Youth Advocate and Aspiring Entrepreneur

By Alicia Lee, owner, Life Purpose and participant, Aspiring Entrepreneur Program Cohort 1

I have been working with youth for several years in corrections and in a therapeutic setting, as a functional transitional counselor. It always struck me how nervous the kids were to leave the facility or their foster home in order to enter the “real” world. They were scared of the future and they weren’t sure they could stay positive because of the environment they came from, as well as the uncertainty about where they were going.

I always felt they just needed a little help with understanding their purpose. Eventually, this led to me starting Life Purpose, a transitional housing program for youth who are aging out of foster care.

However, I still have a lot to learn about running my own enterprise and a long road ahead of me. That’s what led me to applying for the first Aspiring Entrepreneur Program cohort at Bounce Innovation Hub.

The AE program is a 10-week cohort for non-tech businesses with a focus on minority and women owners. The program teaches the entrepreneurial mindset and business idea validation for aspiring business
owners. Essentially, if you have an idea and are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, this is the place to start.

But first, let’s go back a bit to before I even had a name for my idea.

When I first met Ace Epps, now a business counselor and entrepreneur in residence at Bounce, we would sit and talk about why I was so passionate about youth aging out of foster care. I told him that I have encountered so many different youth that all are nervous to be on their own and not sure what to do with themselves. That’s how the name Life Purpose came about. And Ace helped me create not only my name but my logo and business cards as well.

Fast forward to this past September. I had no idea what to expect when I signed up for the Aspiring Entrepreneur Program at Bounce at Ace’s recommendation. I was nervous and did not want to mess up a great opportunity such as this. When I started the classes, everyone from Ace, who runs the program, to the CEO of Bounce, Doug Weintraub, was very welcoming.

The classes went over everything from what an entrepreneur is and validating your idea to funding and marketing your business correctly. I learned so much about conducting business and how to maneuver as an entrepreneur. Each week we would listen to a podcast, produced by Ace and recorded at Bounce, of a local entrepreneur telling their story – how they started their business and what made them want to branch out on their own. We would also have weekly readings from the book The Power of Broke by Daymond John. The book was inspiring. It told different stories of entrepreneurs, how they overcame obstacles and are a
success today.

I can recall when I had to go to training for work and could not make it to one of the weekly Monday night sessions. I was very dedicated to the program and did not want to miss, so I was allowed to Skype in to class. I was so happy because that was when we had a special guest – City of Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan. I was excited to speak with him and have the opportunity to ask
him questions in turn.

There is a quote by Plato, a great philosopher, that really intrigues me and helps me to understand others. “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” Working with youth can be very emotional and rewarding. When dealing with youth who have experienced trauma I always think back to this quote and I know that I am on the right path and pursuing my passion.

But I can’t do it alone – no entrepreneur can. The dedication from Bounce to really help you succeed has been outstanding – from
late meetings to accommodate my work schedule and networking events. It has been an honor  to be one of the inaugural
participants in the Aspiring Entrepreneur Program. I am truly grateful, and looking forward to what is to come.

Please join Alicia and the entire AE Cohort 1 on Thursday, Dec. 12, at 5:30 p.m., for the inaugural AE Program Graduation Night. There is no charge for the event and the public is welcome to join. There will be light refreshments, music and networking. Keynote speaker is Cecil E. West, owner and creative director of Go West Productions.
Register today –