Building Better and Sustainable Future for Our Communities

Success Stories

$10 Rack: The Clearance Rack

Haiyen and Neeson Vang met when they were just fifteen years old, while growing up in Minneapolis off of Lake Street during the 90s. The neighborhood was run down and crime was commonplace. Haiyen and Neeson experienced the effects of that environment. “We were the children from a neighborhood that was a bit forgotten,” Neeson said. Haiyen adds, “As teenagers we both skipped school…we gave our parents a hard time and didn’t do what we should have done.” However, rather than simply accepting the barriers they faced from growing up in a ‘forgotten neighborhood,’ they began to imagine the possibilities.

A La Salsa

According to Midtown Global Market manager Becky George, Lorenzo Ariza, owner of A La Salsa restaurant, is just a model tenant – a model tenant with a 95 percent approval rating on Urbanspoon. Ariza, who has been in the food industry since he emigrated from Mexico to California in 1972, knows about the seemingly endless outlay of energy and money needed to make a restaurant successful.

All Washed Up

The idea for opening up a laundromat came during college when Shantae received a rejection letter from the Department of Human Services, citing a criminal past as a reason not to hire her. Discouraged, but then inspired to not let her past stand in the way of her future, Shantae decided “I’m going to have to have my own business so I can hire myself!” She knew that two essential steps to opening her own business were writing a business plan and securing funding. She was referred to Neighborhood Development Center, where she successfully completed the Microentrepreneur Training program in the spring of 2008, with a solid business plan that would lay the groundwork for All Washed Up. What she hadn’t expected, however, was the financial assistance that would come from this relationship.

Big Daddy’s Barbeque

Thirty years ago, friends Ron Whyte, Bob Edmond, and Gene Sampson spent days having friendly BBQ cook offs in the park, in competition with one another to find the best combination of flavors. They collectively came up with something amazing, and people started to notice. They began to sell their hickory-smoked ribs, and Big Daddy’s Barbeque quickly emerged.

Chelles’ Kitchen, LLC

“I’ve finally found my passion, and it’s not working behind a desk. I am inspired by and love food,” Lachelle Cunningham of Chelles’ Kitchen LLC said. “And when people would tell me ‘this is fabulous!’ it’s just reinforcement that I’m doing what I should be doing.”

D’Flye Entertainment

Emancipated from her family at the age of 15, and now a single mother of three, De’Monica Flye knows all too well the reality of facing and overcoming obstacles. A strong character gifted with talent, De’Monica used the challenges she faced to fuel her passion for performing and turned it into a business: D’Flye Entertainment. Within D’Flye Entertainment De’Monica acts as both a performer and a producer. Her two bands, Hi-Definition and the newly formed Another Level, perform R&B, Jazz, and Blues throughout the Twin Cities. Her production company, D-Flye Productions, books local and regional talent and hosts old school R&B and steppers nights at Arnellia’s in Saint Paul, as well as the occasional fashion show. De’Monica recently signed with Thompson Management and will be recording a new album at Waterbury Studios in Minneapolis.

Dog Soldier Mixed Martial Arts

Vaughn Lodge opened Dog Soldier MMA in March 2013, but the story started long before, in Little Earth. Little Earth is an urban housing complex in south Minneapolis which provides affordable housing with Native preference. Over a year ago, tension was building. Lodge remembers, “People were coming to me and saying my daughter has been attacked, or my granddaughter has been sold into the sex trade…and for me it was like, what can I do to make a difference? What can I do to make a difference?”

Dulcería la Piñata

Aracely Zagal learned the art of piñata making growing up in Mexico. In 1999, after ten years of living in Minnesota, she seized an opportunity to turn her art into a business when she learned about plans to open a Latino-themed public market in South Minneapolis. Inspired by the absence of culturally familiar goods and services, a group of Latino immigrants worked together to create a vision for the Mercado Central. NDC, in partnership with Project for Pride in Living and Whittier CDC, helped the entrepreneurs realize their vision and the Mercado opened in 1999, with Aracely’s Dulcería la Piñata offering endless varieties of Mexican candy and handmade piñatas to wide-eyed customers.

Foundations Health Career Academy

Sometimes, an airplane ride can change your life. Rachelle Simmons was college visiting in Baltimore with her son, and mentally noted something unique. “Usually in the inner city, on every corner you see a liquor store or a church – every corner. And there (Baltimore), on every corner there was a clinic! Or there was a hospital! Gosh, if I lived here, I would teach CNAs.”

Fresco’s Pasta Bar

Her first Christmas picture, taken before she was even five years old captures her spark. In it she stands in front of a brightly colored eighties kitchenette, surrounded by utensils, rubbing her hands together and ready to cook. “I grew up in the kitchen with my mother and my grandmother- Three generations. We had huge holiday parties. Fifty or sixty people would come for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We’d all cook together so I learned how to cook for huge groups at a very young age.”

Grooming House Barbershop

Owners Daymn Johnson and Dedrick Young have created a dynamic, highly visible barbershop in St. Paul, filling one of the original retail spaces in the Frogtown Square project at University Avenue and Dale Street. Grooming House has fast become a friendly, positive neighborhood gathering place, strikingly attractive in its interior, with original design and branding by the owners.

Hassan’s Taxi Company

“When I started driving, I basically had nothing left. I was going into foreclosure at that time and I was only making some bills, some not. Whatever savings I had, I had used already,” Syed Hassan said, reflecting on what owning his own cab has meant for him.

Hmong Village

Perhaps the most visually striking aspect of Hmong Village is the giant three-wall mural: it wraps the produce vendors in a colorful shawl of the vision of Laos and its people. The 105,000 square foot urban market on St. Paul’s East Side houses more than 186 businesses, representing nearly 315 entrepreneurs.

La Loma Tamales

Noelia and Enrique Garcia moved to the United States in 1993, right after getting married in their hometown Quebrantadero, deep in the heart of Mexico. They brought with them a dream and a recipe: a dream to create a new future for themselves in a country filled with possibilities, and a recipe passed down to Noelia from her mother Felipa Vazquez, who made and sold tamales to support her family of eight children.

Local Architect has Designs for a Prosperous North Minneapolis

Jamil Ford lives and works in North Minneapolis. His relationship goes far beyond that though; he believes that his business, Mobilize Design & Architecture, is an important part of creating a prosperous, dynamic and safe community there. His passion is to design beautiful and accessible buildings and housing at busy, blighted or crime-ridden intersections to spur economic development. Prosperity, security and pride, he believes, will follow.

Manny’s Tortas

28 years ago, Manny González moved to Minnesota with two dreams: to learn English, and to own his own restaurant. He realized his first dream quickly. In 1998, he read about an innovative, Latino-organized, NDC-supported project coming to East Lake Street: the Cooperativa Mercado Central. They had space for five food businesses, and Manny saw a chance to realize his second dream. Manny enrolled in NDC’s 16-week entrepreneur training program. From that class he developed a business plan, and as Manny says with a contagious grin “that’s how everything started!”

Minuteman Press

As owner of a Minuteman Press franchise, Brown believes in upending the system of structural racism in hiring; he believes that after prison time, a person should have an opportunity to be considered for and even hired for a job and, most importantly, that employees should have benefits and be well paid.

Mississippi Mushrooms

What do mushrooms, social justice, and economics have in common? The connection might not seem apparent at first, but Ian Silver-Ramp of local start-up Mississippi Mushrooms is happy to connect the dots with some creative thinking and a healthy appetite for entrepreneurship.

Muddy Paws Cheesecake

The wish for every entrepreneur is to take what he or she does best, turn it into a business, turn a profit and maybe even get noticed. Tami Cabrera has always been really, really good at making cheesecake. After being voted as “Best Cheesecake in Minnesota” many times over, Cabrera’s Muddy Paws Cheesecake were given as gifts to 800 attendees at the Emmy Awards in New York in August. Suffice to say, Cabrera has been noticed.

NouNou’s Place

Bright colors, crayon-drawn artwork, ABCs and numbers galore, and the gleeful sounds of happy kids greet you as you walk into NouNou’s Place, a new child care business on the East Side of St. Paul. Nou Thao, the creative talent behind NouNou’s Place, opened her business in the summer of 2012, after nearly four years of preparation.

On Eagles Wings

Success in a career and in life, Juliet Mitchell believes, is a combination of technical skills, determination and social etiquette. Social etiquette, she believes, goes well beyond which fork to use at a meal, but integrates respect and consideration for others with the knowledge of social norms that can lead to success in life.

People Magic®

Rob Chalmers uses magic to show people that things aren’t always what they seem; to challenge perceptions and change attitudes. Rob combines his background in psychology and education with his unique manner of communicating to work with people’s differences and help them better understand each other. He continually leaves audiences inspired, motivated, and full of laughter.

Roots Midwifery, LLC

Rebecca Polston’s mission is to focus solely on safely, simply and respectfully bringing African American, First Nation, Latino and African children into the world. Polston is a Certified Professional Midwife and owner of Roots Midwifery, and for two years she is one of a few in the nation who have been delivering children in the tradition of those who did before her, and she is doing it very well.

Sonora Grill

Sonora Grill opened in 2011 to high praise from customers and critics alike. A fusion of Spanish and South American cuisine, with influences from the owners’ native Sonora, Mexico, Sonora Grill boasts a 100% scratch kitchen. Everything, from the cilantro aioli to the wiener in the famous Sonora Hot Dog, is prepared from scratch in their Midtown Global Market kitchen. The only exception is the buns, which travel the long distance across the market from the Salty Tart bakery, where they’re made fresh daily.

SOS Cleaning

Frank Dogbe gives most of his new employees from West Africa a one-year promise. Dogbe, founder and owner of SOS Building Services, a business that cleans commercial and office buildings, hires immigrants fresh from Africa and gives them one year to show him that they’re well on their way to learning English or that they’re working toward their GED. “I want them to be inspired by my journey. I say to them: ‘I started out like you when I came to this country, even worse. I didn’t have someone who spoke my language and was there to push me.’”

The Alden Group

Donald Bryant Jr.’s strength lies in recognizing potential, both in business and in people. Three years ago he took a risk, leaving his career as a marketer to create The Alden Group, a Consumer Products Company headquartered on West Broadway in North Minneapolis. In only three years they have expanded from selling their products in 80 stores to 2000 stores today, with a deal in the making to launch a new product onto the shelves of a major drugstore chain with over 7000 stores nationwide.

The District Barber Shop

The District Barber Shop is a 450 square foot four seat – start-up barber shop at 1116 Lowry Avenue North, Minneapolis that allows families to have their hair cuts in one convenient visit. There are many “quick salons” like Cost Cutters, or Fantastic Sams, however, most of these salons only provide the minimum services. These upscale barbers can be inconvenient due to scheduling requirements and cost.

The Edge Coffee House

The Edge Coffee House offers a warm environment that invites you to linger for hours and come back again the next day, complete with comfy couches, an old piano, and walls lined with Ya Ya’s personal eclectic touch. Owner Patricia “Ya Ya” Y wanted it just that way when she bought the coffee shop two years ago (when it was the Artist’s Grind) and turned it into a coffee house.

The Element of discipline that leads to success

A microcosm of the transformative work that Dalton Outlaw and Element Boxing and Fitness does, comes in the form of a young man named Deonte.

Tortilleria la Perla

The Payans have grown from offering a few part time, minimum wage jobs when they began to owning a business that employs nearly 50 full time people and generates $3.2 million in sales annually. Five of their six children work full time for the family business, and the youngest helps out when not in school. Tortilleria la Perla distributes tortillas throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin, selling in Cub Foods, Rainbow, Target, Wal-Mart, and to more than 150 small businesses.

Ultimate Look

When Dominique Wells was 12 years old, he began cutting hair as a hobby, never imagining it would turn into a career. His aunt, Wendy Lane, had opened a salon on University Avenue in 1992, and Dominique put his hobby to work there. In 2005, when his aunt became too ill, Dominique took over the business, expanding the main floor salon to include a full barber shop in the back.

Vincent Lopez, Service Tech Plumbing

Plumbing is something that has been part of Vincent Lopez’s life since he was a teenager working for his dad, a few hours here and there with his uncle, and on some projects with his brothers.

Xtreme Beauty

“I was ready to have my own business,” Brown remarks as she reflects on the challenge of working in salons that did not fit with her work ethic and drive. Through a referral to Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation (ASNDC), an ongoing training partner with NDC, Brown enrolled in NDC’s business training class in early 2012. “I’ve learned a lot about my financials, I’ve learned about my business plan, I’ve learned about getting organized. I’ve learned a lot and I’m passing it on to other people around me.”