This week, we reluctantly said a fond farewell to Claudia. The staff is grateful for her leadership, guidance, generosity, open mind, and innovative thinking. As her last official act as CEO, Claudia was the keynote at the graduation of the Urban FIRE entrepreneurs in Oakland on Saturday, July 29, 2017 to a standing-room-only crowd of family and friends. The theme was how to use gig platforms to build your business. Urban FIRE (Financial Intelligence and Responsible Entrepreneurship) offers a four-month, weekly training program in West Oakland, serving Oakland’s inner city residents, most of whom are considered very low income. A growing number of well educated professionals are taking the class as indicators all point towards a greater Gig Economy.
The training was conceived and developed by CAMEO board member, Boku Kodama, in 1998 to develop self sustainability and self direction for a population which had been ignored by other entrepreneurship programs at the time. Urban FIRE takes into account the challenges that its students have in launching businesses particularly with the lack of financial resources, advisors and accessible markets. Instead, Urban FIRE promotes community economies working from home-based businesses to start with and emphasizes financial literacy so that students learn to operate without an over-dependence on money.
The Urban FIRE curriculum incorporates not only best practices in business, but more importantly, on utilizing the cutting edge research on world class performance from Carnegie-Mellon, Harvard and Stanford universities, providing students with a holistic approach to entrepreneurship. Much of the training is visually delivered with interactive activities. Students have characterized their learning as “an opera with them as the lead characters.”
During the past two years, Urban FIRE has partnered with the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center to provide better post-graduation support to the students. Urban FIRE won the 2010 National Excellence Award, sponsored by the Oakland Housing Authority, in the category of inner-city economic development.