Ihkeem Ma’at, executive director of Brave Heart Entrepreneurial Youth Camp (Courtesy Photo)
In 2010, Ihkeem Ma’at established the Brave Heart Entrepreneurial Youth Camp. The organization provides year-round entrepreneurship and financial literacy education to minority children aged 8 to 12 years old in Washington, D.C. Under the organization’s umbrella, the Brave Heart Entrepreneurship Academy was established shortly thereafter to provide advanced learning opportunities to teenagers transitioning into adulthood.
“It wasn’t until college that I got more of an understanding of business basics, customer service, marketing plans, and mission statements,” Ma’at told the AFRO on Aug. 17. “I’m teaching third and fourth graders this and they take to it, so there needs to be more. What I’m seeking to do is continue to build in such a way that entrepreneurship education is readily available to folks like going to the library and getting a book.”
Since its conception, the organization has served approximately 300 youth through partnerships with the D.C. Public School System, Community Preservation Development Corporation, U.S. Dream Academy, The Fishing School, Beacon House, Wheeler Creek Community Development Corporation, Joy of Motion Dance Center, the Dance Institute of Washington, and the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services amongst others.
Serving a predominately Black population, Ma’at provides historical perspectives in his curriculum. “I take them back as far as the 1700s when Blacks were in business,” he said. “We were in business during the most hostile times in this country. Being able to function relied on the skilled labor, talent, inventiveness, and creativity of Black folk. It’s very critical that we ensure our young Black children have access to this information.”
Participants also learn that entrepreneurs engage in business on multiple levels, Ma’at said. “There’s not just one who might have a $ 5 million revenue profit, but one on the corner who sells oils – they need to see that and they need to be exposed to that, too.”
During a camp in Columbia Heights, participants built a business themselves. “We had our tent and we were out there selling lemonade and cookies, but they raised $500 in two days,” Ma’at said.
As the organization grows, Ma’at hopes that by raising the awareness of how to be an entrepreneur, youth in the District won’t have to wait until adulthood to realize they can start their own businesses.
“The goal is to raise the bar a little higher and really produce young folks who are entrepreneurs and begin to be examples to other young folks,” he says.
To learn more about The Brave Heart Entrepreneurial Youth Camp, visit: braveheartyouthcamp.org