United Way Empowers Entrepreneurship

Andrew BarnesJP In The News, News

United Way of Greater St. Louis Blog

By: Rodney Humphries

Communications Specialist

United Way prioritizes providing funding and support to organizations that give people the tools to be financially stable through strategic planning and creativity. One of the best ways to achieve financial independence is through entrepreneurship, and thanks to a United Way partner agency, David Williams was able to make his dream of starting his own small business to help local youth come true.

Since his childhood, David had a passion for computer science. After completing his master’s degree, David went on to work in software engineering for five years at Boeing. But along the way, he realized he may be meant for something more.

“I used to teach my aunt’s kids computers skills and when I got to college, I was a computer science tutor,” said David. “What turned me around was when I was at Boeing, I was at this meeting a few minutes early, and this guy saw me and said, ‘David Williams? You were the computer science tutor! If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have gotten out of Dr. Chin’s class and graduated.’ So, it hit me, if I could have that impact on somebody like that in college that’s basically an adult, imagine what could happen when you reach these kids early.”

That’s when he began to realize his true calling – mentoring youth and molding young minds. He made up his mind that it was his destiny to start his own childcare center. He knew that with small financial assistance, he could begin changing lives.

Given a chance to change lives

When David began the process of searching for a building for his childcare center, he knew he wanted to buy one in north city.

In need of someone to finance him a loan, he was referred to United Way partner agency, Justine PETERSEN Housing and Reinvestment Corporation.

Justine PETERSEN helps low-to-moderate income individuals and families build assets and create enduring change. Their services include credit building and financial education, homeownership preparation and retention, and micro-enterprise lending and training.

David presented them with a detailed business plan of how he would finance his childcare center over the course of the next several years, and once their staff saw that and his work ethic, they were eager to help him.

“A lot of the people that come to us have been working on a business on the side or in their spare time while they’re still working for someone else and one of the core things that we do is help them formalize their informal business activities,” said Sheri Flanagan, Chief Operating Officer for Justine PETERSEN. “Providing access to capital is one of the main solutions that we offer, most of the people that come to us are not able to access to affordable capital any place else, so we provide the pathway for starting a strong foundation for starting a business.”

With a loan from Justine PETERSEN, David was equipped with the resources he needed to start his own childcare center, Williams Academy STL. David said he is proud to be able to give back to the community by giving young people the opportunity to pursue a brighter future.

“I understand how important education is, it’s the great equalizer,” said David. “It doesn’t matter where you start off in life in the United States, if you get an education, it puts you on an even playing field to get a better job which creates more income and these people can raise their own families, pay taxes, and not be a burden on the system.”

David is grateful that he was able find someone that was willing to take a chance on him and his dream. A small loan given to him two years ago has allowed countless children and families to reap the benefits of his good deeds. He credits United Way’s funding to organizations like Justine PETERSEN that give passionate, creative people like him the opportunity to do special things.

“Organizations like United Way that support Justine PETERSEN help people like me which, in turn, supports the community,” said David. “I’m providing jobs, I’m helping hundreds of people. So, for every dollar that United Way gave to Justine PETERSEN, I made it into 100 dollars.”

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