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Help for the ambitious unemployed

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Help for the ambitious unemployed

“How many people are unemployed or underemployed?” That’s what a pastor, with a church along the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. corridor in Indianapolis, asked his congregation a few years ago.

That pastor, Dr. Ivan Douglas Hicks, watched as several people raised their hands, facing the fears that befall many of the jobless, or the working poor who are struggling to make ends meet.

He then followed that question with another: “How many people have an idea for starting your own business?” Hicks, pastor of First Baptist Church North Indianapolis, was pleasantly surprised to see some church members raising their hands.

He says that moment lead to this realization: “The problem was that people have a vision for a business, but they did not have the resources. They did not have provision.” That was the catalyst for Hicks to found an urban Indianapolis non-profit and co-working organization, with a goal of helping entrepreneurs imagine and execute their vision.

It’s called The Grindery and Hicks is reaching many, in urban areas, who may have never dreamed they could have something to call their own. The Grindery offers a series of free, weekly classes on topics such as starting your business, defining your idea, marketing and branding, and funding. Business mentors help create the courses and volunteer to share their expertise. The Grindery even has its own version of the “Shark Tank” called “Hustle & Grind”, in which it awards the person with the best business idea.

Past winners included a woman who launched an upholstery business and a man who developed a new barbecue restaurant. “This is self-determination,” says Hicks. “This is an effort to make sure we are utilizing the resources and the creativity we have.”

I interviewed Dr. Hicks, on the WTHR Cares Noon Focus segment, and I witnessed how committed he is to giving hope and help to aspiring minority entrepreneurs and to bringing attention to the MLK Corridor, where The Grindery is currently housed. It’s located on his church campus, inside The Bradley Building at 877 Udell St., but The Grindery will soon have a new home, under renovation, along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street.

The MLK Corridor has been transformed, over the last few years, and The Grindery is part of that transformation. It’s an early project of the Dr. Martin Luther King Business Development Initiative (The Vision Development Center). Hicks is helping bring that initiative to life and he’s counting on more business mentors to help The Grindery succeed. John McDonald, the CEO of the technology company CloudOne, is a supporter of The Grindery.

McDonald recently said, “We believe organizations, like the Grindery, will be in great demand as Indianapolis continues to attract businesses…I wouldn’t be where I am today, in my career, had I not had access to resources and mentors who helped me along the way.” If you’re a business owner or business professional, you can “pay it forward” and mentor budding entrepreneurs at The Grindery.

The next series of free classes, titled “Business Booster Monday,” runs on Mondays, 5:30 – 8 p.m., from Oct. 27 through Dec. 18. Call (317) 956-7410 for information.

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