We're on the move to serve Central Minnesota. 

Contact a staff member 

Initiative Foundation Get Logos
Initiative Quarterly Magazine
Initiative Quarterly

17 Entrepreneurs Graduate from St. Cloud-based Enterprise Academy

December 19, 2022

Graduates’ business ventures include home care, a barber school, catering, wellness center

LITTLE FALLS, MN—The Initiative Foundation, the Central Minnesota Community Empowerment Organization (CMCEO) and Higher Works Collaborative are celebrating the graduation of 17 new entrepreneurs dedicated to building their homegrown business ideas in the Greater St. Cloud area.

The St. Cloud entrepreneurs recently completed the Enterprise Academy—an Initiative Foundation business-building program that features a 12-week training program matched with free and ongoing business coaching plus access to flexible loans and other capital. Participants build skills and receive support in the areas that challenge new entrepreneurs in starting and running a business.

The entrepreneurs join nine other cohorts of St. Cloud graduates, now representing nearly 80 current and aspiring business owners in the St. Cloud area.

“These amazing entrepreneurs' business ideas are rooted in serving their communities and creating opportunities,” said Brian Voerding, vice president for inclusive entrepreneurship at the Initiative Foundation. “Building equitable economies and communities is core to our work, and we’re pleased to partner with CMCEO and Higher Works Collaborative on this project.”

The fall 2022 St. Cloud graduates include:

Hassan Haji Ali: Hassan has owned his long-haul trucking company, Zee Transport, LLC, for nearly three years. He hopes to expand his business to hire drivers and purchase equipment. Hassan is married with two children.

Omar Ali: Omar plans to grow his trucking business, Eagle Carrier, and believes the newfound management tips he’s learned will help him as he expands. In the past, Omar has worked in a warehouse and has driven a taxi.

Arnise Balle: Arnise joined Enterprise Academy to network and develop her business skills. She currently owns Joy'Full Place Catering and hopes to expand to a bed-and-breakfast and catering truck. Arnise currently works for Stearns County Human Services. She is married and has three daughters.

Leah Beack: Leah owns Emotion in Motion, a mobile, splatter-paint-room experience. She showcased her business at the Benton County Fair and various community events in 2022. Leah hopes to sell this concept on Amazon and aspires to hire employees to work at events. She is an active volunteer and currently works with Too Much Talent, a St. Cloud nonprofit.

Maurice Burson: Maurice owns Barber Hussle, a St. Cloud-based barbershop, and also does government contracting. His goal is to start an accredited barber school and to help those who are "left behind." Maurice is studying for his master's degree in business administration at St. Cloud State University.

Farhiyo Idifle: Farhiyo recognizes the shortage of mental health professionals in Minnesota, specifically those who specialize in working with African immigrants. She is building her business, CAREMAX, to meet the need for these services. A licensed social worker, she dreams of giving back to the community and helping those with mental health challenges.

Sahal Mohamed: Sahal is a truck driver and would like to use his Enterprise Academy learnings to start his own trucking business, buy equipment and hire employees.

Otis Morris: Otis wants to go into real estate so he can develop affordable housing to help those who are facing housing challenges. He participated in Enterprise Academy to learn, develop and obtain entrepreneurship skills. Otis currently serves as the dean of students at North Junior High School.

Mark Ojulu: Mark is a truck driver and plans to take what he has learned through the Enterprise Academy to start a successful trucking business. Mark has worked as a machine operator and freight hauler.

Zacharia Omar: Zacharia works at a group home and would like to use what he has learned through the Enterprise Academy to start his own group home. His dream is to own multiple homes across Minnesota. Zacharia is currently pursuing a degree in accounting at St. Cloud Technical and Community College.

Toni Rakke: Toni started Every BODY Wellness to help people become physically, mentally and spiritually fit. She is a registered nurse and currently works at a dialysis clinic. Her dream is to open an accessible wellness center.

Darold Robinson: Darold recently started a lawn care and snow removal business, A.T.R. Lawn Services. Darold currently works as a lead grinder in a meat plant.

Fathia Said: Fathia plans to start Dajiya Home Care. Her goal is to have two home-care locations in operation by 2025. Fathia is excited to use the business skills she has learned through the Enterprise Academy to launch her business. She currently works for the St. Cloud School District.

Tombong Suware: Tombong would like to apply his Enterprise Academy learnings to open a grocery store. He currently serves as a production supervisor.

Morgan Tate: Morgan opened her business, Advancing Together, in April 2022. She provides home- and community-based services for people facing homelessness. Her work is covered by Medicaid and falls under the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Morgan also is a certified doula.

Nick Workman: Nick aspires to start a catering business and expand to grocery stores. In the meantime, he is looking for a commercial space.

Mustafa Yusuf: Mustafa works as a contracted driver. His aspiration is to start his own trucking company. Mustafa previously worked as a contracted interpreter.

The Enterprise Academy is supported by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development; the Neighborhood Development Center; U.S. Bank; the U.S. Small Business Administration; and the Wells Fargo Foundation. Additional support comes from a host of Central Minnesota partners, including businesses run by Enterprise Academy graduates, the Central Region Small Business Development Center and the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation. To learn more, visit ifound.org/economy/enterprise-academy.

High-resolution photo of Thursday graduating class
Web-ready photo of graduating class
Caption: Members of the fall 2022 cohort of the Enterprise Academy include (back row, left to right): TauNita Jones; Farhiyo Idifle; Abdi Daisane, trainer; Morgan Tate; and Leah Beack. Second row: Tombong Suware and Toni Rakke. Front row: Arnise Balle and Nick Workman.

High-resolution photo of Saturday graduating class
Web-ready photo of graduating class
Caption: Members of the fall 2022 cohort of the Enterprise Academy include (back row, left to right): Otis Morris; Omar Ali; Amran Yusuf, trainer; and Darold Robinson. Second row: Hassan Haji Ali; Sahal Mohamed; Fathia Said and Maurice Burson. Front row: Mustafa Yusuf and Mark Ojulu. Not pictured; Zacharia Omar.

About the Initiative Foundation
The Initiative Foundation serves the 14 counties and two sovereign tribal nations of Central Minnesota: Benton, Cass, Chisago, Crow Wing, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena and Wright counties and the nations of the Leech Lake and Mille Lacs Bands of Ojibwe. Based in Little Falls, the Foundation exists to improve the quality of life and to build stronger communities in Central Minnesota by offering business loans, nonprofit grants, leadership training and donor services through its Partner Funds programs. Since 1986, the Initiative Foundation and its Partner Funds have invested multiple millions in the region through targeted grants and business financing investments.

< Back to News and Events