Nakia Evans, 35
Mom of three, ages 18 and 16 (twins)
Lives in Baltimore, Maryland
Product: Soul Purpose body care (soulpurpose.com)
Started: April 2009
Works: Around 35 hours per week
Earns: Around $40,000 per year
All it took was a few minutes of soaking her feet at a cousin's spa party for Nakia to fall in love with Soul Purpose all-natural scrubs. She started selling on nights and weekends to supplement what she earned as a full-time commercial property manager and subsidize her children's school trips, extracurriculars and proms. As she grew her team (which includes her mom and husband Robert, 39), she realized this was a great opportunity for teens too. "They always need money but have limited time to work," she says. Her son, James, 18, had already made some sales to friends and teachers. But Nakia envisioned a formal entrepreneurship program, with training and mentoring from seasoned sellers, teaching teens how to grow businesses that fit around schoolwork and activities.
Backstory: Nakia drafted a proposal for her Essential Soul Purpose Youth (ESPY) mentoring program, for ages 14 to 17, and pitched it to company CEO Nadine Thompson, who loved the idea. Nakia found 15 interested teens through her kids and sales force. They kicked off with a fashion show fundraiser in February 2011, with aspiring entrepreneurs modeling Soul Purpose makeup and clothes from local boutiques, to build buzz and recruit community mentors.
Then what? After training, teens consult with their mentors for a year, corresponding twice a month. "It's not just about business," says Nakia. "They cultivate life skills like goalsetting, decision-making and money management." The objectives mesh perfectly with the company's mission to empower women of color, and Soul Purpose is rolling out the ESPY mentoring program nationwide. "This prepares teens for the future," Nakia says. "I was a teen mom who struggled at times to make ends meet. I believe in teaching kids how to become financially independent."