For brothers Aaron and Eric McCloud, owning businesses became a common goal as they entered adulthood.
Years later, they see the tools they developed while traveling the road to entrepreneurship as some of the same lessons they’ve begun using to help Detroit youth excel.
The McClouds co-founded the Dream Deferred Project, a company created to equip school-aged and disadvantaged young people with business skills. The company was formed in 2016 after the brothers received a grant from the Skillman Foundation through the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, launched by the Obama administration to address inequalities faced by Black and Hispanic men.
Since starting last year, Aaron McCloud says Dream Deferred’s impact has spread throughout the city into 27 different schools and organizations, partnering with the Youth Development Commission and the Office of Metropolitan Impact with the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Other partnerships include Osborn High School and Covenant House.
“We’ve made a dramatic change in a lot of young people’s lives,” Aaron says. “I feel like every single kid we reach out to that we can touch in what we do – teaching them about business, teaching them some things that we didn’t know at that age – just helps in the overall game plan of what the Dream Deferred Project is.”
Aaron and Eric created a curriculum based on skills needed for success. The course teaches students how to achieve in life and apply the same principles to their entrepreneurial ideas.
The McClouds grew up on the east side of Detroit not knowing anyone who owned a business, only those with traditional jobs. Understanding the circumstances they faced growing up was one of their driving forces to avoid the cycle of poverty, Eric McCloud says.
“The impact that we hope to produce is to help young people see that they can be economically self-sufficient,” he adds. “Our goal is to help bring businesses and teach kids that being an entrepreneur is an option for you.”
In addition to operating Dream Deferred the brothers own a private venture, Power Venture Group, a consulting company for businesses.
Their future plans include forming four “shark tanks,” similar to the popular “Shark Tank” reality TV series, in which business ideas are presented to judges by students who complete the Dream Deferred curriculum. Eventually, the brothers want to make their curriculum available to youth in other states.
Aaron says their criteria is a lot different than what other business trainings might offer.
“We’re giving so many soft skills to the youth that they don’t have, and they don’t really get corrected on these things,” he adds.
Their program’s aim isn’t just forming a concept as the end result, Eric says, but ultimately creating an actual business.
“Our goal isn’t just to help them create business ideas,” says Eric. “We want to also see them create tangible working models.”
Lead image: The Dream Deferred Project team appears on an interview segment with The Pulse Host Karen Dumas, which airs daily on Superstation 910am. Shown here (from left) Eric McCloud, Kyle Butler, Brianna Johnson, Aaron McCloud and Karen Dumas (bottom center). Photo courtesy of DDP