Entrepreneur kids make deal on Dragons’ Den

Hope Blooms’ salad dressing sales will be used to provide post-secondary scholarship  

Hope Blooms

Hope Blooms’ mentors await the arrival of the evenings’ guests of honour – the seven children who took a business proposal to CBC’s Dragon’s Den. (Photo: Kelsey Power)

More than 40 exuberant youth, described under the unlikely title of being both at-risk and as entrepreneurs, walked away with $40,000 of investment funding last night.

A large crowd of supporters gave them the red carpet treatment at the North End Public Library, as they gathered to watch CBC broadcast the secret result of their proposal for a salad dressing business on the reality television series Dragons’ Den.

The kids had asked for $10,000 with five per cent royalties during their trip to Toronto earlier this year.

The children not only tamed the Dragons, but also left some of them tearful.

The packed audience of more than 300 gathered at the event could have used a package of tissue, as people made speeches concerning the positive change the children made to the community.

Hope Blooms is no regular business. This salad dressing enterprise has its roots in a 3,345 square metre garden and a 9 x 7 foot greenhouse run by neighbourhood kids in Halifax’s North End.

What used to be weeds in Warrington Park is now a positive project thanks to North End Community Health Centre’s dietitian Jessie Jollymore.

“Education is the foundation of everything we do. It’s just through a hands-on and teach-by-doing-method,” she said.

One dollar from every bottle sold goes to a scholarship fund for the youth involved.

“Right now there are 43 youth involved and as long as you’ve been a junior leader for more than two years you qualify to enter into the scholarship,” she said. Started last year, the total amount raised has reached $10,000.

“Everybody whose put in their time would get something towards their education plus the added life experience of being taught business and culinary,” said Natasha Jollymore, Jessie’s daughter who came up with the original idea for the business.

“Everything we make goes right back to the community or to the kids.”

Alvero Wiggins has been the youth co-ordinator for the program for the past three years and works directly with the children when gardening, making salad dressing, or overseeing sales at the Seaport Market.

He’s no stranger to the neighbourhood after growing up here. Now, 26, he has his own son involved in the initiative.

“The goal (of the scholarship) is so that we can increase choice so that young people don’t feel that they have to follow a certain path and that they can choose their own path.”

Aside from the scholarship, and the meeting with the Dragons, the small business is in the midst of setting up a mentorship program where nine youth will be paired with a leader in the community in a job-shadowing scenario “to gain skills to increase their employability in the future,” said Wiggins.

Kolade Kolawole-Bobeye, a 13-year-old involved with Hope Blooms who had the chance to travel to Toronto, dreams of becoming an engineer and plans to stay involved in the business until studying at university. His mother, Olayinka Kolawole-Bobeye, “prays and hopes” that both the business and scholarship fund continue to grow.

Originally published on UNews.ca


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