New Partnership Helps Business Dreams Become Reality for Immigrant Entrepreneurs
University College and the World Trade Center Denver teamed up to offer classes for building a business
by Nicole Militello, Senior Media Relations Specialist, University of Denver
First published by the University of Denver Newsroom
Teguo Daniel Djoyum’s passion to spread awareness about neurodiagnostics sparked when he was young.
“At a young age, my brother had epilepsy,” Djoyum says. “In the village where I grew up, [in Cameroon], epilepsy was a taboo to make fun of, and I was very hurt to see that. People I knew and loved were stigmatized and kicked out of society because they thought it was a curse.”
That experience started his educational journey to make neurodiagnostic awareness his life’s work, leading him to launch a non-profit to spread awareness and to return to school to work on his doctorate in public health at Harvard University. But after traveling the world with his nonprofit, teaching others to do neurodiagnostic testing, he noticed a gap.
“We realized there was actually a need for an organized location where people can have testing,” Djoyum says. “After training people how to do it, they’re like, ‘OK, now what?’ Sometimes we will donate equipment to hospitals, but that’s not sustainable. So, we were like, why not create a company?”
Beginning in the fall of 2020, WTC Denver and DU teamed to offer a Business Development Certificate to help migrants and refugees build their business ideas thanks to DU Grand Challenges, a university-wide initiative to support community-engaged work that helps our communities thrive. Many members of the DU community were involved in getting the program off the ground as part of that effort. As entrepreneurs at various stages of businesses reached out to WTC Denver for help, the center would recommend them for the new learning opportunity through DU to help get their enterprises running on all cylinders. DU Grand Challenges enabled all students in the program to receive significant scholarships to help pay for their learning.
“DU is a private institution dedicated to the public good,” says Arianna Nowakowski , director of the Global Community Engagement program. “This was really important for us to walk the walk and work directly with valued partners such as the World Trade Center toward the betterment of the community we share.”
The four-course program focuses on business planning fundamentals, financial planning for business, legal pathways for business development, and developing your brand and marketing plan.
“The program basically was to guide us on how to start a business and how to run a business,” Djoyum says. “The classes we took were really on point, like studying how to have a business plan, which we didn’t have at that time. It guided us on putting those together, writing our financial documents, how to show profit and losses and how to calculate it and how to set up an Excel sheet to actually track our income to see if you are making a profit or not.”
He says the class helped make Purple Point Neurodiagnostics, PPN, a reality. The company was founded with Kaye Nashe, another participant in the program, along with Lucien Kilonda and Tchendje. His company is working to have clinics in developing nations provide neurological testing. It trains clinics’ staffs to test for neurological diseases or conditions such as epilepsy and other neurological pathologies, including carpal tunnel. His company provides the equipment and follows up to carry out the tests.
“If you are passionate about what you’re doing, [DU’s] program is going to piece it all together,” Djoyum says. “It’s a great start for people who want to start businesses or even those who have a business and want to run it better.”
Djoyum’s success story is just one of many. Ahmad Nazari launched Natural Gems, which imports jewels from his home in Afghanistan. Fatou Doumbia’s AGILE International sells jewelry and purses made by women in her home in Mali, aiming to empower rural women and return Mali and West Africa to food security.
The president and CEO of WTC Denver, Karen Gerwitz, says this partnership is instrumental in helping new business leaders reach their goals.
“It is important to provide a well-rounded education for immigrants looking to break the mold to create their own wealth through entrepreneurship vs. working yet another low-wage service job,” says Gerwitz. “DU wanted to find ways to support immigrants in building wealth and prosperity for their families and gain access to the knowledge to do so, and the WTC Denver program helps to facilitate that.”
So far, 25 entrepreneurs completed all of the classes, and the results of the program are already visible. Megan Peiffer, director of the Global Trade Activator Immigrant Program with WTC Denver, has watched many participants go through the courses and attain their business dreams.
“I was able to join the classes along with our entrepreneurs, and not only were the instructors inspirational and educational, but to watch our entrepreneurs grow with each class every single week in their confidence and inspired drive still brings a light to my eyes,” Peiffer says. “It is exactly what our program is about and why our partnership with DU is so important – because of the direct impact on our immigrant community, business community and Colorado as a whole.”