Juliana Cardona Mejia ’13 is the founder and CEO of Street Entrepreneurs, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C. that ignites the grit and power of low-income communities by enabling the creation of small businesses.
“We serve homeless, chronically unemployed, veterans, refugees, previously incarcerated, and low-income individuals, who, even in the absence of opp
ortunity, will create one for themselves,” Juliana shares. “Each participant has a unique story of resilience to share. Despite the many challenges they have faced, they never gave up, which makes them the perfect entrepreneurs. They are hungry for an opportunity to rise out of poverty.”
To get started, Juliana connected with countless professionals to help develop the program, construct a website, incorporate into a 501(c)3, and much more. She then found shelters to provide space and has held entrepreneurship workshops for nearly 50 participants.
“We build skills through a customized approach to business education, connection to mentors, networks, and fast-paced immersion apprenticeships,” Juliana explains. “We invest directly in our entrepreneurs’ micro-businesses through micro-grants matched to milestones. Our Street Entrepreneurs go from idea to income, then turn around and help others, creating a ripple effect that promises to outlive us all.”