South Bend Entrepreneurship and Adversity Program kicks off second year of helping local entrepreneurs 

On February 13, the South Bend Entrepreneurship and Adversity Program (SBEAP) welcomed a new cohort of 70 participants as it kicked off its second year supporting local entrepreneurs. Among these participants, 65 percent are women, 60 percent are currently in business, and 40 percent have a concept for a business. 

SBEAP is a 12-month course that leverages university and city resources to help participants establish sustainable ventures as a pathway out of poverty. During the 12 months, participants can advance through five stages: training, mentoring, consulting, community connect, and microcredit. The program begins with six Saturdays of training that present the steps of the entrepreneurial process and introduce fundamental tools and concepts that are critical for new venture success.

The founder of the program is Michael Morris, professor of the practice with the Keough School’s McKenna Center for Human Development and Global Business at the University of Notre Dame. Morris brings more than 35 years of entrepreneurship experience to South Bend and has replicated the success of SBEAP by launching similar programs in Milwaukee, San Diego, Baton Rouge, Gainesville and, most recently, Lafayette, Louisiana—all within the last year. As this list of partner cities continues to grow, the McKenna Center has also formed the Urban Poverty and Business Initiative, which seeks to build a community of universities and nonprofit organizations committed to poverty alleviation and the empowering potential of entrepreneurship.

In 2020, SBEAP worked with 60 members of the local community to start and grow businesses of their own. Even amid a global pandemic, 51 participants completed the 12-month program. Currently, 35 of these participants have successfully launched their businesses and are selling products and services. Morris and his team continue to communicate with these entrepreneurs and track their performance using an activity-based tracking approach that considers 80 action steps. 

Tonya Hopkins, a 2020 SBEAP participant, is now running her own microblading and cosmetics studio called Virtuous Brows and Beauty.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better program,” Hopkins said. “If there is anyone in the area who is starting out or having struggles in some way, I would definitely encourage them and point them in the direction of the program because it’s been excellent,.” 

Cory Pringle, who owns Faith Hustle Media, a multimedia production company, recalled his own experience as an SBEAP participant over the past year. 

I had been doing business on my own for a while before I joined SBEAP, but didn’t have any formal training or mentors,” Pringle said. “Since joining the program last year, I’ve gained a new perspective, which has really changed my approach to building my business. The entire process has challenged me to grow, both personally and professionally, and given me the ability to network and be around like-minded individuals who are chasing their dreams.” 

SBEAP participants from 2020 will also have the option to participate in a special program this spring to assist them in their marketing efforts and will be invited to all SBEAP specialty training sessions offered in 2021. 

“The program will increase the number of specialty training sessions offered to participants where more specialized topics are discussed in greater depth,” Morris said. “We plan to offer a training session in the fall that focuses on helping program participants register their businesses as woman- or minority-owned entities, for instance.” 

In addition to accepting a larger pool of delegates this year and expanding efforts to co-market participants’ businesses, SBEAP will launch several networking events and aim to increase the number of participants served by student consultants from 24 to 35. Currently, Notre Dame students are filling the majority of these consultant roles, as well as one student from Saint Mary’s College and two other recent college graduates.

The initial six-week training bootcamp portion of SBEAP will be moving to the Charles Martin Youth Center and includes rigorous adherence to CDC guidelines surrounding the pandemic, including mandatory mask wearing, temperature checks, and social distancing. 

“Our biggest needs include additional mentors from the community, and financial support for this important program,” Morris said. “I think we are making a real difference, and can elevate our efforts even more with additional support from the community.”

To learn more about the South Bend Entrepreneurship and Adversity Program, visit the McKenna Center website

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,

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