A Dream Fulfilled

Comments (2) Posted By Joe on November 26, 2009 in Partners in Empowerment
Eva Jimenez applies for a Capital Good Fund Citizenship Loan

Eva Jimenez applies for a Capital Good Fund Citizenship Loan

Note: The Intersect Fund is one of several student-driven microlenders. The following story introduces Eva Jimenez, who received a Citizenship Loan from Brown University’s Capital Good Fund.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Since leaving the Dominican Republic eight years ago, Eva Jimenez has carved out a rich and rewarding life here. She’s landed a steady job and pursued her passion for painting, displaying her work at several local galleries. But until a few months ago, she had yet to fulfill her most important dream: to vote.

Though Jimenez had attained permanent United States residency, full-fledged citizenship eluded the public school teacher’s assistant. The application fee alone would eat up nearly a month’s salary, and that excludes the hefty legal fees she’d have to pay. Jimenez wondered whether she could ever scrape the money together.

Luckily, help was available. Earlier this year, Jimenez heard about the Capital Good Fund, a non-profit microlender here aiming to combat poverty and foster a more inclusive society. She learned the group would soon offer Citizenship Loans, designed to help legal U.S. residents cover the cost of becoming citizens, and was eager to take part.

In March, Jimenez received the first Capital Good Fund Citizenship Loan.

In September, she became a citizen.

Now, she feels she has a full stake in her community. She will have more job opportunities. She will inspire others hoping to realize the American dream.

“I’m very happy about organizations like the Capital Good Fund,” said Jimenez. She adds that although many fellow Latino immigrants could become citizens, few can cover the cost. This makes Capital Good Fund loans essential. “We need it,” she said.

The Cure for a Hectic Life

Comments (0) Posted By Joe on November 23, 2009 in Entrepreneur Directory
Janice McMillan's Everything and More takes care of common household chores.

Janice McMillan's Everything and More takes care of common household chores.

In a gadget-crazed world, the Smartphone is king. It can check e-mail, manage money and fire off Facebook updates. But believe it or not, there are some things your Blackberry cannot do. It cannot wait for the cable guy, bring your dog to the vet, or fix you a home-cooked meal.

That’s where Janice McMillan comes in. Her business, Everything and More, is about tying up loose ends. “I take care of the little things people don’t have time to do,” she says.

For the past five years, the Piscataway resident has made her clients’ lives a little easier. She’ll do the laundry, prepare dinner, watch the kids, and wait for that phone company employee who swears he’ll come by between noon and 5 p.m.

McMillan has made a career out of supporting others. She’s worked for 25 years at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, where she arranges programs that educate underprivileged high school and college students about careers in medicine. She’s logged enough years to retire, but she loves her job and wants to remain active.

Plus, there’s the networking. Among the clients of Everything and More are medical students with no time to clean their apartments, and co-workers whose private practices have eaten up their free time.

The idea for Everything and More came from McMillan’s memory of being a single mother. For years, she says, she couldn’t go out with friends, couldn’t spend time alone, and couldn’t even run errands without bringing her kids along.

“You need to have your own time,” she says, “when you don’t have to answer ‘Mommy’ questions.”

McMillan wants to give her clients more time to be alone, to work, or to do whatever they would like. And who knows? With everyday stressors out of the way, you may decide to spend more time with your family and less with your phone.

Everything and More can be reached at (908) 705-3995. She charges on a sliding scale that dips as low as $10 per hour.

Cooking for a Cause

Comments (1) Posted By Joe on November 17, 2009 in Entrepreneur Directory
Tamara Apollon sells baked goods — such as her famous Mango Tart — to fund an education center in her native Haiti.

Tamara Apollon sells baked goods — such as her famous Mango Tart — to fund an education center in her native Haiti.

When Americans think about the nation of Haiti, a rich culinary tradition is not the first thing that comes to their minds.

Which is unfortunate, says Haitian emigrant and baker Tamara Apollon. Few in the developed world, she says, can look beyond her country’s poverty and reliance on foreign aid. “People think we only take and do not give,” she says

She hopes to change that perception by bringing a variety of French-inspired Haitian treats to the American palate.

Apollon’s repertoire includes Marquise, a creamy, frozen dessert with layers of cookie and ice cream; Buche de Noel, a log-shaped Christmastime cake flavored with chocolate or Gran Marnier liqueur; mango cheesecake, and cupcakes with pineapple and grandia (passion fruit) topping. She also makes gingerbread and peanut butter cookies.

Though she has yet to take her business full-time, Apollon’s desk-bound day job provides ample opportunities for market research. “Every time I cook for work,” she says, “people are saying, ‘When are you going to start your own business?’”

Now, her business, Kids Can, allows her to boost appreciation of her native culture, and eventually, she will use its proceeds to improve the lives of her compatriots. Her goal is to generate enough revenue to create a center for disadvantaged girls in Les Cayes, a city on Haiti’s southern shore.

Apollon says that a lack of education and job skills forces many Haitian females into domestic slavery.  She wants to hire teachers to train them in hairdressing, cooking, sewing, and starting a business. “I want to empower them,” she says.

Kids Can can be reached at (908) 400-0910.

Their Marquise serves 7 to 8 people and costs $15. Cheesecakes are $20 to $30 and serve 10, Buche de Noel costs $30 to $40 and serves 20.

Cookies cost $7 per pound, and a dozen cupcakes costs $15.

Building a Glass House

Comments (1) Posted By Joe on November 17, 2009 in Entrepreneur Directory

    Sean Lewis has parlayed his glass blowing expertise into On-Center Glass, offering novices a taste of the craft.

Sean Lewis parlayed his expertise into On-Center Glass, offering novices a taste of the glass-blowing. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Johnson Digital)

At 21 years old, Sean Lewis was a few semesters away from a Tufts University engineering degree. Sticking around a little longer would have earned him a safe, fiscally sound career path.

It was becoming clear, though, that the responsible route would not be the most rewarding. Always artistically inclined, Lewis found no room for creativity in his engineering course load. He liked the idea of transforming blueprint designs into 3-D structures, but he wanted something with hardware heavier than a calculator.

When he learned that a family friend ran a glass blowing studio in Tucson, Ariz., he left school and moved west within a week.

There, he found his passion. And after all, what’s not to like? You plunge a steel rod into a 2,000-degree furnace, lift up some molten glass (which, at that temperature, drips off the steel like honey) and mold it into a slender vase, a colorful ornament, or a million-dollar chandelier.

“It’s the best job in the world,” Lewis says, “ It’s one step away from alchemy.”

A few years ago, Lewis returned to New Jersey — his home state — with his wife, Marin. The two have started On-Center Glass, a business that invites outsiders into their fascinating world. They offer evening events for those who want a taste of glass blowing, and a semester-long course for those who seek to become experts.

Their “Blow Your Own” ball hosts up to ten guests for an evening party replete with food and music. Each guest helps make his own souvenir, such as vases or ornaments. Attendees then watch as Sean crafts stunning pieces of glass art from the furnace.

For those who want to take it a step further, On-Center offers half-day sessions, weekend-long classes, and individual lessons. At each stage, guests take home a glass souvenir they helped to make. It’s a creative outlet that demands focus, forcing guests to leave their worries at the door.

The Lewises seek to create a community around glass blowing. And in New Jersey, there’s a precedent. Around the time of the American Revolution, Sean says, glass was big business in the Garden State (think “Glassboro”). Craftsmen found sand — the main ingredient of glass — abundant at the shore and used the state’s famous pinewood for furnace fuel.

By inviting customers into their studio, Sean and Marin hope to spread awareness of a craft they’ve come to love. They also seek to create a safe and fun hangout for veteran creative-types and young, budding artists.

For information about pricing and reservations, e-mail Sean at info@oncenterglass.com.

Next Page »