Learning How! is more than a growing, state-of-the-art academic learning facility. It is a template for entrepreneurship as a tool to close the wealth gap by enabling individuals in economically distressed communities to circumvent barriers to upward mobility.
The story of Learning How! also demonstrates the effectiveness of partnerships between Innovation Works, Ignite Capital and Baltimore’s social entrepreneurs who are using their business to enrich their neighborhoods and communities.
Learning How! was founded as Busy Bee’s Family Child Care in 2000 by Nkenge Yasin. Over these 20+ years in business, Learning How! grew from one location with 8 children to two centers serving a growing number of children.
“Our goal is simple – job creation, quality child-care, and exemplary service,” Yasin says.
Yasin was one of the first social entrepreneurs (SEs) to receive support from IW and funding from Ignite Capital. The growth of Learning How! and Yasin’s experience in the program provide a blueprint for other social entrepreneurs in the IW Pipeline.
The following is an overview of Yasin’s journey with IW and Ignite Capital.
Yasin was one of the first participants in IW’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) Boost program. This intensive for SEs packs core business lessons into a powerful four-day workshop. The goal is to help local, established nonprofit, for-profit and hybrid social enterprise leaders learn business fundamentals, improve their strategic thinking, and articulate a business plan that demonstrates impact, growth, and long-term financial sustainability.
“The instructors [in the boost program] challenged and supported me to reach heights in my business that I never would have on my own,” said Yasin. “My gratitude is immeasurable.”
Yasin was also one of the first participants in IW’s GSBI Accelerator program which delves deep into eight core social enterprise business modules over a period of six months. The goal is to help social enterprise leaders in Baltimore focus on key aspects of their business and develop a solid growth strategy that demonstrates an increase in their enterprise’s social impact and a plan for long-term financial sustainability.
The curriculum is developed with the help of IW’s partners at Miller Center. Programs support SEs in the later stages of the pipeline with enterprise development curriculum in the form of structured modules, a timeline with concrete deliverables, and a cohort of SEs and mentors to work alongside. SEs in all stages of the pipeline are also able to receive asynchronous curriculum support that addresses the challenges facing their enterprise.
After completing the GSBI curriculum, IW and Ignite Capital helped Yasin raise funding through its Investor Showcase.
The Investor Showcase provides social entrepreneurs in IW’s social enterprise development pipeline an opportunity to pitch to investors from Ignite Capital and the broader Innovation Works network. The first showcase was held in May 2020 and featured several businesses like Learning How! that are now receiving investment funding from Ignite Capital.
Check out Yasin’s pitch here.
Yasin joined the IW Board of Directors to use her experience to help other social entrepreneurs working to realize their business goals.
IW’s Board works to ensure IW reaches its goal of launching and growing 250 social enterprises in 10 years that will employ 5,000 Baltimore residents and attract $100 million in capital to Baltimore’s under-resourced neighborhoods.
Ignite Capital was launched in 2020 to be the investment arm of Innovation Works. Ignite Capital funding is provided through small grants and creative debt structures that are generally less than $100,000.
Ignite Capital helped raise more than $1 million in its first year of operation to fund six social entrepreneurs, including Yasin.
Learning How! received its first investment from Ignite Capital and has been growing since then. After receiving the investment funds, Learning How!
“Ignite Capital means an opportunity to inspire others with my lived experiences to be open to seeking support beyond their comfort zone,” Yasin said.
Learn more about Learning How! and ways you can support their mission at http://learninghowmd.net/.