This entrepreneur spotlight highlights Caty Holm and The Brandon Foundation, an organization that provides support for youth. Students are paired with mentors who help them academically and emotionally, meeting twice a week throughout the school year. The Brandon Foundation’s mission and vision is incredible, and the way that Caty and the mentors believe in the kiddos and help them overcome life’s hardships in order to reach their full potential is inspiring. I believe that investing in our youth is the best thing we can do to continue to make Fort Wayne a great place to live.
Caty had a wonderful perspective on startups, collaboration, and following your passion. Take a look at her story, and take some of her sound advice while you pursue your dreams.
What made you decide to open a business in Fort Wayne/Northeast Indiana?
After teaching in the school system for 10 years I noticed that students would come into my classroom at 8 years of age, full of hope that they would become doctors, teachers, etc. I would follow up with those same students years later to find that their dreams were watered down versions of what they used to be. Why was that? We started to examine the gaps and disparities that were present that kept students from achieving their goals and came up with a program to fill those gaps. We believe that all students have a gift and destiny to fulfill. At the Brandon Foundation, we strive to help students realize their full potential while providing the academic and social support that they need throughout the years to see their dreams come to pass.
What resource in the community has helped you thrive?
Indiana Youth Institute was a crucial piece of our growth and development as a nonprofit. They linked us up with a consultant group, Michael Burns, who has been instrumental in helping our organization with strategic planning and mentor and board training. This resource has been invaluable as they have helped us to be intentional about our goals and metrics and still remain true to our vision and mission.
What is the biggest challenge you have worked to overcome in starting your business?
Our biggest challenge has been applying for grants and receiving the money that could allow us to pay employees such as an Executive Director, Staff Therapists and other mentor support staff that could help us develop our program into something that could impact a greater number of children.
What person has helped you the most in your journey?
My dad, also known at The Brandon Foundation as “Mr. Chuck.” Five years ago when this program was just a vision on my heart I told him, “Dad, I’m going to do this thing and I know it sounds crazy, but I think it’s possible.” Instead of telling me all of the reasons why it wasn’t fathomable or list the obstacles, he said, “Let’s do it!” Ever since that day, he has been my greatest supporter. He is a mentor to one of our students, has served on the board of directors, and shows up to every service event. He believed in me and so I believed in me, too.
What is some advice you would have for new entrepreneurs?
- Surround yourself with a core group of people who believe in your mission. These people will be the breath of air that you will need when the burden gets heavy. Our board of directors is comprised of a group of people who believe in what we do and work diligently to make sure we are achieving our goals and the funding we need to be successful.
- Find someone who will pray for you and your organization. Steve Hays has been our prayer warrior and he consistently covers us with weekly prayer for the protection of our kids and the provision for our program.
- Seek wisdom from someone who has been where you are and done it successfully. Everyone needs a mentor who can help guide them throughout their journey both professionally and spiritually.
What would be the best thing Fort Wayne could do for entrepreneurs in your opinion?
One word: collaboration. Fort Wayne has many incredible organizations that help our youth: Smith Academy, City Life, Boys and Girls Club, Euell Wilson Center, and Bridges of Grace are just a few who are putting in the work to make Ft Wayne a better place for our kids. Through collaborating initiatives and sharing like-minded passions, collectively we have the potential to “shine brighter.”
You can find out more information about The Brandon Foundation, volunteer as a mentor, or donate to the organization, by visiting their website.