Invariably, Los Angeles is listed, in blogs and magazines of all stripes, among the most beautiful cities in the country.
Meanwhile, South Los Angeles continually ranks among the top 10% of the most polluted communities in the state of California. The area has been historically ensconced in and blighted by oil well sites, industrial facilities, hazardous waste dumps, and contaminated land.
Over the years, this has added up to disproportionate numbers of Black and Latinx residents –who comprise the demographic majority in the area — succumbing to a range of health conditions, from asthma to cancer.
This equation must change, and many say one of the most significant change agents in this case is the rebuilding of a local economy that incorporates clean energy. Given that South L.A.’s unemployment rate is consistently multiple percentage points higher than that of the entire city, the community could presumably benefit from an economic boost of any kind, but building “blue and green” economies, in particular, means developing solutions for environmental problems, such as those listed above, that are based on cleaner technologies, and there are opportunities for great growth among small businesses that choose this as its focus.
Nora Perez, vice president of Community Development at Enterprise Bank and Trust, which has been working with community-based organizations in the area to promote entrepreneurial financial literacy education, notes, “Climate change continues to affect our lives and everything around the planet. For business owners, green and blue business practices are becoming a necessity to demonstrate a focus on reducing negative environmental impacts.”
It only makes sense that the populations that have historically been most affected by environmentally noxious industry in this area have agency and stakes in this game changing and opportunities to participate in a new wave of local business that incorporates strategies to address environmental pollution and climate mitigation.
The Entrepreneur Educational Center Inc. (EECI), a local nonprofit that sponsors free workshops for individuals and small businesses in the Watts area, and AltaSea, an organization dedicated to advancing an emerging blue economy, have partnered to increase the odds.
On Saturday, June 25, EECI and AltaSea will present “Ride the Wave: Building Blue and Green Communities…One Small Business at a Time,” one of a series of free business seminars the organizations are offering throughout the summer to engender business innovation in the community.
This weekend event will take place from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., at Magic Johnson Park, which is located at 905 E. El Segundo Blvd., in Los Angeles. Adding to the festivities, a “Save the planet”-themed game truck will be present and available to the public at no cost from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Topics that will be covered include business concept development, EECI’s Miracle’s Entrepreneur Program and tips on transforming businesses to blue/green enterprises. Considering South LA’s proximity to the Port of Los Angeles, a focus on blue economy is only fitting, and San Pedro-based AltaSea, dedicated as they are to port-related job creation, will disseminate invaluable information about opportunities for getting involved in their programs.
Barbara J. Stanton, community activist, and executive director and Teacher at EECI, says, “We are people living in the Alameda corridor, and we need jobs, and we need small businesses. By pooling together, we have put a blue program in Watts. That’s incredible to me.
“To have a program that trains young Black and Brown people for jobs at the Port of Los Angeles – that’s how we have to work it to keep this area from being left behind…Never Again!”
EECI and AltaSea developed a partnership when they became part of a coalition led by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC), which was named one of 60 finalists across the United States in the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) through the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The BBBRC saw a total of 529 applicants competing for grants of up to $100 million.
To Perez, the honor comes as no surprise. “What inspires me about EECI is the impact and passion that Barbara and her team have to inspire and prepare young entrepreneurs in underserved communities with their entrepreneurial programs.”
Stanton notes that this opportunity has allowed for expansion of a mission that’s long been underway. “Our messaging hasn’t changed. It only expanded to include providing a pathway for BIPOC entrepreneurs to access the coming blue and green economy wave…in future job creation and environmental restoration, EECI was asked to bring its commitment to economic equity and justice to the project.”
Ride the Wave has garnered enthusiastic support from local politicians and financial institutions throughout the area.
“The banks provide easy capital access to the small/micro businesses with a fast and easy application process,” explains Perez.
Some prospective applicants may worry that they wouldn’t have enough capital to start a business, but Ms. Perez’s experience is encouraging. “Writing the business plan dispels the myths about how much in funding you need for a startup, three-year operation and 10-year operation.”
For those leery of taking a chance on possible predatory lenders, EECI offers reassurance, initially reviewing the feasibility of the preliminary plan to see if the student can finance such a proposition alone.
“Exploring the passion for the product or service is highly important and will flush out the projected costs the first year through the third year,” Perez adds. “They must explore all costs of all items, identify their primary market, and have confidence that they will be successful.”
Additional seminars will be held on Saturday, July 23, and on Saturday, August 6, at East Rancho Dominguez Park and Roosevelt Park respectively, both from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
These seminars aim to make blue and green small business growth as simple as a walk in the park for residents of South L.A., and through such initiatives, the greater city of Los Angeles will better earn its long-heralded reputation for beauty, indeed.
To learn more about the Ride the Wave 6 Business Seminar Series, call (323) 757.7506, email [email protected], or visit www.entrepreneureducationalcenter.org.