From her post at the helm of the Point Breeze Avenue Business Association, Ella Butcher routinely deals with big league movers and shakers to attract new business to The Breeze. After hours, however, she meets with a decidedly younger set of developers: at-risk girls, ages 10 and up.
As part of her Peaches and Cream Foundation, the small business owner and mortgage consultant takes ten local girls through the ins and outs of entrepreneurship at weekly workshops in her office.
This summer, they’ll put their skills to the test running a T-shirt shop on the 1200 block of Point Breeze Avenue.
“What we wanted to do was make it fun for the youth to want to learn and to start a business,” said Butcher. “With [the city] taking a lot of the technical programs out of high schools, we wanted to start this entrepreneurial program to give them an option.”
Butcher’s course goes through the basics of opening a bank account and moves up in complexity to navigating credit applications processes and market research. Throughout the program, the girls will meet with and discuss ideas with real-life developers financing projects in the city.
During the summer, young men are invited to participate in running the business alongside the girls.
“If you look at inner city youth, especially young men and young boys, the stereotype is they stay on the corner and sell drugs,” said Butcher. “They have nothing to do, but they need to make money.”
The program keeps them busy and out of trouble, while showcasing a legal, viable path to self-sufficiency, said Butcher.
Though the girls will start with a T-shirt and hand bag shop under Butcher’s tutelage, they have ideas of their own that they hope to one day bring to their neighborhood.
Kwateria Harrell, 10, sees cupcakes, cookies and cakes in her future. She wants to one day open up The Greatest Cupcake Store.
“I love cooking,” said Harrell. “I always help out my grandmother with cooking when she bakes. I mix up the batter.”
Charday Ducksworth, 12, hasn’t come up with a name for her future hair salon, but is certain she can make it a reality.
“I feel like I’m very creative and my mom always encouraged me and pushed me to do stuff, so I thought I’d do this,” she said.
Both budding captains of industry didn’t hesitate when asked where they’d like to open up shop: “South Philly.”
– Text, video and images by Jad Sleiman