Mayor Jim Kenney helped to celebrate the public launch of a new hub for immigrant entrepreneurs in Mt. Airy on Thursday evening.
The mayor, who earlier this month reinstated the city’s status as a “sanctuary city,” told the 20 inaugural participants to tune out the ugly national noise condemning immigrants.
“Here in Philadelphia, you’re home. You’re home,” he said.
Located in a rehabbed former post office building at 6700 Germantown Ave., the Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub is an 18-month pilot initiative that provides one-on-one business coaching, loan assistance and cooperative workspace for immigrants who have or want to develop their own business.
It’s being run by community development corporation Mt. Airy USA, together with the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians and nonprofit lender, Finata. Funding came via a $261,500 grant from the Knight Foundation.
“The Hub is a national model. It’s something that we’re going to be talking about for long to come,” said Patrick Morgan, program director for the Knight Foundation.
Kenney said immigrants are helping Philadelphia grow its business districts and he wants to see this kind of project in every city neighborhood.
PIIH, or The Hub as its affectionately called, began accepting its first members in November and hopes to expand to 60 participants. The program offers four types of support — core workshops, customized business growth plan, credit building and community networking opportunities.
Kenyan immigrant Linda Stewart says through the coursework offered by The Hub she is already gaining a better understanding of how to grow her side hustle into a full time gig.
Stewart, a bank manager who lives in Bear, Delaware, hopes to supply restaurants and clubs with her signature African-seasoned samosas through her catering business Motomoto Kitchens, which operates out of a community kitchen share in Delaware.
“I’m on a journey to bring samosas to the world,” she said.
As demand increased for her product, one of her top challenges has been order fulfillment. The experienced guidance she’s now receiving has helped Stewart realize that she had an end product, but no foundation on which to successfully build her business.
“I needed to step back,” she said. Stewart now has a S.C.O.R.E. mentor and is in the process of learning about insurance, distribution and other fundamentals.
She hopes to eventually operate Motomoto Kitchens out of her own kitchen space in Philadelphia.
Fostering that sentiment is one part of the initiative’s master plan — to entice immigrants to make Philadelphia, particularly Mt. Airy, their permanent home.
MAUSA executive director Brad Copeland said their passion to turn ideas into reality was a quality shared and valued by the neighborhood.
Referencing his own unwelcome Irish immigrant forebearers, Mayor Kenney encouraged the new Hub members to throw down roots in Philly.
“We stayed, so you stay,” he said. “You are part of the fabric of this city.”