Young entrepreneurs are honored

Initiative: Two young area women receive national awards for showing "outstanding business diligence, creativity and achievement."

April 12, 2000|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

Woodlawn native Tamara Hunter is the one-woman force behind the family-oriented African-American magazine KuMi.

Takirra Amber Winfield of Belvedere is launching a business to benefit the most-needy residents of Collington Square: the children.

But these women share more than a community-focused business plan. Both of these savvy entrepreneurs are still in their teens.

Hunter, who is 18, Winfield, 16, and 13 other young business people from across the nation last month received the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).

The award, given to exceptional graduates of a NFTE program, recognizes "outstanding business diligence, creativity and achievement" and includes a $1,000 cash prize.

Winfield, a sophomore honors student at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, attended the NAACP Reginald F. Lewis Youth Entrepreneurial Institute last summer. She said she came up with the idea for her business, Clairvoyant Tutoring, while planting trees and flowers in the neighborhood surrounding her church.

"I started thinking of an analogy between the flowers and the children of the community," she said. "If the flowers aren't tended to or if they don't get enough sunshine, they'll die. And, if the children don't get some guidance along the way, their dreams will die. I decided I'd try to be their sunshine and give them some light."

She will begin tutoring children in kindergarten through 10th grade in a small, one-story rowhouse she will share with other Collington Square community organizations this summer. Her services will be free to the most-needy children; others will be charged on a sliding scale. Winfield found the name for her business by flipping through a dictionary, but now she said "clairvoyant" reflects her tutoring philosophy.

"We don't just give the answer to problems, we give the reasons behind it," she said.

Hunter, a 1998 graduate of Woodlawn High School, is a freshman business major at Howard University in Washington. She started publishing KuMi on the Internet in 1997 after completing a summer NFTE program at Dunbar High School. After gaining interest and advertisers, Hunter transitioned KuMi into a quarterly print magazine. She said she financed the $157 printing cost of the first edition with $100 in grant money from NFTE and her own savings. With an annual cost of $12, it had about 50 subscribers last year. The magazine features poetry and fiction as well as national and international news. Each addition also includes the creative work of elementary and middle school students.

Through KuMi, which she said means "God's gift" in a West African dialect, Hunter wants "to get people to focus on the family unit."

In recent editions, the magazine has told the story of French prisoner Barry Braimah and examined the controversy surrounding the 1996 plane crash death of Ron Brown, the first black secretary of commerce.

Hunter, who taught herself the Internet programming language HTML, designs KuMi's Web site as well as the magazine's graphics herself.

She said publishing her a magazine while a student has not been easy.

"It's hard work," she said. "A lot of people tell me `you're too young.'" But the experience has put her a step ahead in her business classes, where she said a lot of information "is review of things I've already learned."

NFTE, a nonprofit based in New York, was founded in 1987 by Steve Mariotti, a teacher in the South Bronx who came up with the idea to teach basic business principles to young people after being mugged by some teens.

"We provide a curriculum for lighting a fire for kids and helping them turn their ideas and interests into a viable business," said Frazier O'Leary, the program director and alumni services coordinator for NFTE's Greater Washington division.

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