Alchemist Microenterprise Academy (AMA) is a 10-week program which provides education and training on the fundamentals of starting and growing a food business. Each week, entrepreneurs heard from experts in different areas of the greater food industry who presented about various aspects of running a food business. The classes provided a forum for participants to network and have their questions answered. Alchemist has had the opportunity to develop relationships with some of the guest speakers through Promise Zone gatherings. One of these partners included a representative from Umpqua Bank (a FIPO funder) who spoke to the group about business financing.
When the initial recruitment for the program took place, Alchemist used their greater network, including many partnerships developed through Promise Zone events, to advertise the program. This network helped to get the word out about the program and through this had 35 people attend info sessions to learn about applying to the program.
The target participants for the program were entrepreneurs from low-income backgrounds and under-resourced communities. In the pilot cohort, 70% identified as low-income, 35% identified as minorities and 25% identified as LGBT+. We received a lot of positive feedback from participants. One participant said “[I] couldn’t get any traction to jumpstart [my business] until I heard of this program from a friend. The programs seem to allow me to push myself to the limit and do more research and networking to kick start this adventure business concepts.” Another participant said “Before this program I was always wondering how do I start, what to do - so many questions. Each session has answered all my questions and seeing other like-minded people in the class is motivating and exciting! I hope to be a success story.” Jacob Sacks, the Administrative and Alchemy Kitchen Project Manager, shared that, “While all graduates still have more work to do, we are thrilled to see how much they’ve progressed and excited for their continued development and future success.”
One of the major milestones and outcomes recently achieved by the program came with the obtainment of the FIPO Grant. Jacob explains that, “We just completed our pilot run of the AMA program. This would not have been possible without the Promise Zone Financial Institutions Partnership Opportunity (FIPO) grant. We had 16 food businesses graduate from the inaugural 10-week program. We had a big graduation event to celebrate the end of the program and our businesses set up booths with many delicious samples.”
The Promise Zone reached out the Alchemy directly and asked how their program might benefit the larger Sacramento community, outside of their direct target area. They explain that, “Anyone who likes to eat good food will benefit from Alchemist Microenterprise Academy as we help more food businesses start and be better prepared to offer their delicious creations to the wider community. Additionally, armed with the knowledge to avoid some of the major pitfalls that face nascent food businesses we believe these businesses will grow and develop financial sustainability. As that happens, they will contribute to Sacramento’s economy which helps our larger community prosper. After the successful completion of our pilot AMA program, we are looking forward to having our second cohort in Spring 2020.”
For more information about the AMA program, future cohorts and the many more amazing things Alchemist is doing within Sacramento, please visit alchemistcdc.org/AMA.