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New Jersey Non-Profit Turning Unemployed into Entrepreneurs

Kim lives just outside of New York City. But her story will sound familiar to many folks all around the country. After being employed at a large financial services firm for most of her career, several years ago–amid the general economic turmoil–she found herself out of job and unable to find another gig on par with her previous post. Unemployment benefits helped bridge the gap, but she needed a longer-term solution. Her job-skills were apparently no longer in demand. But Kim had another gift–the ability to make some pretty great homemade jam.

Enter New Jersey non-profit Intersect Fund and its latest program, Entrepreneur University. The organization was founded by a pair of Rutgers University students, Joe Shure and Rohan Mathew, who were both impressed by the drive of the folks they met in their local community of New Brunswick. They were also troubled by the poverty of the area and the disparities along lines of race, gender, and origin they observed there. But rather than just idly complain or write the odd sociology paper on what they saw, Shure and Mathew decided to do something about it.

“The fact that people who were hardworking and had good ideas were struggling to start businesses frustrated me,” Shure told “I have a lot of small-business owners in my family, so I’ve seen the good things that can come from starting a small business. A lot of folks are great at baking cakes but they don’t know what a profit margin is. If we can combine a person’s talent and their drive with some basic business knowledge, then we’re creating an entrepreneur with potential.”

To make sure that everyone, including Kim, is armed with the tools they need to go from amateur baker to budding business owner, The Intersect Fund offers small loans, business coaching, and, most recently, Entrepreneur University, a crash course for New Jersey residents on unemployment benefits. It explains the basic mechanics of starting and running a small business–and the state picks up the $899 tab for the course.

But as Shure notes, the object of Entrepreneur U isn’t simply to spread the basics of how to write a business plan or keep books. It’s also to close the confidence gap…

Read more: Jessica Stillman, Inc.


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