CEI Stories

Serving & supporting small business owners just like you.


July 19, 2016

ARWO Learning Center

At ARWO Learning Center, located in Portland, Maine, you find faces of the future: ARWO’s young charges, and its founder, Naima Abdirhmon, who immigrated here from Somalia.

Naima Abdirhmon with children at ARWO
Naima Abdirhmon with children at ARWO

Naima’s mother, a successful business owner, has worked with StartSmart for over a decade. Naima attended Portland public schools and then earned a Doctorate of Pharmacy Degree from University of New England. While volunteering at Deering High School, she decided she also wanted to educate young people and help them succeed. And with that, ARWO Learning Center was born.

“It has been a blessing to have a CEI StartSmart business counselor on my team. My business counselor and mentor Tae Chong has been my biggest cheerleader – he is insightful, experienced, and always has my company’s best interests at heart.”–Naima Abdirhmon, founder and owner, ARWO

ARWO opened in April 2015 on Forest Avenue, a hub for immigrant and refugee businesses in the city. In two years, the center has grown to an enrollment of 70 children and 18 employees. ARWO means “prosperous” in Somali—the center’s wish for every child in its care. Naima worked closely with CEI’s StartSmart business development program for immigrants and refugees and the Portland Jobs Alliance to identify, train, and hire numerous staff members, including five new Mainers. They have outgrown their space and are looking for a larger facility to grow to 80 children and 20 employees.

image of Kingfield Kinder Care

Kingfield Kinder Care

"When Jackie Lobdell’s children were young, she couldn’t find daycare fitting the hours she needed. The nearby child care was closed Fridays and…"

image of Taylor Tots

Taylor Tots

"Miranda Taylor turned her experience as an Ed Tech III/School-Based Behavioral Health Professional into Child Care entrepreneurship - creating a commute-free job for…"

image of Maine Ocean Farms 

Maine Ocean Farms 

"The oysters produced by Maine Ocean Farms are regarded as some of the best on the East Coast and are served across Maine…"