Sometimes you have to look back and see how far you’ve come in order to realize what you’ve accomplished.
That’s been the case for Khalif El-Amin and his brother Que El-Amin, who 10 years ago founded the Young Enterprising Society, a Milwaukee group that’s exposed students to career and business opportunities in a part of the city that’s been overlooked.
They’re running a Summer Tech Plus program for Milwaukee-area high school students. The classes, focused on technology, entrepreneurship, public speaking, accounting, and Java programming, continue until August 12.
The two brothers have also expanded a business boot camp for adults, called The Blueprint program, to Green Bay.
“We’re looking to bring it to the Madison market as well,” Khalif said.
Young Enterprising Society, often referred to as YES, grew out of brainstorming sessions Khalif and Que had a decade ago about inspiring and helping people.
Khalif graduated from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and worked with his father in different entities including a foster-care agency and a group home. Que graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison, moved to Chicago and Dallas for a while, and then returned to Milwaukee.
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They realized there was a need for a young professionals group and outreach to kids.
“We noticed that a lot of the information, technology and learning was really outdated,” Khalif said.
They went on to launch Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) programs that have reached more than 4,000 students in eight states.
“From the inception, we always intentionally included art. It’s the purest form of creative expression,” Khalif said.
The Blueprint program has assisted more than 70 businesses. It provides $100,000 in seed capital and entrepreneurial and technology training for promising, urban startups.
One of the success stories was TipaScRxipt, a Milwaukee startup that helps people with out-of-pocket prescription costs. It raised $500,000 in startup funding, including $400,000 from Milwaukee-based Gateway Capital.
Years earlier, some of The Blueprint graduates had been in the STEAM classes.
“It’s very pleasing to see the students mature and become business founders in their own right,” Khalif said.
The Blueprint graduates often come back to YES to provide updates on their progress. “That really is the fuel that keeps us going,” Khalif said.
Year after year, the programs have made a difference many lives.
“To me it’s very humbling,” Khalif said.
This year’s Summer Tech Plus program uses a Roblox game platform where users can create their own online games. The platform has millions of users around the world, many of them teenagers.
“It’s something they’re already interested in,” Khalif said. “We’re very pleased to be in a position to introduce a lot of cutting-edge technologies and also be relatable to the students.”
YES specializes in helping people through small groups, in environments that are less structured than the traditional classroom or where they have the option to explore more advanced subject matter.
“It’s really about laying a foundation for problem solving,” Que said.
The pandemic fueled interest in The Blueprint as people lost their jobs or were working from home. Entrepreneurship and education are two “equalizers” in bringing about change, according to Khalif.
“Our mission has been to mobilize resources for people,” he said.
The last 10 years have gone by fast, the brothers say, and there’s a lot more to come.
“It’s definitely been a blessing. We don’t take it for granted by any means,” Khalif said.