San Diego, California - Six people sit in a small room on the second floor of the Jacobs Center in San Diego’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

During the day, they own or run small businesses or nonprofit organizations. But on this evening, they’re students. They’re here for a lab on how to pitch their business to potential investors, and how to develop strategic goals and a successful business plan. The goal is to manage and grow their businesses so they can be more successful and have a greater impact in their communities.

The lessons of the night are part of Project MOST:  the Minority-Owned Support and Technical Assistance Project. The County established the program in partnership with RISE San Diego to provide training and other help to minority-owned businesses and nonprofit organizations in low-income communities. The County Health and Human Service Agency’s Community Action Partnership administers the program and RISE San Diego gives the trainings.

Project MOST began as a pilot project in the Mid-City and southeastern regions of the City of San Diego in 2015 and was expanded countywide at the beginning of this year. The new funds will allow the trainings and technical assistance to continue through June 2022.

Dwayne Crenshaw is chief executive officer and co-founder of RISE San Diego, a nonprofit that works with community organizations to improve and develop urban neighborhoods. He said the classes—with topics such as business planning, fundraising, grant writing, and marketing and media relations, among others—have been well received.

“We’ve gotten a very good response from the community,” Crenshaw said. “The key for folks is that they are very accessible and inclusive.”

The goals of Project MOST are to:

  • Attain sustainability through the application of proper management skills, financial controls and strategic partnerships.
  • Achieve business growth by developing a strategic plan and/or a business development plan.
  • Offer community service, student internship and living wage employment opportunities to area residents.
  • Serve as a pipeline for employment, economic development and resident leadership in the communities served.

“These organizations need support to sustain and grow their businesses so that they can employ and help more residents in the neighborhoods where they operate,” said HHSA Director Nick Macchione, adding that Project MOST aligns with the County’s Live Well San Diego vision of healthy, safe and thriving residents and communities. “We’re excited to build on the success we had with the pilot program and bring these services to more neighborhoods that need them.”

Since the project began, more than 370 people from over 100 organizations and businesses have taken advantage of the training, typically taught by nonprofit leaders and instructors from local colleges and universities.

Ebony Wright and Patricia Mims are two of the hundreds of people who have benefitted from Project MOST.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Wright, owner and head coach of Ebony Nicole Fit, a health and wellness company that opened in Pacific Beach in 2015. “They taught me to branch out and grow and be highly effective in my work.”

Mims is in the process of starting Dorcas Reconciliation Center, a nonprofit that will provide mental health services to ex-offenders.

“(Project MOST) is a wonderful opportunity,” said Mims, who’s working on becoming a licensed marriage and family counselor.

“The experts guide you and make you think critically,” added Mims, who plans to open her center in Lemon Grove in October.

The trainings have a capacity for 20 people, who are chosen on a first-come, first-served basis. To learn more or participate in one of the trainings, join RISE San Diego’s mailing list by visiting its website.