students working together around a table
Students work together at a prior Social Justice Sewing Academy workshop.

Photo courtesy of SJSA.

The Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA) is launching a Business Incubator program for young entrepreneurs, ages 15-25. The program will run from September 2020 through February 2021.

Lauren Black, Operations Manager at SJSA, is working with founder Sara Trail to organize the program. “Essentially, the Incubator is a way for us to help emerging entrepreneurs get mentorship from experts in the industry as well as learn entrepreneurial skills in order to launch either creative or social justice-oriented businesses,” Black says. SJSA has had to put their in-person workshops on hold this spring and summer due to the pandemic so this program provides a way for the organization to continue to engage young people, albeit virtually.

The young people who go through the program will not only get access to training and mentorship, they’ll also receive $1000 in seed money, distributed throughout the six-month program in increments, to kickstart their ventures. Graduates of the program will also receive a 1-year membership to Craft Industry Alliance.

“They’ll be learning things from pitching to branding to marketing to e-commerce and business management,” Black says. “Truly a wealth of topics.” Lectures will be provided online from individuals and representatives from large companies and organizations within the crafts industry. Each participant will also be paired with a mentor for monthly hour-long one-on-one meetings.

teacher and student
Founder Sara Trail mentors a student at a Social Justice Sewing Academy workshop last year.

Photo courtesy of SJSA.

The cohort will have the opportunity to meet together and learn from each other as well. “There’s a lot of value in hearing each other’s ideas and experiences, what’s working and what’s not working,” Black says.


The community sessions will be an important part of the program so the participants can engage with one another and build community within their particular cohort.

Black, who met Trail while they were in high school, was involved in the early grant writing for the non-profit. A school psychologist in the Los Angeles Public Schools, she’s now returned to SJSA in response to the current civil rights movement.

Get invovled

To recruit young entrepreneurs, Trail is getting in touch with students who have reached out while schools and summer programs have been closed. SJSA has also worked with Black Makers Matter on Instagram to help spread the word. The goal is to have a cohort of approximately 35. (The application can be found here.)

The program is also currently recruiting mentors. Mentors will attend a brief orientation and then commit to meeting with their mentee for one hour each month, on a Sunday, with the expectation that they would also be contacted other times throughout the month with additional questions. The total commitment is approximately five hours per month for six months. Mentor applications are due August 25.

The seed money is being funded by sponsors. Companies and individuals can make a tax-deductible donation of $1000 that will go directly to a young person who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to start a small business. If you, or your company, would like to become a sponsor email Lauren Black: lauren@sjsacademy.com

Applications from young entrepreneurs have already begun coming in. Black says there are several proposing hair and skincare products, one looking to build a community library, another interested in wearable art, and a few more with ideas around clothing and accessories. “There’s a wide range of ideas so far,” she says.

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