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Norwalk nonprofit teaches young people finance skills and community

Dajuan Wiggins, the founder of Youth Business Initiative stands for a portrait in his organization’s office space in Norwak, Conn. YBI works with young people to develop business skills and financial literacy.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Dajuan Wiggins, the founder of Youth Business Initiative, stands for a portrait in his organization’s office space in Norwalk, Conn. YBI works with young people to develop business skills and financial literacy.

What’s the best way to teach young people how to successfully manage money while fostering community? It’s all about setting an example, according to Dajuan Wiggins, founder of the Norwalk-based nonprofit Youth Business Initiative (YBI).

Participants can run a new YBI store, where they learn how to operate a business.

“They got to learn how to balance their books, we give them a loan. And then they have to pay us back. We teach them these tangible skills,” Wiggins said.

Wiggins founded YBI in 2020 and has shown Norwalk residents how to successfully apply for loans, start their own businesses and learn career skills. YBI also brings people together and provides a safe space for young people to pursue their outlets.

Jadon Washington, 25, is an audio engineer who said YBI helped him achieve one of his goals this year.

“I can say something that I couldn’t say last year, which is that I have my own recording studio,” Washington said.

The recording studio is two floors below YBI’s location at 25 Van Zant St.

Jadon Washington sits in a studio and performance space he opened a few floor down from the Youth Business Initiative offices, where he was a participant in 2020.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Jadon Washington sits in a recording studio and performance space he opened a few floors down from the offices of Youth Business Initiative, where he was a participant in 2020.

Washington grew up in Norwalk and Stamford and began pursuing music when he was 15 years old. But while he learned how to make music, learning the business side proved to be a challenge, until he joined YBI. It taught him how to make his music production business profitable and also gave him a space to connect with others who shared his passions.

“There’s not really many places like that, you can just go and bounce ideas off with other people,” he said.

Washington plans to give back to YBI by launching an audio production curriculum for current YBI students. He said the nonprofit differs from other financial literacy organizations and people who promote get-rich-quick schemes on social media.

He said YBI promotes community and teaches participants that business doesn’t have to be rooted in self-interest.

“If I’m purchasing something from somebody, it means that I believe that their product is going to give me a value that is equal to what I'm giving up,” Washington said. “So it has to be unselfish. And I think that YBI is the epitome of selflessness.”

YBI has expanded its mission by hosting other organizations and people who provide services from yoga to college prep.

It’s all about serving the community, according to Wiggins.

“It’s just a need, right? Dealing with the population that we deal with. People need the services they need, a place to come where they feel comfortable. And we offer that,” he said.

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