Armani Black is a YSE alumna who’s experienced many forms of success. She recently earned her B.S. degree in International Business and Management Information Systems from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. Armani has been awarded multiple internships and a fellowship, and studied abroad in several countries. She was President of the National Association of Black Accountants her senior year of college, and currently works for the multi-billion dollar Fortune 500 Company Accenture, as a Technology Consulting Analyst.
Armani began her Youth Social Entrepreneurial journey as a youth intern at Urban Roots. This YSE organization, located on St. Paul’s East Side, offers youth ages 14-21 training in Positive Youth Development, Social and Emotional Learning, and Community Engagement, through a focus on agricultural development. Armani began work with Urban Roots in their Market Garden program. This program teaches a cohort of youth to “plant, maintain, and harvest small-scale crop production within urban gardens.”
It might be confusing to some to connect this sort of agricultural training with entrepreneurial development. However, in addition to the gardening basics, Urban Roots folds youth into the management of the gardens, and the distribution of their crops to the community. This distribution takes many forms, including local Farmer’s Market sales, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) relations, selling locally-grown and prepared salads at Twins baseball games in the Roots for the Home Team program, and person-to-person negotiations with local chefs to meet the market needs of their restaurants. These programs are all youth-led, and often with peer-to-peer training. Urban Roots allows for youth to participate for more than one year, which gives the more experienced student workers the opportunity to train the new interns, while developing their own leadership skills.
When asked if this type of managerial training helped with her current position, Armani told me that it did and so much of her success derived from “getting in there and doing the work.” She had her fair share of hours of gardening on hot, summer days, which she believes equipped her with skills of patience, hard work, and teamwork. She often draws on these experiences to help guide her as a leader.
Armani shared a story about an internship that she had while in college. “It just wasn’t a good fit,” she explained. She described that it was not a bad company to work for and that other students might relish her position. However, she complained about the pace of the work being too slow. Armani told me, “I felt like I was wasting their money.” Armani was extended an offer to stay on after her internship, but she took a more entrepreneurial approach. To get the highest return on her investment, she worked through the internship, doing more than was expected. Armani said, “I left on a great note, and got a reference that I used to get a position that is a better fit.”
Entrepreneurship is so often a combination of high level managerial awareness, leadership skills, risk taking, and problem solving, coupled with the trained ability to see any project through. At Urban Roots, Armani says she started to develop the skills and habits that got her to where she is, but also guided her thinking about where she hopes to go in the future. Because of her exceptional skills, once she accepted her offer of employment at Accenture, she was offered her choice of locations to work. Accenture has offices across the country and internationally; Armani made a choice for personal growth and moved to experience the American South. She told me it was a hard choice. She misses her family, but that what she is learning personally and professionally now will help her and her community when she returns in the future.
We discussed what might have been missing from Armani’s YSE experience. She told me that she would have liked, “more collaboration with other YSE groups.” She said that learning and building skills with others in her program was fantastic, but that connecting with other programs more would have allowed her to connect with other students across Minnesota who are making a difference in their communities and networking is key to development.
In other parts of the world, Armani points out, “YSE organizations are just called ‘nonprofits.’” She pointed out that these international organizations need a revenue generating component to their operation. This is not just to provide quality programming, but to simply survive. As she sees it, both she, these organizations, and other nonprofits, are greatly served with the adaption and development of an entrepreneurial vision.
You can learn more about Armani’s story. Particularly, what brought her to start working with YSE organizations. This story and others are featured in the documentary produced by the Sundance Family Foundation, Changemaker’s: Teens Who Learn and Earn, and featured on Twin Cities Public Television (TPT). To enjoy this video, please follow this link HERE