Jemini Phillips, a 25-year-old recording artist, wanted to foster her growing passion for artist development and marketing.
So she reached out to video production company Youth Lens 360 to jumpstart that career.
"I feel influential," Phillips said. "I feel like I'm on my way to success and just building the start of a better life for myself."
Phillips was one of six members of the first E3L cohort, a six-month training program for entrepreneurs from 18 to 25 years old. Dario Otero, CEO of Youth Lens 360, created the cohort — named after exposure, environment, experience and legacy — to educate young creatives in videography, photography and storytelling.
The goal of the program is twofold. First, to teach the participants new skills. And second, to help educate even more young people on potential job opportunities through the content the cohort will create. For example, Otero mentioned the group might interview St. Paul-area business owners and then edit together a video to share with the community.
Wednesday marked an informal launch of the new cohort at Strengthen the Strong, a networking lunch held monthly in St. Paul. Founders Kelsey Joson and Anissa Lightner — who started the lunch in September 2021 — said it was a "no-brainer" to partner with the program, as Otero had supported the lunches from the start.
"This lunch is a really great balance of new entrepreneurs, new founders, young minds and then more veteran, more-seasoned business owners that have an opportunity to do good and invest in the younger generations," Joson said. "It's so beautiful to have a launch party for the cohort."
St. Paul and Ramsey County are financing the cohort with funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. Ling Becker, director of Ramsey County Workforce Solutions, said the "creative genius" and "economic competitiveness" of the county lies in its diverse youth.
"The power of young people is just so unharnessed in this community, and we're really trying to double down on betting on their success," Becker said.
All six of the cohort's members are from the Twin Cities and have deep connections to Ramsey County. Each of them have personal business goals with passions in a variety of creative fields.
"So while they're learning how to do storytelling, they have access to technology, they're getting all this exposure," Otero said. "[They're] able to produce that, give that back to the community, at the same time as they're learning and connecting with young people."
Otero is also emphasizing networking opportunities as well as mental health support like meditation sessions and therapy for personal growth.
This group marks the first of six cohorts Youth Lens 360 will host, each lasting six months, spanning from this June to December 2026. Otero and current members of the cohort said they're hoping to see the program endure beyond the initial three years.
Esteban Castillo, another member of the E3L cohort, is already a nonprofit co-founder who aspires to be a creative director and produce videos for marketing campaigns.
"This is just kind of my nice little intro into understanding that realm of creativity. I've always been a creative," Castillo said. "With the cohort, specifically, it's really nice because everybody's ... like-minded individuals. But even deeper than that, it's a bunch of creatives that are all together in different realms."
At the end of her six months with Youth Lens, Phillips hopes to obtain an LLC and secure funding for her marketing and brand management business.
"One thing … I'm already getting here, and it's only my third day, is just support," she said. "And somebody to teach us what it means to be an entrepreneur instead of a nine-to-five worker."