Welcome back! Spiffy here, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs working to make this world more equitable. Today I’m super excited to be in Phoenix, Arizona, to speak with Carmen Attikossie, Senior Small Business Development Manager of Local First Arizona. She’s working hard to create a supportive ecosystem and launchpad for black-owned businesses. Let’s see how she’s doing it!
Spiffy: Welcome, Carmen! I’m excited to meet you and learn about your work! Can you start by talking about the challenges you’re addressing?
Carmen: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! The We Rise program is a business accelerator program for Black-owned businesses in Arizona with the goal of addressing challenges that Black American business owners encounter. Some of these challenges include lack of access to capital or strong financial literacy skills.
Spiffy: Tell me more! What motivated you to do it?
Carmen: What motivated me to do this is my love for my community and my passion for grooming entrepreneurs to be their best. I believe entrepreneurship is one of the ways we can close the wealth disparity gaps amongst Black Americans in this country.
Spiffy: Wow, Carmen, I had never realized entrepreneurship could have that kind of impact! How would you say you’re working to make the world a more equitable place?
Carmen: Local First Arizona is working towards a more equitable work by creating programs like We Rise dedicated to solving challenges Black-owned businesses face. We provide business education training to the community while connecting them to resources and individuals that can assist in their growth as business owners.
Spiffy: What milestone have you hit that you’re particularly excited about? What kind of impact do you anticipate it will have?
Carmen: Local First Arizona had its first We Rise graduation in July and it was a beautiful ceremony that brought the community together. This was a huge milestone as the planning and the execution of the We Rise program took three months. To finally witness participants undergo the program and graduate better equipped with business acumen, access to capital, and confidence in their abilities to succeed as business owners was a powerful moment.
Spiffy: That does sound powerful! Can you tell me about a project you have worked with that exemplifies the impact you’re striving to make?
Carmen: Building the We Rise program from scratch, exemplifies the impact I am striving to make because when I joined the Local First Arizona community, We Rise was an idea and I was tasked to bring it to life within a short period of time. Executing the program and seeing participants walk away better equipped to be entrepreneurs that contribute to the local economy exemplifies the power of community and Black excellence.
Spiffy: I believe this power and excellence will continue to shine through, Carmen. Thanks for sitting down to talk to me about your work, it’s been an honor.
Carmen Attikossie is the Senior Small Business Development Manager at Local First Arizona where she manages the We Rise program, a business accelerator program designed to support Black-owned businesses. (Nominated by Conscious Gear. First published on the Ladderworks website on September 14, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.