A few weeks back, I interviewed a janitor who took an unconventional route to his new career in baking; today, this same janitor has a new accomplishment to add to his resume, author. South Florida based baker, and owner of 954sweetshop, Patrick Muhammad has just released his first book, “Patrick Turns His Play Into Pay,” a picture book that follows his passion of baking through the eyes of a child. He details how his grandmother was the first adult in his life to plant a seed of entrepreneurship. Set against the backdrop of where he spent most of his summers, Muhammad begins the story with a vibrantly colored image of a fishing hole in Ocala, Florida. Muhammad explains, “I wanted the illustrations to jump off the page. I wanted the reader to feel instantly transported to a time in my life where I didn’t have a care in the world and my entire life revolved around fishing and devouring my grandmother’s lemon meringue pie.” Muhammad says he initially wrote the book for his 4-year old as a keepsake item. Once the book was published he realized that the story could not only inspire his child to entrepreneurship, but others as well. “I began shopping the book around to the local childcare centers and the teacher’s loved it. They would ask me to come in and read the book and before I knew it, I had 3 or 4 reading engagements booked.” Muhammad’s next speaking engagement will take place on September 23, 2013 at Dillard Elementary. Dr. Angela Seals, CEO for the non-profit Order of Excellence Embassy Leadership Training Center booked Muhammad after reading his book.
EMPOWERING THROUGH ENTREPRENEURSHIP, ONE LIFE AT A TIMEI recently met Colleen Adams. She’s the founder of a non-profit, community based organization that mentors young males who for one reason or another have been sent to the Miami-Juvenile Justice Detention Center. Today, Adams brought a few of her current and former participants to share their experiences in her program and their experiences on the streets, during a focus group meeting. Adams believes strongly in empowering youth through education and entrepreneurship. Here’s her story. Nat sound of participant asking question… ”Oh, it leads to violence…how?” According to Colleen Adams, the answer to that question is simple. Part of that answer involves not punishing these young males for crimes committed as a means to survive. She believes that throwing these young men in jail for committing some of these crimes is like punishing them twice. Once for being born into tough circumstances and the second time for trying to survive them. Adams recalls the night something inside her clicked. He had dreads and his hair was pulled up in a rubber band and water was streaming down off his shoulders and he said, Ms. Colleen…do you have a dollar? This young man participated in “Career Day” sessions lead at the Juvenile detention center organized by Adams. Before running her own non-profit, Adams worked for clothing designer Perry Ellis and created career days as a way to give back to at-risk youth. She soon discovered, her “days” weren’t enough. He said, my mom came to pick me up, but she’s out of gas and we can’t get home. That’s the moment , empowered youth was born. I watched this guy walk back into the parking lot and I stood there for a long time and I said to myself, “I’m not helping at all.” She wanted to give her students something of substances. Something that would extend beyond a day, but into their lifetime. Some place that they can learn new skills, where they can be trained, where they can change something in their lives. If not, then I’m really just making a promise, that I’m not keeping. The non-profit program operates out of liberty city and the young males that participate are court ordered. It’s a character development program and the curriculum is 6 months. Actually 87% of the boys that participate, never go back into the system. Even with the program’s rate of success, a few managed to get away….back to the streets. I was losing some boys back to the streets because they needed money. Adams tried conventional methods, with not much success. I would call burger king or I’d call Mcdonald’s. I tried everything, and ultimately the boys were not getting work. That’s when Phase 2 of Empowered Youth was born. Adams knew, that in order to bridge the gap between those who never returned back to life on the streets from the others, that she would have to teach them how to tap into their gifts, talents and skills to earn money legally and off the streets. We just leave them out there to fend for themselves, and then we judge them. Adams firmly believes these young men are our future leaders and entrepreneurs. She wants them to have a real shot at success. They’re good kids from terrible circumstances, and until we get that right…we’re failing them 100%.
SHE’S MAKING “HEDGEWAY” IN A BOYS CLUBShe’s an entrepreneur and one of Fort Lauderdale’s biggest landscaping contractor’s on the scene today. Her story begins in Ocala as a little girl growing up without a mother. Her upbringing was one of the motivating factors influencing her desire to start a business. Her name is Jacondra Lewis, and this is her story. I made arrangements to meet at her office in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The landscape out front, leading to the front door is being tended by one of her staff. As I approach I can see out the corner of my eye, Lewis. “I need that edge tighter.” I look up and notice a woman about 5 feet tall in a Dickies shirt, and pants. She’s standing there, with one hand on her hip and one hand in the air motioning to her staff. She notices me right away. “You must be Shani!” Yes ma’am, so pleased to meet you. She grabs the front door with her hands and motions me in. “Right this way.” I notice her hot pink nails and comment, “Love your nails,” I announce. She smiles and says, thank you. “It’s my way of keeping the little girl in me happy. I’m around guys days in and day out with jeans and Dickie shirts.” As I sit in a small conference room on the side of her office we begin. I wanted to know how she ended up here? “I started my business with $20.00 and one lawn mower. I don’t have a business degree or anything. I barely graduated from high school. My father basically raised me with my two brothers. My mother died when I was 6 months old. She was killed in a car crash. I really have no memories of her. I have a few photos my father saved, that’s it. She had no brothers or sisters. She was a stay-at-home mom. My dad was the breadwinner. He cut grass and had at least 100 clients back then. I’m a daddy’s girl and my fondest memories with him were spent riding shotgun in his big green lawn truck.” So basically your dad was your first exposure to entrepreneurship, right? “Absolutely. A lot of what I’m doing today grew from the seed of business ownership, my father planted over 20 years ago.” She motions to a picture hanging on the wall. “I think it’s so important for youth to see real examples of what entrepreneurship look like. He’s gone, but I know he’d be proud of JL Landscaping. I started with one client. I was 16 years old and the only girl in my circle that could cut grass better than most boys my age. “ You were named in “Fort Lauderdale Living “ as one of the top 30 under 30, how does that feel? “It’s an honor and a blessing.” Some of her clients include the city Mayor and two colleges. Her revenue last year was around 3 million dollars. This year she hopes to double that.