City looks to support Cedar-Riverside entrepreneurs

The Small Business Team will hold monthly meetings at the Cedar-Riverside Opportunity Center to help small business owners navigate City resources.

The Cedar-Riverside Opportunity Center as seen on Oct. 24, 2018. The Opportunity Center, which is now home to the city's small business team, will begin assisting residents once a month.

Jack Rodgers

The Cedar-Riverside Opportunity Center as seen on Oct. 24, 2018. The Opportunity Center, which is now home to the city's small business team, will begin assisting residents once a month.

J.D. Duggan

A Minneapolis team is reaching out in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood to assist small business owners with navigating City processes and resources.

The City of Minneapolis Small Business Team helps connect entrepreneurs with City resources and guides them through the process of starting a small business. Following an East African business forum in late June that saw high turnout, the team began meeting monthly at the Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center earlier this month.

The opportunity center, which opened March 2017, connects residents — primarily East African community members — to educational and employment training and resources.

The Small Business Team holds office hours throughout Minneapolis to improve its visibility and accessibility, said Suado Abdi, community liaison for the team. She said they meet at the opportunity center to eliminate barriers for the community, like difficulty traveling downtown, by meeting in the neighborhood.

“I think knowledge is power and if people are made aware of the resources and they’re able to connect with us, we can definitely help close some of the disparities in the community,” Abdi said.

Abdi said she discovered many businesses at the June forum that could contract with the City and other agencies. The businesses included landscaping and catering services to media companies. Many of the business owners were excited by the prospect of utilizing City resources, she said.

“[The forum] really had us thinking about what other ways we can support the community,” Abdi said.

Ward 6 Council member Abdi Warsame said these monthly meetings at the opportunity center will help spark interest in starting small businesses.

“It’s basically making it easier for small businesses, encouraging people to start a business and to locate [their business] in the city to diversify our business sector,” Warsame said. “And there’s a lot of East Africans that want to start a business, they’re entrepreneurs by nature, but it’s just the know-how.”

Mahamed Cali attended the June forum, which was televised on local Somali television. Cali is the owner of Greenway Market and executive director of Somali American radio station KALY 101.7.

The forum gave East African small business owners the chance to connect, he said.

Cali said City programming, like the forum and Small Business Team visits, offers a comfortable space for entrepreneurs who may not grasp the regulations for starting a business to ask questions.

“A lot of people have great ideas, but they don’t have the support they need,” Cali said. “Now the community is connected, and the City is supportive of that. We feel like in 2017 [and] 2018, the City of Minneapolis is caring for new Americans, especially East Africans.”