“Uncle Cleve” was an unlikely entrepreneur, a black man in the 1950s segregated South who found success owning the town’s ice house.
His nephew, Clifton Taulbert, drew on life lessons learned from “Uncle Cleve” to write Who Owns the Ice House? which explores what “mindset” makes for successful entrepreneurs.
Now, the Akron Urban League, with a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is offering would-be business owners a 16-week Ice House Entrepreneurship Program.
It’s based on the principles that Clifton Taulbert says empower success.
The course, which begins in August, includes classroom presentations, online lessons and video interviews with successful entrepreneurs. The Kauffman Foundation of Missouri, inspired by the book, funded development of the course.
The Ice House course is not the traditional nuts-and-bolts class for those wanting to begin a business, Akron Urban League officials say.
“This isn’t about the mechanics of owning a business,” said Sheri Myricks, Urban League director of marketing. “It’s not about teaching someone how to manage your staff, your Quickbooks [accounting software] and how do you do your taxes.”
Rather, Myricks said, “What this course is going to focus on is, ‘Do you have entrepreneurship in your head and in your heart, and you do you understand the principles of professionalism and the dedication and the hard work’?” needed to become a successful entrepreneur.
Ramona Culver, a manicurist who wants to start her own “traveling nail technician” business, attended the Urban League’s first offering of the Ice House course that wrapped up earlier this year.
“I don’t want to have to depend on other people for my income,” Culver said, explaining she has a second job providing counseling at a nonprofit and her hours at that agency have been cut.
She also envisions helping to provide employment to other nail technicians.
Culver, an Akron resident, said she learned through the course that “your ideas can actually become reality ... [the course] teaches you about how you can make choices and the right kind of choices ... it teaches you how as an entrepreneur you see problems as an opportunity.”
Assignments including testing her idea in “the real world” by talking to nail salons and a bank.
Culver said she has yet to write a business plan, but she’s been taking courses focusing on nail care and selling nail-care products.
The Knight Foundation is supporting bringing the course to more local residents through a $60,000 grant to the Urban League’s Minority Business Development Center.
“This grant will allow the Akron Urban League to engage Akron’s talent into an entrepreneurial mindset that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to,” said Jennifer Thomas, Akron program director for the Knight Foundation.
The Knight Foundation, headquartered in Miami, awards grants for various nonprofit efforts in communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers, including the Beacon Journal.
Separately, Kent State University has joined forces with the Kauffman Foundation to offer the Ice House program this fall.
Incoming freshmen at the Kent campus will read Who Owns the Ice House? co-authored by Gary Schoeniger, as this year’s assigned “Common Reading Book.” The freshmen also will be able to take a three-credit course focusing on the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program.
In Akron, the Urban League’s course begins Aug. 5 and costs $150.
For more information, and to sign up for the program, call the Urban League’s Minority Business Development Center at 234-542-4149.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.