In May, we celebrated National Small Business Month. Each year, small businesses create 1.5 million jobs and play a pivotal role in building strong communities. As we head into the summer, let’s ensure we intentionally support small businesses and entrepreneurs’ passion, persistence, innovation, and creativity. Behind so many small businesses are inspiring stories and people who have poured their time, money, and resources into building a dream.

Many small business owners, particularly in post-pandemic times, have faced obstacles. The Institute For Entrepreneurial Leadership (IFEL) hosts the Small Businesses Need Us (SBNU) initiative to help small businesses, especially Black and Latinx businesses, build back after the pandemic. Through the program, business professionals volunteer to share their expertise during online events, including 1:1 Business-Building sessions, Ask The Experts events, and Success Circles advisory meetings. The events provide hands-on, high-touch implementation support to help small businesses overcome barriers and solve their most pressing issues.

Economic growth is not possible without small businesses and the people, volunteers and organizations who support them unflinchingly. Since 2002, our nonprofit organization has supported small businesses through innovative programming and initiatives which leverage skills-based volunteerism to help business owners to overcome obstacles, catalyze growth and to participate fully and equally in the economic ecosystem.

IFEL recognizes the indomitable spirit and tenacity that drive small business owners to succeed. Entrepreneurs often turn a personal passion into professional success. That is true of Adrienne M. Fudge, who developed a love for cooking after her mother was diagnosed with Lupus when Adrienne was just seven years old. Even at a young age, she desired to help her mother make meals for her dad and sister. Although she enjoyed her corporate communications career after graduating from Seton Hall University, Adrienne still yearned to feed people. After a layoff in 2009, Adrienne, at the age of 40, realized she needed a change. She took the opportunity to attend culinary school and launched 40 Dreams Catering. Her business has evolved and now serves hundreds of seniors and disabled adults with lovingly-prepared delicious daily meals delivered to their homes. Adrienne is a happy & successful CEO and recently purchased a new commercial kitchen facility – a former cooking school – for her growing catering enterprise. She was recently honored with the Enterprising Woman Of The Year Award. The gala celebrates the best and brightest businesswomen from around the globe.

Noting that success did not happen overnight, Adrienne discussed with candor the
challenges as she outgrew her first location, citing what seemed like racial bias when
attempting to purchase a new location. She persevered, joining Women of Color
Connecting (WOCCON), which helped her to cultivate connections and to change her
the mindset to that of a successful CEO.

“Women of Color Connecting opened doors for me and had all the right ingredients to grow my business. As part of the WOCCON community, I’ve received the support of key advisors and services that have enabled me to grow my business. Being part of WOCCON has helped me to define my role as a CEO and to forge new connections which have fueled the growth of my company, 40 Dreams Catering. Thanks to WOCCON, I call myself a CEO.”

WOCCON is an innovative initiative that leverages the game-changing model called
‘Success Circles,’ where entrepreneurs are placed front and center with experts from various industries and skill sets. Through skills-based volunteerism, these
professionals offer hands-on, high-impact capacity-building assistance, which helps
entrepreneurs to remove barriers to success. To volunteer or to apply, visit

Adrienne’s story is just an example of the many entrepreneurial and small business
successes that inspire future generations of business owners and volunteers. For more
information on volunteer opportunities, events, and opportunities to support the work that IFEL performs, visit

(Article provided by the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership in Newark, NJ.)

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