How to Help People, Make Money, and Maybe Even Save the Planet

Workshop Friday | 2–3:30 pm | MECA

A Business Ecosystem that can help the Ecosystem

Fikiria in Swahili means “imagine”. Fikiria, an initiative of Catholic Charities Maine is a creative market place for emerging entrepreneurs located within Threads of Hope Thrift Store at 1041 Brighton Avenue in Portland. The problem, Fikiria hopes to address is to help low income, first time entrepreneurs start a business. To do this, we provide affordable, safe space and wrap around business services including business counseling, marketing, customer service and product display. In addition, we also assist with point of sale and provide free sales checkout at no cost to our tenants. A single mom, a college student or a first entrepreneur can be open and sell products seven days a week. When possible, we provide basic business start up equipment, connections to potential business contracts, marketing and sales opportunities and community connections. To be a business system, especially with first time, low income business owners, we need to help them get over their fears of starting a business, mitigate their risk, and create a supportive environment where they can succeed. Fikiria is real time business school for low income, first time entrepreneurs.

This business model also does more than just help new entrepreneurs. It also supports existing business with cost-effective support services that can result in less waste, thereby also benefitting the environment. Upcycling, defined as reusing discarded objects or material in such a way as to create a product of higher quality or value than the original, is a major opportunity that Fikiria is fully leveraging.

In this session, attendees will learn more about the Fikiria business model through a panel discussion and discuss ways public policy can support growing this model. We will then conduct a mini-“hackathon” with the full group (panel and audience alike) to generate additional ideas of how the Fikiria business model can be expanded to help more first-time entrepreneurs be successful.