Photo features a group of about 25 young entrepreneurs, some seated, others standing.

Never Too Early: N2N 2023 Winter Spotlight

Grantmaking program Neighbor to Neighbor spotlights Olu Productions and announces our 2023 Winter Grantees

Since 2017, Olu Productions has organized an annual summer marketplace event, hosting over 31 businesses owned by Black youth aged 4-24 throughout South and Central Seattle. Photo courtesy of Olu Productions

By Aileen Balahadia, N2N Program Consultant

This quarter Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N) is spotlighting an organization led by youth and young adults who believe it’s never too early to follow their dreams. Olu Productions’ “Never 2 Early 2 Create & Innovate” project aims to support young Black entrepreneurship and community building. The 18-year-old Founder and CEO Olu Dixon envisions a place where “Every Black youth will have their own business by the age of 18.” He is a prime example. At age 11, Olu started a clothing business to raise enough money to travel to Kenya.

Olu understands the importance of collective marketing and found other Black youth entrepreneurs to come together. Since 2017, Olu Productions has organized an annual summer marketplace event, hosting over 31 businesses owned by Black youth aged 4-24 throughout South and Central Seattle, as well as virtual marketplaces and holiday catalogs. While speaking to Olu, N2N committee members also learned of a 4-year-old boy who started Brothers Snack Shop, our newest favorite small business!

N2N committee members often ask, where did this project idea generate from? It’s our way of understanding who is truly leading the effort. Olu and his team are behind every aspect of the work, and it’s impressive to see what happens when adults step aside and let youth take over. Young entrepreneurs make and execute decisions with the support of their family, friends, and community.

A study published in the Urban Affairs Review reported that the growth of Black-owned businesses strongly links to a reduction in Black youth violence / Photo courtesy of Olu Productions

“This is an economic development project for Black youth. It promotes self-determination and helps people follow and reach their dreams,” says Sabrionna Barquet, one of the young entrepreneurs who runs a fashion and jewelry business called Kid Who Dreamed, LLC.

N2N funds will help Olu Productions formalize their Black Youth Business Association and associated business workshops. With support from the City of Seattle, Olu Productions will host the workshops in their first cooperative pop-up retail space.

A study published in the Urban Affairs Review reported that the growth of Black-owned businesses strongly links to a reduction in Black youth violence. This is because Black-owned businesses act as “social buffers;” in other words, their owners serve as role models to young people and create social networks that shield and divert youth people from a life of crime. Black businesses also mitigate some economic factors contributing to youth violence in these communities. They add jobs, provide employment opportunities, and generally improve the neighborhood. Starting a business is not easy, but Olu Productions is building an onramp so young Black entrepreneurs can realize their dreams.

The complete list of N2N Winter 2023 grantees is as follows:  

  1. Africa Now Association**: Support to host a pan-African Black Dialogue Series focused on engaging young adult Black American and African immigrants from South Seattle and beyond to learn from our differences, celebrate our commonalities, and share resources around issues such as mental health, Afrofuturism, and Black-led movements for change.
  2. Cultures United: Support to empower BIPOC youth and their families at White Center Heights Elementary through free physical activity/soccer, socio-emotional support, and mental health resources.
  3. Elmi Foundation**: Support the Somali community in South King County to preserve their home language and raise children with healthy self-identity and culture by organizing regular Somali children’s book fairs and resources at the Tukwila library and nearby.
  4. Iraqi/Arab Health Board*: Support Arab and Iraqi youth and young adults in South King County with wellness, mental well-being, resources and social support.
  5. Kent Black Action Commission: Support the leadership and development of “The More You Know Matters” a new civic engagement project focused on the Black community in Kent, as well as to support upcoming candidates’ forums and voter registration efforts.
  6. Mothers Impacting Lives Everyday (MILE)**: Support to facilitate an intensive cohort for Black and brown girls ages 14-22 in Kent focused on developing leadership and advocacy through intergenerational support and healing-centered practices.
  7. Olu Productions*: Support the “Never 2 Early 2 Create & Innovate” project — a community led by and for young Black business/community builders in South Seattle and South King County focused on learning and sharing business skills, piloting a collective pop-up shop and building a supportive community.
  8. Still Waters*: Support to engage Tukwila BIPOC students and families in engagement efforts aimed at overcoming food insecurity and housing instability through co-designed listening sessions, educational opportunities, creation of a community wellness hub and advocacy.
  9. The UpnUp: Support to curate community-driven podcasts to uplift the stories, inspire listeners, and create a positive narrative of BIPOC community organizers/leaders, especially focused on the SeaTac/Tukwila community.
  10. Women United*: Support Black and African American grandmothers in South Seattle/Skyway raising grandchildren with kinship groups to support each other, share resources, and volunteer on community projects.
  11. Youth Centered Solutions*: Support to unite and provide business education to African and other refugee business owners in the SeaTac/Tukwila and South Seattle areas to ensure their economic success and prevent displacement.

* Indicates first time N2N grantee
** Also indicates first grant written ever for organization  

For more information about Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N), please contact Program Consultant Aileen Balahadia at 206-250-4299 or [email protected]. The quarterly deadlines for N2N are January 30, April 30, July 30 and October 30.