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Encouraging Entrepreneurship and Financial Literacy in Youth in West Charlotte

By Taylor Mabrey, Content Manager

By age eight, Alexandra Arrington knew she wanted to be a hairstylist and by age 14, she made that dream a reality and started her first business doing just that. 

Growing up, Arrington’s options to earn income were limited. 

“You could do something illegal, you could get a job – which would require transportation – or you could figure out how you can make your own money, with the skills and tools you have at your disposal,” said Arrington.

“That last option was the most appealing to me, and I had a beautiful community of supporters that made a huge difference in my life.”

Arrington had supportive librarians and guidance counselors in her life to help provide information and resources to her, but looking back, she would have loved to have access to small business education. 

After taking her daughters along to work meetings and bank visits where she taught them how to write out deposit slips, how to cash checks, what language and vocabulary to use, how to set budgets and more, Arrington realized she wanted to bring that information to kids in the West Boulevard community, where she works.

Arrington co-founded Money Magnets Club, which encourages entrepreneurship among elementary school kids and their guardians through education, exposure and resources, which could potentially help them defy the statistical odds of the zipcode they were born into.

Money Magnets Club consists of a six-program series, in conjunction with existing programs in schools, local libraries or other public institutions, that offers workshops where kids learn needed vocabulary, principles of business, principles of entrepreneurship and other important information. The kids are also given the opportunity to think through ideation, create a business plan and then come together to pitch their ideas.

A huge part of this program is that Arrington and the team at Money Magnets Club want to invest in the kids’ ideas. After the kids have set a budget, created a business plan and done their pitch, as long as they have completed three of the six program sessions, they can qualify to receive $25 to bring their business idea to life.

Money Magnets Club also engages the entrepreneurial ecosystem locally by inviting Black- or Latino-owned small businesses or LGBTQ small businesses to speak to kids in the program about their different endeavors and how they got to where they are now.

Money Magnets Club is a second-year grantee in the Unite Charlotte initiative, founded in 2016 to provide funding and capacity-building programs to local grassroots organizations advancing racial equity and addressing economic mobility.

“Having received other grants, and seeing how different it has been in this experience with United Way is really a breath of fresh air. I’ll also say that so much of the trust that has been levied from the organization to the grassroots founders is extremely empowering.”

Arrington and Money Magnets Club were invited to be a part of United Neighborhoods funding this past year as well, where they participate in United Way’s place-based work in the West Boulevard community.

“I am honored to be a recipient of this particular set of funds because the residents said, ‘Hey, Alexandra, we see what you’re doing. We appreciate what you’re doing, we want you here, we want you to be supported.’ And I don’t take that lightly,” said Arrington, “It really puts fuel in the jet engines to keep doing work in the way that we’re doing it.”

The future of Money Magnets Club is bright, with plans to improve data evaluation and expand programming. Arrington and her team developed a theory of change after completing the Duke Nonprofit Management program and working with their data evaluation specialists, in which they will be able to see changes in success and economic mobility. They will also be able to tie the work they are doing with how it might fit a person’s ability to do what they want to do without encountering barriers because of where they live. 

“It’s really our goal to lean into that and provide more data and research that’s attached to the work that we’re doing,” said Arrington.

Another goal is to launch a cohort-based program that works with kids and their families at the same time.  

Money Magnets Club provides useful information and tools in its programming, but the real impact comes from the genuine encouragement and support of all the “kidpreneurs-in-training” from Arrington and the rest of the staff.

“Kids are superior humans. So support kids, listen to kids and believe in kids. And I think the world will be better for it,” said Arrington.