From left are Travis Manning, Alicia Manning, Monique McGriff, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Valerie V. Lee, Andrew Johnson, Mishalay Sanders, (back) David Hawthorne, and Ed Rice. (Rene Norman)

There were no tricks, just treats and a festive time at Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen in Watts over the Halloween weekend when the Entrepreneur Educational Center, Inc. (EECI) held a commencement celebration for its Miracle’s Entrepreneur Program Class of 2022 graduates.

Following a three-month Business Plan Development course featuring seminars, AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles, and classroom instruction, the six new startup business owners received their Certification of Completion certificates. The certification was fortified by EECI with a complimentary graduation bag that included treats like payment of DBA license and/or non-profit organization’s registration, design of company logos, business cards, letterhead, and mailing labels.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters added to the celebration by offering words of wisdom on the importance of economic empowerment in Black and Brown communities through small business development. She then presented each graduate with a Certificate of Achievement.

The start-ups, three for-profits and three non-profits, will be based in communities ranging from South Los Angeles to Inglewood, Watts, Compton, and Rancho Dominquez.

For-profit businesses are Travis and Alicia Manning’s Many Hatz Cleaning Services, David Hawthorne’s Drone Quest Photography, and Andrew Johnson’s Black Corn Man. The non-profit organizations are Mishalay Sanders’ Design Wellness Resource Center, Valerie V. Lee’s Community Cultural Love, and Monique McGriff’s The Sampson Center, who closed the commencement by offering these thanks on behalf of her classmates.

“It has been a true blessing and miracle that all this was done in 90 days. I have been working on my non-profit for two years and EECI came in and got it done in three months. I mean WOW!!!

“I just want to say the Miracle’s Class of 2022 is truly appreciative of the opportunity to be a part of this Miracle’s Program. I was stuck and this freed me to be the entrepreneur I was born to be,” she declared.

The new Miracle’s Alumni also heard from Ed Rice, the owner of five Popeye’s franchises including the restaurant hosting the event.

“You are all to be applauded for following your dreams and taking advantage of this program’s goal to help you build a business plan that will enable you to not only start your business but to grow it. The road to success will be complicated because it always is for people of color, but here I stand,” insisted Rice.

“If you continue to learn all you can about the business you are in and apply that knowledge you will one day be like me, independently providing for myself, my family and providing jobs and services to my community. Hold on, be strong, and nourish your dreams,” he advised.

Insight that any startup owner can use was given by EECI sponsor Nora Perez, vice president of Community Development at Enterprise Bank and Trust, and Ken Crawford, economic development specialist at the U.S. Small Business Administration. Both extended invitations to explore available funds and loans with interest rates as low as 1%. The offices of Congresswoman Nanette Barragán and County Supervisor Holly Mitchell also presented certificates and L.A. Councilmember Curren Price gave remarks.

The success of the Miracle’s program, launched in 2017, has been noted by financial institutions and endorsed by State Senator Steven Bradley with a 2022 budget allocation of $5.2 million to support EECI’s projects and program.

The class of 2022 was sponsored and supported by Comerica Bank, Enterprise Business Bank & Trust, AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles, Epson, GBC International, Union Bank, 1st Republic Bank, Northern Trust Bank, American Business Bank, Cathay Bank, First Commercial Bank, 1st Century Bank, Banc of California, Silicon Valley Bank, Northern Trust Bank, First Credit Bank, Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen (Watts), Superior Grocers, 34th District California State Senate, 2nd District L.A. County and L.A. County Department of Parks and Recreation.

For information on EECI Miracle’s Entrepreneur Program Business Plan Development course, call (323) 757-7506 or visit and