from a twelve-week cohort to a six-week cohort to make the program more accessible to current and aspiring business owners.

Some of Entrepreneur Edge’s most successful participants are JoAnn, owner of Wawa Tusie; Daryl, owner of We Dream Technical Solutions tech shop and cyber café; and Shawnnie, owner of Shawnniecakes Bakery. All three of these business owners have become permanent vendors at NewBo City Market, a nonprofit business center whose mission is to foster regional economic development by uplifting entrepreneurs and artists through an equitable business incubator, accessible public programming, and a community gathering space. The Entrepreneur Edge program also helps individuals start nonprofits, as in the case of Empowering Youths of Iowa Incorporated, an organization that helps Iowa children who have dropped out, or are at risk of dropping out of high school.

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