One Million Moms OFF Welfare

Empowering Families to Reduce Dependency on Government Subsidies through non traditional career pathways.

Photo of RW Jones
5 6

Written by


  • I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
  • I am over 18 years of age
  • My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
  • I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
  • My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States


  • Woman

Where are you making a difference?

Washington DC 20002 Topeka, Kansas 66607 Norfolk, Virginia 23510

Focus Areas (required)

  • Business & Social Enterprise
  • Development & Prosperity

Date Started


Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)


  • $250k - $500k

Website or social media URL(s) (optional)

Twitter URL

Facebook URL

LinkedIn URL

1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.

I remember my life one day as a single mom of four sons ages (1,2,3 and 4) and thought, will I work everyday and forever be broke? All I could see was a life of brokenness, drug abuse, toxic relationships, and I thought this is no way to live! It was in that precise moment I heard a voice that said "drown them". I went for the towels as I prepared their bath and searched for the children to end theirs and my life, but they were nowhere to be found. Then one of them appears out of nowhere eating a cookie, laughing uncontrollably. It was the laughter that broke me out of that place of darkness. I promised God, If he got me out of this hell hole in my right mind, I would come back and help others like me. I’m keeping my end of the deal

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Subsidized programs such as Public Housing and the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8 ) program are home to more than 5 million single family– female head of households, most of whom share a similar story with Can I Live’s CEO. Because of poor systems navigation, agency coordination, and inadequate resource allocation, residents have lost hope and motivation in attempts to navigate away from traditional pathways of obtaining economic independence

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We are seeking to close these gaps through the comprehensive 1MMOW coordination strategy. By facilitating access to innovative capital (i.e. financial aid, student loans), credit and leveraging the benefits of public housing and section 8 programs, we will create unique opportunities for resident-owned businesses through education, training, and entrepreneurship. The 1MMOW will leverage our recent HUD Resident Opportunity and Self Sufficiency (ROSS) grant award to establish a Resident Owned Business Incubator (ROBI) to support local entrepreneurs within the 7 communities we service. The ROBI will cultivate, support, and provide administrative and technical assistance to public housing’s first generation entrepreneurs as a means to accessing economic independence. The 1MMOW in partnership with its Program Coordinating Committee (PCC), whose functions is to assist us in providing administrative services, back office support, and securing financial incentives for pitch competitions, equipment, capital from public and private firms required by local, state and federal laws to train, employ and or contract with low income minority firms (i.e. Section 3, First Source, HUB zones).

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.

Maka Taylor, a mother of three and a District of Columbia public housing resident of over ten years, was able to take advantage of a HUD Section 3 opportunities and become an independent contractor small business owner using our 1MMOW Model and obtaining a competitive contract with Can I Live (CIL). Her income grew from $8,000 to $50,000 a year. Ms. Taylor is now working with other residents in DC to foster self-sufficiency. Cathy Driver, a Virginia public housing resident attended our small business & contracting cohort, established Cybersidekick, LLC and after 9 months, also obtained an administrative contract with CIL. Ms. Driver now supports other small business with back office support. Kiwan Fitch, a single mom from South Carolina hated her job and was tired of working for others and being broke. Ms. Fitch now runs a non-profit with a few small contracts.

5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?

Focusing our attention on the needs of low-income families in public housing and section 8 communities, we are allowed to touch and impact the most vulnerable families. Our organization is comprised of resident leaders (which we develop and train) from public housing and section 8 communities; they sit on our board and make decisions for the communities they call home! Our work reaches underserved communities because it the place where we live and raise our children.

5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:

  • work status
  • race/ethnicity
  • socio-economic class

6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Small Business Administration and Score chapters support the needs of local entrepreneurs. Score and SBA are typically housed within universities and chambers and are not aware of ROB’s. They do not have a programmatic focus addressing the needs of resident-owned businesses (ROB) of public housing. Furthermore, there are no entities that provide financial support to undergird ROB’s operations and none that provide contracting opportunities and or preparation to compete within the public housing ($40 billion dollar) industry. ROBI will offer business support programming to this niche market.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Through the execution of the 1MMOW strategy, we have impacted families in a significant way. We have created more than 30 small business with contracts equaling $300k combined; we’ve enrolled more than 100 residents in GED programs / educational training; leveraged more than $500k in community resources; we have raised more than $10k for small business support; leveraged more than $500k in community resources, partnered with local churches to donate cars to assist families with removing transportation as a barrier to self-sufficiency; initiated the first on-site GED program and child care group to a local housing authority in partnership with a local College, and local churches to provide child care for enrolled GED participants; engaged, empowered and increased capacity of more than 300 resident council leaders representing 300+ communities and 300,000 families nationwide.

8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?

Strategies include first, using the data outcomes from the DC ROBI to attract funding from DC’s Business innovation community as a best practice which gives assisted families a pathway to self-sufficiency through entrepreneurial gateways. Second, we will apply for a combination of angel investments, grants and awards to replicate this model where CIL has a presence in Public Housing Authorities (PHA) throughout the nation to build an innovative system that manages the rollout and duplication of these strategies

8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?

  • Organizational Growth
  • Organizing Conferences
  • Trainings, Consultation
  • Federations, Associations

9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

As resident-owned businesses (ROB) gain access to contracting and subcontracting opportunities, Can I Live’s memorandums of understandings (MOU’s) with each developed entity which state an agreement for them to support the program with a 50% match of monthly services being provided. The goal is to have ROB’s free from the need of 100% technical assistance after 3 years. This revenue received through the ROB’s, local grant matches, and contracts of Can I Live will help us with sustainability.

10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

CIL believes in first creating opportunities for those who serve our communities without pay every day. To this end, we contract with qualified resident-owned businesses. Our full & part-time independent contractors are educated professionals (9 of which hold PhDs, Masters, Bachelor's, and Associate's degrees; cumulative we possess more than 100 years of industry expertise, with nationally renowned certifications. As we scale, we will re-evaluate our organizations human capital capacity.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)

  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian, etc)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

If you replied "Other" in the question above, please specify. (optional)

Sheena Foster

Organization name

Can I Live, Inc

Program Design Clarity

The 1MMOW ROBI is a one-year (4-(3 month) phased business curriculum) partnership with residents of DC Housing. ROBI will be operated within DCHA’s Envision Center ( a Ben Carson Initiative) after normal business hours from 6 to 9 pm, once a week. Upon entrance into the ROBI, (the main activities include clients sit down with a strategic business analyst to assess their motivation, entrepreneurial appetite, resource, knowledge, skills and ability (KSA) gaps. Then Qualified residents are enrolled in a cohort, facilitated by our Small Business Coach responsible for delivering the curriculum.

Approach to financial wellbeing: does your project focus on creating financial wellbeing through innovating on any of the following?

  • credit
  • currency
  • education / literacy
  • entrepreneurship
  • payment
  • saving

Innovation type: Please select which of the following types of innovation best characterize your work

  • Product innovation (Introduction of a good or service or improvements made to existing products)
  • Process innovation (execution of a new or considerably improved production or delivery method)

Partnerships in detail: tell us about your partnerships that enhance your approach.

Our Program Coordinating Committee (PCC) includes the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) as they provide affordable housing for more than 15,000 families–and provides us with a captive audience. Other PCC partners include firms such as My Local CFO–provides operational and financial processes, Netministry-provides IT, web and marketing services, ABC Management provides accounting and bookkeeping services, Spragely Group provides research and grants for small business/non-profits.

If you won the Unlocking ₵hange Challenge, how would you invest the prize money of $50,000?

The $50,000 will be leveraged and matched to support the Resident Owned Business Incubator (ROBI) with evidence of providing administrative services and back office support (accounting, legal, IT, communications, marketing, business development and financial & strategic planning ) for our clients.

Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions has the project received?

Thus far the 1MMOW has been featured in News Articles, but we have yet to officially receive any awards and or recognitions.

Evaluation results

2 evaluations so far

1. Overall, would you champion this entry as a excellent example to move forward to the next phase of the challenge and become a semifinalist?

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 100%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

3. Is this entry IMPACTFUL on financial wellbeing?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry SUSTAINABLE?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 50%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

5. What are some of the HIGHLIGHTS of strengths of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 100%

Clarity of Model - 100%

Clarity of Writing - 0%

Idea Originality - 50%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 50%

Impact measurement - 0%

Impact Potential - 100%

Financial Sustainability - 0%

Team - 50%

Partnerships - 0%

Potential to scale - 50%

6. What are some of the areas for IMPROVEMENT of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 0%

Clarity of Model - 0%

Clarity of Writing - 50%

Idea Originality - 0%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 0%

Impact measurement - 50%

Impact Potential - 0%

Financial Sustainability - 50%

Team - 0%

Partnerships - 100%

Potential to scale - 50%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Old Friend

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Photo of RW Jones

Thank you Su...the feedback is encouraging and I'm very grateful for the link. I will seek it out

Photo of Su Sanni

This is such an inspiring mission and organizational model Racquel.

I think you should also apply to programs like I'm a mentor at Camelback Ventures and could help with an intro, whenever you're ready. As soon as 1MMOW can afford it, I'd highly recommend that you also hire/contract a grant writer so that you can apply for more grant opportunities and obtain the funding/resources that'll help 1MMOW grow.

Nonetheless, I love how you've structured your organization to seek contracts with gov't agencies adn public housing authorities. So long as you have legit business income coming in, 1MMOW can both encourage financial independence with its residents, as well as demonstrate that through the organization's contracts. (i.e. you "walk the walk & talk the talk" cool). Becoming certified as an MWBE should also help with getting you large city, state and federal contracts for your work with public housing communities. Indeed I haven't seen other organization that do this type of work, so your uniqueness is a strength.

Good luck! I hope you're awarded as an Ashoka Changemaker grant winner as well.

Photo of Kristina Lersbuasin

This is a great mission and model!