South Bend Entrepreneurship and Adversity Program helps local entrepreneurs move forward

Earlier this year, 60 local entrepreneurs began the first-ever South Bend Entrepreneurship and Adversity Program (SBEAP), an integrated training program introduced by the University of Notre Dame’s McKenna Center for Human Development and Global Business, part of the Keough School of Global Affairs. Designed to support members of the community in starting and growing businesses of their own, the 12-month program unites university and city resources to help create sustainable ventures and provide a pathway out of poverty. 

The program consists of five stages: training, mentoring, consulting, community connect, and research and tracking. Participants begin with six Saturdays of training that addresses the nature of the entrepreneurial journey and introduces basic tools and concepts that are critical for new venture success. Even with the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, fifty-one people completed the first stage of the program.   

The founder of the program is Michael Morris, a Keough School faculty member. Morris brings more than 35 years of entrepreneurship experience to South Bend and has previously launched major poverty initiatives in Syracuse, New York and Gainesville, Florida.  

“What inspires me is that these ventures are progressing—moving forward even in this most difficult of time periods,” Morris said. “The participants deal with a lot but they remain positive, taking one step at a time to move forward with their entrepreneurial dreams. It is such a privilege to be a part of their journeys.”    

As stage two began, each of the continuing forty-five participants took part in comprehensive interviews with the SBEAP team. Participants were then paired with mentors based on these interviews and have received mentoring—via phone, Skype, or Zoom—from a pool of thirty-seven successful entrepreneurs from the community, as well as the McKenna Center staff itself. 

Tonya Hopkins, one of the stage two participants, is establishing her own microblading and cosmetics studio

“I have already learned a great deal from this program to help me become a smarter entrepreneur,” Hopkins said. “I love the passion and creativity of those involved, and it has motivated me to strive for success.”   

The community connect phase recently began, which includes marketing participants’ businesses to local customers, starting with the launch of The remainder of this phase is set to launch in the fall and will provide social networking opportunities among low-income entrepreneurs and the larger South Bend business community. Additionally, a number of consulting teams will work on in-depth problem-solving with about twenty-five of these entrepreneurs.

Student consulting teams will be assigned to each of the entrepreneurs and coached during the fall semester by Morris.

“We hope to include students from Notre Dame, St. Mary’s, and Ivy Tech who will focus on establishing bookkeeping systems, creating a social media presence, setting up websites, and addressing a range of other on-the-ground tasks with these entrepreneurs,” Morris said.

Morris is “especially excited” about the final stage of the program.

“We have instituted an activity-based tracking approach that considers 80 action steps in moving from pre-launch to launch to stabilization of the business,” he said. “We have implemented the database tracking system, and will be following these entrepreneurs for three years.”  

Taking into account an enthusiastic response to the program thus far, the McKenna Center will also be applying for several grants to help ensure the program continues to grow and support low-income entrepreneurs in the community. Efforts are also underway to replicate the program this fall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 

The McKenna Center for Human Development and Global Business—an integral part of the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame—seeks to better understand the critical role of global business in reducing poverty and inequality.

Contact: Cory Hankins, Communications Specialist, McKenna Center for Human Development and Global Business, 574-631-1388,

Top photo, clockwise from left: Keough School professor Michael Morris, intern and master of global affairs student Asinamai Ndai, Tonya Hopkins, participant in the South Bend Entrepreneurship and Adversity Program, and interns Maria Teel.


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