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Hope for US economy: Young black men as entrepreneurs

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Lawrence Carpenter knew he always had an entrepreneurial spirit, but he was in the wrong business – the business of selling drugs.

After his second stint in prison, it became clear to him: “I made mistakes in my life, and I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in poverty because of those mistakes. I also knew that I had a criminal record, and looking at things realistically, it was going to be pretty difficult finding a job anywhere. I didn’t want to use that as an excuse. I knew that in order for me to realize the goals I had financially, my only option was to start my own business and create my own market.”

The Durham, N.C. native set about the task of starting Super Clean Professional Janitorial Services, a commercial cleaning service. “I wanted something that would get me as far away from the streets as possible, but where there wouldn’t be a limit or a cap on how much money I could make.” Now the sky seems to be the limit for Mr. Carpenter, as Super Clean is generating more than $2.5 million in sales per year and employs more than 70 full and part-time employees.

It’s the Lawrence Carpenters that organizations like ours – City Startup Labs – want to motivate, train, and deploy in inner cities around the country. This new non-profit was created to take at-risk young African American men, including ex-offenders, and teach them entrepreneurship, while creating a new set of role models and small business ambassadors along the way. City Startup Labs contends that an alternative education that prepares these young men to launch their own businesses can have far more impact with this population than other traditional forms of job readiness or workforce training.

Today’s economic climate allows employers their pick of candidates, leaving few options for anyone with a record. Young black men, who’ve had no brushes with the law, still routinely face real barriers in getting on a job ladder’s lowest rung.

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