Project is run by Youth Job Center.

Stephane Burks loves to cook.

Now, she’s hoping to find the right mix of ingredients to help her open her own business.

But Burks, currently works in the health care field, says all the specifics about setting up a business seem “overwhelming.”

That’s where the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program at Evanston’s Youth Job Center can come in.

The program, which is just getting under way, is aimed at increasing the number of Black business owners, through 15 weeks of education, training and mentorship.

“If you have the dreams, we can help you accomplish them,” says the program’s manager, Juleya Woodson.

Burks is among the first participants, who start with a four-week “Bridge” segment, learning the basics of entrepreneurship and financial literacy.

After that, for those who still want to continue, is an 11-week “Incubator” portion, where students will actually work on developing their business plan, meet successful minority entrepreneurs and receive guidance from mentors.

For Burks, who has been informally selling home-cooked tacos, egg rolls and other specialties to friends and family and over social media, the Entrepreneurship program “might be a great opportunity for me.”

She says her food has been “selling like crazy,” but there’s only so much you can do from home.

She wants to set up a food truck or take-out shop, and hopes the program will teach her things like establishing an Limited Liability Company for her business, tax documentation and raising money, among other necessities.

“I want to learn the ropes of running a small business,” Burks says.

Project manager Woodson says she had the same questions when she started out, establishing her own child-focused company.

Evanston Now readers may recall Woodson as the author of a children’s book called “I Hope They Understand,” about how children should be proud of who and what they are, and develop a strong sense of self-worth. While the book is relevant for all children, it aims specifically at Black youngsters and the issues they face.

The Entrepreneurship project is being done in conjuction with Oakton Community College and Northwestern Universtity.

It is free, and open to Evanston residents ages 18-29.

Classes (all virtual) begin April 4, and there are still openings.

For additional information, contact

Woodson says that once the 15-week program has concluded, “we hope we’ll have some new startups which have built solid connections in the community.”

Burks wants one of those startups to be hers.

“If I can get someone to help me and guide me,” she says, “I think I can be successful.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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