SOUTH LOOP — Seven talented teen entrepreneurs will be showing off their work this weekend at the inaugural Rise Collection Pop-Up shop in Roosevelt Collection, 1130 S. Delano Ct.
The teens are all participants of a program created by The Black Ecosystem, a nonprofit that aims to revitalize underserved communities.
Its founder, Englewood native Candice Cunningham, wanted to create something for 16- to 19-year-olds who are considered at-risk.
The 16-month workshop teaches them the ins and outs of entrepreneurship and money management through T-shirt design. At the end, students will be able to use their skills to continue their T-shirt businesses on their own.
For Cunningham, the work is necessary. The kids remind her of the ones she grew up with, the ones who were written off before they could fully realize their potential.
“When some of the kids first came in they were a little skeptical, a little unsure,” Cunningham said. “Eventually, they let it go and really took to the project.”
Torvay Lee, 16, learned about the program last fall through his mother, who heard about it on the radio. She took him down to sign up, and it wasn’t long before he was learning how to design a shirt.
“Miss Candice was teaching us how to be about our business, and I liked that,” said Lee, who’ll be a junior at Bogan High this fall.
Lee’s T-shirt design, called “I Need Space,” came from constantly feeling targeted by society.
“I’d be outside with my friends and people would try to start stuff with us for no reason. I just want to feel comfortable when I go places,” said Lee.
Wilbur Moore (also known as Polo), a recent Bogan High grad, learned about RISE from Lee, who was already participating in the program and thought it would help him with his dreams of becoming a fashion designer.
“I learned that everybody works better as a team. You can’t do it all by yourself,” said Moore, who’s attending Parkland College in the fall. “Don’t ever think that you can go in this world and do everything on your own.”
Moore came up with the concept for his shirt, “You Are What You Believe You Are,” by sketching out ideas in a notepad.
Cunningham told the students every design has to have a meaning, and Moore believed he could rise to the challenge.
“It’s about believing in yourself. People can doubt you. People will always doubt you, but you are what you believe you are,” Moore said.
The Rise Collection Pop Up store is open to the public 10 a.m.-6 p.m. through Sunday.