Paying for college is difficult for many families, but the burden is often far greater for single parents, and even more so for single parents that head low-income households. Jowan Smith doesn’t want the dream of obtaining a college degree to be out of reach for any child, no matter their family’s financial situation. This was the driving force behind her founding of Getting Our Babies To College 101 at the start of this year.

Jowan is also a soon to be graduate of JumpStart’s Core City: Cleveland Impact Program, an intensive business assistance program designed to support the development and growth of businesses located within Cleveland’s core neighborhoods.

We recently sat down with Jowan to discuss her entrepreneurial journey, how the Core City program has helped her business thus far and her advice for fellow entrepreneurs seeking assistance with growing their ventures.

What inspired you to create Getting Our Babies to College 101?
When my daughter was in middle school, she decided she wanted to go to college. When I looked to see what the schools had available as it relates to navigating college prep, there were not a lot of resources. So, I ended up going on a journey to find resources myself, and over time, a lot of parents started asking me for help with their children.

In turn, this became a full-time hobby. And what was a hobby, has now become a business. I’m helping families find those resources to help not only get their babies to college, but to make sure it’s affordable to the family.

What separates Getting Our Babies to College 101 from your competition?
My business is more than a business—it’s a program to empower the community as a whole. The more babies we can get to college, the more professionals we’ll have coming back to enhance our community, and hopefully, decrease the poverty rate.

These individuals will create businesses, they’ll live here, they’ll work here and they’ll build families here. What I’m doing is about the community, it’s about the improvement and empowerment of families. It’s not just a business, I call it a movement. It’s so much bigger than me. I know there are hundreds of families going through the same pain that I felt getting my daughter to college. What I lot of parents say is, “I wish this was around when I was in college.”

What have been some of your biggest takeaways from the Core City: Cleveland Impact Program? Any surprises?
The biggest thing for me has been the financials. My business advisors and mentors have been able to help me establish a financial platform that is going to be beneficial to my business. They are helping me develop as a business person and that has been priceless to me.

Initially, I thought that without having a tangible product, I would not be able to get much from this, but it’s been the complete opposite. I’ve been empowered in so many ways. I’ve received tools and resources to help my business grow, make it sustainable and be dominant in the area I’m trying to attack.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are interested in the Core City: Cleveland program?
I’ve actually sent people here already, I think it’s priceless. A lot of people in the startup or idea stage think that it might not be a good fit, or it might not work. Just step out on faith. You never know who might be able to give you some insight that might help you develop your program or business so much more than you ever thought.

I always tell people to come check out the program, come get some advice, even if it’s just the team steering you in the right direction of who you should talk to, or the different ways you can be approaching different aspects of your business. The program teaches so many different things.

What are your future plans for your business?
I see my initiative being adopted nationally. There’s such a gap in the area I’m targeting, no one is touching the middle school and student-athlete market. Right now, I’m in three school districts, but by next year, I believe I will be in every local school district. As far as my individual consultations, I already have clients in different counties, so within a year, I believe I will be in every school district within a two-hour drive.

COre City: Cleveland

Gloria Ware

Gloria leads JumpStart’s strategic efforts to create inclusive, high-impact entrepreneurial ecosystems. She brings a wealth of finance and business development expertise to the organization, along with a passion for community engagement.