A group of University of Minnesota students plan to open a business in Brooklyn Park, Minn., that will benefit local teens.
The students are working to open The A-List, a snack and apparel shop that will employ underprivileged youth and provide positive after-school programs.
On Thursday, the group was notified that they are finalists in the Pepsi Refresh Project. During the month of April, people can go online and vote for the group to win $25,000 to put toward opening the store.
The store is planned to open this fall and employ about 20 local teens.
“We want it to be the cool hangout place for teens in the community so that they have a safe place to go,” said Matt Norris, a sophomore at the Carlson School of Management.
Norris, who is from Brooklyn Park, said the number of teens who don’t participate in after-school activities and a rise in juvenile crime motivated him to open the store.
“Seeing the change in my community really encouraged me to take this action,” Norris said.
Along with several other University students, Norris began generating a business plan for The A-List in 2008 and formed a nonprofit organization, also called The A-List, last May.
Asha Sharma, a sophomore at the Carlson School of Management and co-founder of The A-List, said she was excited to start a business that was also a nonprofit, especially one that would benefit local teens.
“It’s a great morale boost that you can be 21 and not only make a difference, but make a change,” Sharma said.
The group worked with Brooklyn Park teens to develop the concept for the store.
Awale Osman, a 17-year-old junior at Park Center Senior High School, has been involved with The A-List since December.
Osman, who recently moved to Brooklyn Park from Rochester, Minn., said he had trouble getting involved in after-school programs in Brooklyn Park because many are not well known to teens in the community.
Osman said he is helping spread the word about The A-List to his friends and peers mainly by word of mouth.
Osman added that he feels the University students’ willingness to accept input from local teens will help make the store successful.
“We, actually the youth, are coming up with ideas,” Osman said.
The group also worked with the city of Brooklyn Park, including Mayor Steve Lampi, who serves on the advisory board for The A-List.
Lampi said he thinks the store will have a positive impact on local teens, who otherwise may engage in crime or other unsupervised activities.
Lampi also said he appreciates the group’s efforts to make their business model sustainable.
“There’s nothing worse than expending a lot of effort and money into something and then having it crumble and die in a year or two,” Lampi said.
Norris said the group has raised roughly $200,000 through various fundraising efforts but needs a total of about $300,000 to pay the store’s startup costs.
UMN students have traveled to Florida colleges to collaborate with students on various projects.
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