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Store owner flipping come in we're open sign

Partnering for Prosperity

Jen Merritt

Mural at Washington Elementary 

The Ignatian Center's Thriving Neighbors Initiative (TNI) and the Leavey School's My Own Business Institute (MOBI) are launching a joint program aimed at supporting new businesses within the economically-disadvantaged neighborhoods of San Jose. The initial focus of the program, tentatively called Lanzando ("Launching"), will be to provide instruction, coaching, and economic networking for low-income residents of the Greater Washington neighborhood. Online and in-person instruction will be presented in Spanish, and Santa Clara University students will serve as facilitators and guide the preparation of business plans.   

According to Jen Merritt, Director of TNI, the idea for the partnership came about when members of the Greater Washington community expressed their interest in economic capacity-building and entrepreneurship. The TNI team searched out a program to support first time business owners as well as those hoping to grow and refine their current businesses. The Leavey School’s MOBI program was a natural fit because of its accessible curriculum and bilingual format, and the ability to include Santa Clara University students and faculty in the project.

"Drew Starbird, MOBI Executive Director and Professor of Information Systems and Analytics with the Leavey School of Business, agreed to help us develop a MOBI course specifically tailored to the needs of prospective entrepreneurs in Washington," says Merritt.

Irene Cermeño, TNI Program Director and double Bronco (A&S BA and Leavey School MBA), had previously worked with Starbird as a graduate student at Santa Clara. With five years of experience developing bilingual educational programming in Washington, she was uniquely situated to leverage her understanding of the neighborhood to co-develop the appropriate delivery methods for the MOBI curriculum.

“For the past five years, I have had the privilege of working with community leaders in the Greater Washington Community and have witnessed their entrepreneurial spirit, dedication, hard work, and their search for opportunities,” says Cermeño. “For me, it is truly an honor to be able to collaborate with Drew Starbird, Trish Kalbas-Schmidt, and Yacanex Posadas in creating a space that will allow for community-centered social entrepreneurship, creativity, and community."

We are eager to kick off this exciting cross-departmental, community engagement project this fall with a flagship class of 15 Greater Washington entrepreneurs.


Aug 30, 2018
August Newsletter, Fall2018