NEON’s mission is to expand economic development opportunities and build wealth for low- to moderate-income entrepreneurs in North Minneapolis. According to their website, their mission is achieved by:
- Providing training and business development services to entrepreneurs and small businesses.
- Strengthening the support network of Northside entrepreneurs.
- Supporting entrepreneurs through strategic capital investments.
- Developing an organization that is a model for conducting economic development in urban communities.
Over the long haul, they have a vision of creating a prosperous, visible, sustainable, and highly diverse multicultural business community in North Minneapolis and the surrounding area. Marcus Owens, executive director of NEON, describes the organization:
“Northside Economic Opportunity Network is a 501(3)(c) organization that is based in North Minneapolis, and is focused on small business development and creating opportunities and removing barriers for small business owners in the community. We do this through our programming, which includes entrepreneur training, business consulting, access to capital, and access to market opportunities,” he said.
Owens grew up in North Minneapolis and went to Lincoln Elementary, Franklin Jr. High, and North High School. Then he came back to serve his community.
“I got my undergraduate degree at Metro State University… I recently received my MBA from St. Thomas University.” His career background includes being a mortgage and real estate entrepreneur, banking at TCF, and an eight-year career in various departments with Target Corporation. These experiences have ultimately helped NEON develop into the business that it is today.
Owens told MSR, “NEON recently opened the doors to it business incubator, which was the dream of Dr. John Williams.” Williams was a humanitarian and dentist who served the North Minneapolis community for many years at 1007 West Broadway, located between Dupont and Emerson Avenues.
Dr. Williams had a vision of making the location of his dentist office a business incubator, so the community decided to make the dream come alive. Williams died in 2012 while taking a walk in North Minneapolis.
Owens continued, “The incubator houses 17 entrepreneurs and their businesses. The new NEON location provides office space, access to business advisement, printing, coping, Wi-Fi, networking events and other training events. Hennepin County had used that space for a while. In late 2015, NEON took over the space and recently did some redevelopment of the space.”
NEON provides monthly training programs including:
- Introduction to Entrepreneurship, which introduces business owners to the foundations of business
- Startup training, a five-week course that is taken after completing a business plan
- Introduction to finance, marketing and an overall business plan to help you get started
- Bi-monthly trainings are available to those who are already in business
There is also a business advisor, Steven Obayuwana, who is available to help with entrepreneurial questions.
Kenneth Caldwell is an artist and owner of CaldtoArt Painttime. Caldwell has been working with NEON since the birth of his business nine months ago.
“The relationship [with NEON] has been wonderful,” said Caldwell. “The advice they have given me has been positive and informative. They have helped my business grow. NEON has set me up with the tools and info [I needed], but the drive comes from myself, the business owner. It was my job to put into action the tools and the plan that they helped me lay out.”
Asked about the benefits that he gets by being a part of the business incubator, Caldwell replied, “I have been able to utilize the business space with the help of Ashley [Bennett]. She helps make the process very easy for me to book space, and she is very helpful and helps keep the process smooth.” CaldtoArt Painttime has also been able to collaborate on many business opportunities with other NEON incubator businesses.
If you are interested in becoming a part of the NEON network, visit the website or visit the location on West Broadway to get involved with programming. If you are looking to rent office space, keep connected with the organization because they are currently working on expanding and developing more rental space.
In agreement with the mission of NEON, Caldwell agrees that the organization is “very intentional about pushing entrepreneurs and the businesses that they work with out into the community” to improve community economics.
If you are an entrepreneur and have not reached out to NEON, you may want to take that next step. The resources are in the community waiting to be utilized.
For more information on NEON courses, go to www.neon-mn.org.
Brandi D. Phillips welcomes questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.