Owatonna, Minn – June 24, 2018 Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) celebrated graduates of the Prosperity Initiative Program and welcomed new business owners to the program at an event held at Profinium in Mankato on Saturday, June 23.

The Prosperity Initiative is a program that promotes inclusive entrepreneurship and minority-owned business growth in southern Minnesota. The program provides regular education, coaching, and business resources to minority and new immigrant business owners in SMIF’s 20-county region. According to the US Census Bureau, 29% of Minnesota’s population will be people of color by 2040, an increase from only 4% in 1980. The Prosperity Initiative was designed to respond to this rapid growth and help remove barriers to success for entrepreneurs.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) initially funded SMIF’s two-year pilot program in 2016-2017. Twenty-eight business owners have completed the program. Farhiyo Halane says she has a better financial outlook for the future of her store, International Grocery and Halal Inc in Mankato, after going through the Prosperity Initiative. In addition to developing a business plan and marketing plan, Halane went through the process to be able to custom cut Halal meats and sell it bulk from her store. Deisy De Leon Esqueda, owner of On Every Corner food truck in Mankato, is also a Prosperity Initiative graduate. “Our coach, Wes Otto, was instrumental in the setup of our business,” she said. “He worked closely with us and was genuinely interested in our business’s success. We have accomplished a lot as a result of the support and guidance we were offered from the Prosperity Initiative.”

Due to the success of the pilot program, funding from DEED was recently renewed for another two years (2018-2019) for $160,000. Additional funding includes a $25,000 contribution from CliftonLarsonAllen Foundation, $25,000 from McKnight Foundation and a $5,000 contribution from Krahmer Law Firm, PLC (Fred W. Krahmer and Michelle Krahmer).

After going through a competitive application process, eight businesses were selected to join the 2018 Mankato area cohort. The entrepreneurs include: Allegra Henderson, Akin; Ahmad Kiblawi, Stadium Mart; Nhi (Bella) Lam, Coconut Whisk Baking Co.; Gordon Liu, Hourglass Consulting Co.; Jeffery E. Mackie, Airbrush Madness Graphics Inc.; Pamela Riquelme Paredes, Pamela’s Spanish Immersion Daycare; Maria Vargas, Genesis Outdoor Services; Yusuf Yusuf, GOT IT!.

“These business owners will build off the success of their peers who recently graduated from the Prosperity Initiative,” said Chad Poitra, Community and Business Diversity Specialist at SMIF. “This program provides culturally appropriate environments to support minority entrepreneurs and their communities.”

Additional cohorts will be formed in the Rochester and Austin areas this year, and more will be added to the program in 2019. Entrepreneurs in SMIF’s 20-county region who are interested in learning more about the Prosperity Initiative are encouraged to attend a July 11 Minority Business Development Conference at the Rochester Community and Technical College.

For questions about the Prosperity Initiative or the upcoming conference, please contact Chad at or 507.214.7011.

About Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation

Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), a donor-supported foundation, invests for economic growth in the 20 counties of south central and southeastern Minnesota. The Foundation has provided more than $106 million in grants, loans and programming within the region during the past 31 years. SMIF’s key interests include early childhood, community and economic development. To learn more about our work and mission, visit