4/12/2021
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5 Under 40: Abdi Daisane: Entrepreneurial work for the community good


By Sarah Kocher
Sunday January 17, 2021

Abdi Daisane stands in front of his business, Blooming Kids Child Care Center, Monday, Jan 11. 20202, in St. CLoud. Dave Schwarz,
[email protected]


ST. CLOUD — Abdi Daisane came to St. Cloud to finish his education. Since then, he's been paying it forward.

With a friend, he started a nonprofit to help low-income students attend college. Now, he's helping entrepreneurs receive training and other assistance through his job as Enterprise Academy Program Officer for the Initiative Foundation.

Daisane said he has always been interested in education.

"Growing up, I was told education is the key to success," Daisane said. "I don’t know if that's true or not, but I tend to believe that. … We used to go to Islamic education, we used to go to school, all of that when I was younger. Even though we (didn't have) anything else because I (grew) up in a refugee camp, we always thought, 'Education is what we have. It wasn't quality, but we have some sort of formal education."

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"And then when I came here, I also realized education, the quality education, is not always there everywhere. And still, people are struggling to get the ... quality education they want."

Daisane is a member of the St. Cloud Times/Local iQ 5 Under 40 Class of 2020.

Connecting his community
Daisane, 32, has had a busy few years since moving to St. Cloud in 2013. In addition to the nonprofit and child care business he started and his current job, he's also worked at Lutheran Social Service and Avivo.

Daisane also ran for City Council in 2016. He did not win a seat, but said he feels he was able to shed light on some important issues. He serves on several area boards and foundations.

Through both his work and his personal connections, Daisane has cultivated an expansive community network that he intentionally maintains. He's helped them resettle, he's helped them find jobs, he's helped their kids go to college. He tries to use that network to help connect people to the resources they need.

"My goal is always to see everyone taking advantage of those (resources) and have an equal opportunity so they can succeed," Daisane said.

According to Greater St. Cloud Development Corp. President Patti Gartland, who nominated Daisane for the 5 Under 40 award, these connections make Daisane a valuable conduit between members of the East African community and employers.

"Abdi has earned the respect of leaders in this community, I believe because he brings a spirit of gratitude, a beacon of positivity and he's very approachable," Gartland said. "... (He) kind of packages himself in a way that people feel comfortable working with him. He's earned their trust, and that trust has then translated into his being able to really be impactful."


Abdi Daisane talks about his work during an interview, Monday, Jan 11. 20202, in St. CLoud. Dave Schwarz, [email protected]


Daisane is a Somali-Minnesotan who came to the U.S. after growing up in a refugee camp in Kenya. He was there for 18 years.

"I didn't know anywhere else other than the refugee camp when I arrived (in the U.S.)," he said.

He said he does feel a personal responsibility to other Central Minnesotans from East Africa, in part because of his own move to the U.S. from a refugee camp.

But there's more to it.

"I want to be meaningfully contributing to the community," Daisane said over video chat while visiting family in Kenya. "My dad always used to tell me, if you go to a new place, and you sleep that night in that community, you are part of that community. For me, for example, (if) I come to Kenya, you'll find me reading the newspaper tomorrow morning because I want to hear what's happening. ... Because I am sleeping there tonight, I feel I am part of the community."

Daisane said he's visited many area churches to do cultural education about Somali and Muslim communities, and has also participated in several educational community events.

"I always feel like I have to tell people who we are," he said. "I have to explain where I grew up, how I (got) to (the) U.S. — was it my choice, was it through resettlement, how grateful I feel, all those things — so people feel connected and they feel like we are like everyone else. And I feel responsible to do that myself."

"To me he's demonstrated both on a personal level his commitment to pursuing and developing himself personally but then also taking that passion and helping others to develop themselves and to help our community be the best possible place it can for everyone who (chooses) to make this their home," Gartland said.

He also tries to use his experience as a business owner for the benefit of others.

Daisane started renting the building that is home to Blooming Kids Child Care Center in 2017, he said.

"It took a full year to open it," Daisane said.

While he was still in college, Daisane co-founded College-Link, and used that organization to help students with exams, applications for admission, FAFSA filing and university tours.


Abdi Daisane stands in front of his business, Blooming Kids Child Care Center, Monday, Jan 11. 20202, in St. CLoud. Dave Schwarz, [email protected]


But while doing that, "I realized education started early on, and I realized that a lot of the target students that I was helping, many of them didn't have the basics to begin with," Daisane said.

So he began speaking with educators and doing his own research. He found the location; it had already served as a child care center, but the center closed. He saw the child care center as a way to both support his family and support the community, both in providing educational opportunities but, specifically, in job creation, Daisane said.

"It served the purpose that I needed to have in the community," he said.

They're success stories now, but Daisane said almost everything he's tried has been a huge challenge. He started a nonprofit while he was still in school, using every freely available space he could to save funds. And Blooming Kids began with very little.

"I (didn't get) financial support from the bank or anything," Daisane said. "I (built) on my business just through my personal savings and through loans from family members, and then I paid them back."

Evolving career

Daisane began working with the Initiative Foundation in late 2019 and recently stepped back into a more administrative role with Blooming Kids. But his experience starting the child care center has played a big role in how he's able to contribute to the Initiative Foundation, Daisane said.

Daisane taught a fall entrepreneurship class that's usually tackled by another teacher, but because of the pandemic, Daisane had to step in.

"For me, a lot of the times, the way my experience and my background makes an impact and a huge contribution to the foundation, and the class itself, and the clients that we work with — I'm not mostly using statistics or data or something ... I focus on my own struggles, my own personal (experience) starting a business. What are the things that I did? How to (get) by when you're starting a business and you don't have a lot of financial backup or the skills in starting a business?"

"So people always found (it) very useful when I talk about my own bruises," he said. "When I mention how many times I fall."

He likes this work. He can feel the impact he's making when he helps someone create a business plan or find financial support.

"Our Somali communities, they have that entrepreneurial spirit," Daisane said. "They love doing business. ... The business idea exists in our community, but because we (came) to a new place, we don't know how to do business the American way. So I always see the need for that, to integrate the communities that are doing business, for them to understand ... what's happening — you know, how can they do business the way American people do business?"

Last year, the only cultural mall outside the Twin Cities to receive a grant through the Minnesota Small Business Relief Grants Program was in St. Cloud, and Daisane said he helped that owner fill out the application. There are more than 30 tenants in the building.

When he helps an entrepreneur, Daisane said, the entrepreneur benefits, but so do their kids, the economy and the community.

"Food stamps and gift cards and things like that will last maybe a month," Daisane said. "... But when you are helping people with microlending, it could change their life forever."



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