Juweria Dahir, MUP ’20, BA ’15, executive director of EforAll Buffalo, is helping Buffalo accelerate economic and social impact through entrepreneurship.
Love brought Juweria Dahir from Europe to Buffalo, and it keeps her here, working on social change and regional prosperity.
Born in East Africa and raised in Switzerland, Dahir studied social sciences in the UK before transferring to complete her BA in sociology at UB and then a master’s at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning.
Dahir moved to Buffalo, married and started a family as she began her undergraduate studies with help from a WNY Prosperity Fellowship, awarded to civic-minded students committed to Western New York.
The fellowship led Dahir to an internship with the City of Buffalo, which turned into positions studying policy and serving as the mayor’s external affairs manager—in addition to raising two young boys and attending school full-time.
Moving to Western New York from England, she noticed a massive gap between the social class systems in Buffalo, where one neighborhood is well maintained and the next has overgrown yards and crumbling homes. That observation sparked her interest in design and urban planning, a field of study she’d never heard of before. She pivoted quickly, excited by what the degree could help her accomplish outside academia.
Passionate about studying the “whys” of pressing social and economic problems related to urban housing and job development, Dahir helped craft restorative policies, such as those for housing code inspections, that use less punitive methods to improve residents’ quality of life. She also has experience working in economic, neighborhood and entrepreneurship arenas. When COVID-19 hit, she wanted to be in the business of creating jobs.
And, as a graduate student who represented the city on small and large-scale beautification projects, she had a unique seat at the table for learning about and developing policy—“something not a lot of women or people of color get to do,” she adds.
She says UB prepared her to make what she calls a “boots on the ground” impact in both the public and private sectors.
Dahir credits an eye-opening class with professor Henry-Louis Taylor Jr., founder and director of the Center for Urban Studies in the School of Architecture and Planning, with her foundation in data-driven community revitalization. She’s also indebted to WNY Prosperity Fellowship director Hadar Borden and to James J. Tanous, executive director of the Prentice Family Foundation that funds Buffalo’s WNY Prosperity Fellowships, and a mentor who helped stoke her entrepreneurial spirit.
The School of Architecture and Urban Planning taught me that that one of the ways to close the income inequality gap and create employment opportunities in economically challenged Rust Belt cities is to effect change from the inside." Juweria Dahir
With encouragement from Tanous and Matt Enstice, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, in 2020 Dahir become Buffalo’s inaugural executive director of the nonprofit Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll). In cities throughout the U.S., EforAll mentors local entrepreneurs through small-business incubators, annual idea pitch contests and other advising and coaching services.
Each year, Dahir’s office helps 30 companies and their teams grow their businesses, from concept stage to well beyond launch, focusing on disadvantaged communities of color, refugees, women and other populations in need. Her overall objective, she says, is “to transform some of the most marginalized communities and help entrepreneurs realize the dream of owning a business
In her spare time, Dahir volunteers as director of a women’s empowerment program at H.E.A.L., a local branch of an international nonprofit that provided life skills for those same underserved populations. H.E.A.L. was founded locally by her father-in-law, and it has become a natural extension of Dahir’s growing spheres of influence.
Published May 18, 2022