“When we walk into business meetings, people think we are the interns, but no, we are the founders,” says Princess Carter, founder of Living Angels, a student-run company that is being developed under the new Maricopa Community College student incubator, Fahrenheit Labs. The incubator is housed at GateWay Community College and is jointly operated by the Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation (CEI) and the Maricopa Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
Arizmendi and Carter at Fahrenheit Labs
Living Angels is a nonprofit organization that aims to provide transitional housing and basic career training to homeless people. The organization won’t turn away people based on drug use or past. This will help provide the assistance that is needed in order to help homeless people, create a better life for themselves.
While they are both young, Princess and teammate Maria Arizmendi have experienced homelessness first hand.
“In seventh grade my mom lost her house during the housing crisis,” recalls Carter. “We stayed with family members and then eventually lived in a shelter. I didn’t quite understand what was going on in my life as a child. Now I understand that maybe others went through the same things and they couldn’t make it on their own. That’s why I want to do this to help them.”
For Maria, she experienced homelessness more recently and it too had a profound impact on her as well.
“I moved out a few months ago and was homeless for a few days and that kind of captured me,” Arizmendi says. “It is pretty sad to be out there with no food and being cold in the winter. You value the things you have in life.”
The two met last year at GateWay through a youth entrepreneurship program run in conjunction with Arizona Call-A-Teen Youth Resources, Inc (ACYR). Shortly after joining the program, they learned of the resources GateWay has on campus for students looking at starting their own businesses and contacted Fahrenheit Labs.
“The whole mission of our student program is to provide the right tools that will help emerging entrepreneurs like Princess and Maria,” said CEI’s marketing specialist Greg Bullock. “Here we have young women who are not just passionate about making a difference in the lives of others but who are truly motivated to translate their passion into a meaningful business opportunity.”
“It is a great experience,” they both say in unison. “The guidance has been really hands-on. It is so amazing that we have this opportunity to actually be on campus and develop our business plan in a student incubator,” adds Carter.
Thanks to the support they received at GateWay, they were able to begin the creation of a business plan and move toward formally launching Living Angels.
“I just received our articles of incorporation, and now I have to file with the IRS to get our 501C3 status,” says Carter.
Launching the organization has required their hard work but they have received guidance and mentoring from GateWay business faculty, the Maricopa Small Business Development Center, and Fahrenheit Labs -- all located on GateWay’s campus. They have also worked with Seed Spot, a social entrepreneurship venture in downtown Phoenix.
“At first it was extremely overwhelming until we’ve had the chance to sit down with them. Now it is more like a business meeting,” says Carter. “They are giving us feedback off of our business plan and from what we present to them. It is a lot easier than just doing it all by ourselves.”
Both of them feel that the resources are helping them create change in the community.
“We probably would not be as far as we are if it weren’t for GateWay and Fahrenheit Labs,” says Arizmendi. “I feel like this opportunity will take us far. And hopefully we will make GateWay and Fahrenheit proud.”
The outcomes by which they will measure their success depend on the lives they touch and not just the financial aspect.
“For us the reward is not money, it is seeing smiles in homelessness and knowing that we are causing change,” says Arizmendi. “We want to help them pick up their self-esteem; realize that they can do it.”