entrepreneurship

League of EXTRAordinary Black Men: Rahmell Dash

League of EXTRAordinary Black Men: Rahmell Dash

League Of Extraordinary Black Men

I want to make a difference whether it’s in my own community, nationwide or worldwide.  ~Rahmell Dash

I want to make a difference whether it’s in my own community, nationwide or worldwide. ~Rahmell Dash

TheBlackManCan is making its way back to the state of Virginia to bring you another EXTRAordinary Black Man. We bring to you a Black Man who is not only committed to creating a successful business but also successfully running it. We proudly present Rahmell Dash Co-Founder and CFO of From Start 2 Finish Consulting Services, Inc. Rahmell sits down with TheBlackManCan to discuss mental health, advice for young black men and entrepreneurship.

TheBlackManCan: Rahmell, at what point in your life did you realize that mental health was an area of interest?

RD: Rahmell Dash began generating an interest in the mental health field during his undergraduate years at Virginia State University. Mr. Dash always had a passion for business therefore he obtained his Bachelors in Business Marketing. While attending Virginia State University Mr. Dash pledged Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated and the fraternity opened multiple doors to expand and enhance his business network. Mr. Dash had acquired mentorship from a fraternity brother who successfully operated a Human Service company specializing in Behavioral Health servicing adult and children. Mr. Dash’s mentor allowed him to shadow his operations along with providing him with a wealth of knowledge within the Human Services field. Through research and the wealth of knowledge provided by his mentor, Mr. Dash decided to venture off to open his own Behavioral Health company called From Start 2 Finish Counseling Services to assist at-risk adults who suffer from a mental health illness.

TheBlackManCan: Why does mental health need to be a focus within the Black Community? Why even a more hyper focus on Black Men?

RD: 1. Access to Care: According to the National Institute of Mental Health, African Americans and other diverse communities are underserved by the nation’s mental health system.

2. Cultural Issues: African Americans often turn to family, church, and community to cope with a mental illness. Many African Americans underestimate the impact of mental disorders. Issues of distrust in the health care system and mental illness stigma frequently lead African Americans to initially seek mental health support from non-medical sources.

3. Rates of Mental Disorders: Rates of mental illnesses in African American communities are similar to those of the general population. For some disorders, such as schizophrenia and mood disorders, there is a high probability of misdiagnosis because of difference in how African Americans express symptoms of emotional distress. And while the rate of substance use among African American is lower than other ethnicities, alcohol and drugs are responsible for more deaths in the African American community than any other chronic disease in the U.S.

In conclusion, cultural identity encompasses distinct patterns of belief and practices that have implications for one’s willingness to seek treatment from and to be adequately served by mental health care providers. More research must be done to better understand mental health disparities and to develop culturally competent interventions for African Americans.

My word of advice to my black males would be to never be afraid to dream but furthermore don’t be afraid to live out your dreams.  ~ Rahmell Dash

My word of advice to my black males would be to never be afraid to dream but furthermore don’t be afraid to live out your dreams. ~ Rahmell Dash

TheBlackManCan: What is the meaning behind the name of From Start 2 Finish Counseling Services? What is the mission and vision behind your firm? 

RD: The meaning behind the name of From Start 2 Finish Counseling Services is quite simple. We envisioned our organization to help a population that has been faced with mental disorders and to help that person overcome their hurdles through year round counseling services. In essence, we developed a program to help a person live more self sufficient through working with that person “From Start 2 Finish”. From the very first moment they inquire our services until that person discharges from our services and graduates from the program.

From Start 2 Finish currently provides Mental Health Skill Building to “at risk” adults.  The focus of these services is to assist adults with independent living.  We specifically provide the training and support necessary to enable adults with significant psychiatric functional limitations to achieve and maintain community stability and independence in the most appropriate, least restrictive environment.

There is no easy road in life, especially when it comes to being successful. Work hard and acquire the knowledge that you will need to grow; learners are leaders. ~ Rahmell Dash

There is no easy road in life, especially when it comes to being successful. Work hard and acquire the knowledge that you will need to grow; learners are leaders. ~ Rahmell Dash

TheBlackManCan: If you had to pick three books every young man should read what would they be and why?

RD: The three books that I think every young man should consider reading would be:

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: John Maxwell

The Art of War: Sun Tzu

The books taught me how to become a well-rounded leader, which is extremely helpful with myself leading a staff of 13 employees. In order to become an effective leader one must first learn the art of how to lead.

TheBlackManCan: Where do you see yourself and your firm within the next five-years?

RD: I am in the works solidifying multiple partnerships that are extremely major endeavors. Do not be surprised if you see me publicized in Forbes or Fortune in the next five years. As far as From Start 2 Finish Counseling Services, we will expand our services along with our locations. We will expand our target market, not just limiting our services for adults but also will target children as well. We are also considering venturing out into the non profit sector to provide services to those individuals who are un-insured or do not qualify for our level of services but are in need of mental health treatment.

Our black youth need positive role models to look up to and our black men need to step up and begin serving as role models and mentors for our black youth. ~ Rahmell Dash

Our black youth need positive role models to look up to and our black men need to step up and begin serving as role models and mentors for our black youth. ~ Rahmell Dash

TheBlackManCan: Why is it important for Black boys and men to see positive images of themselves?

RD: It is truly imperative that black boys and/or men to see positive images of them selves because doing so will drive that individual and motivate them to accomplish the unthinkable. Our black youth need positive role models to look up to and our black men need to step up and begin serving as role models and mentors for our black youth. It bothers me that there is very few positive black men out there who are willing to take the time to mentor our youth but will be the first to scrutinize when our black youth slip through the cracks. Lets take a stand and step up men to help empower our youth.

TheBlackManCan: What words of advice do you have for young black males of today?

RD: I would like for my black males especially of today to realize that the jails are over crowded with us and are continuing to overflow. There is no easy road in life, especially when it comes to being successful. Work hard and acquire the knowledge that you will need to grow; learners are leaders. I am motivated everyday by my Dream of being the most influential and successful person in the world. I want to make a difference whether it’s in my own community, nationwide or worldwide. Wherever God leads me I am content with that. My word of advice to my black males would be to never be afraid to dream but furthermore don’t be afraid to live out your dreams.

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Positive Black Male News: Stinky Cakes Founder Mychal Connolly Has a Passion for Entrepreneurship

Positive Black Male News: Stinky Cakes Founder Mychal Connolly Has a Passion for Entrepreneurship

Positive Black Male News

mikecSeveral years ago, with his second son on the way, Mychal Connolly and his wife already had many of the items normally given at showers.

“We just wanted diapers — my son already had a crib and a playpen,” he recalled. “I said, ‘could we please have diapers?’”

As it turns out, no. Not as a gift, anyway. “Even though diapers were a practical gift, people want to give a fun gift; it’s not a one-sided experience.”

He found the solution to that dilemma in Stinky Cakes, the product he launched in 2009 with the express purpose of making diaper giving fun.

“My wife and I both love marketing, and we thought about how we could get baby-shower folks buying diapers,” he told BusinessWest. “We started thinking about what we could do to make diapers match the baby-shower theme, and one common item all baby showers have is a cake. So we thought, ‘OK if we made diapers look like a cake, it could be part of the theme.’”

The couple spent a few months trying to make the idea — essentially a bunch of diapers arranged in the shape of a cake and wrapped with decorative ribbon — work. When they had produced a prototype, they showed it to Connolly’s mother-in-law, who promptly bought one as a gift. When she returned from the party with several more orders in hand, Connolly knew he was onto something.

When they officially launched a business under the striking name Stinky Cakes — “people either love the name or hate the name,” he said, but they certainly remember it — the couple had two young boys and no reserve funds to tap, so they moved forward by making hard budget choices. “Instead of buying fancy clothes, we bought a website. Instead of going out to movies and restaurants, we bought business cards that sent people to the website. Eventually we saw revenue coming in from the website.”

Not knowing anything about media buying — and, again, with little initial money to work with — Connolly went to WMAS and worked out a deal for radio spots, and that helped, too. “We just worked our butts off. Most people who start business ventures quit after they don’t see any results, but the problem is not the product. It’s not the area. It’s not the consumers. It’s the entrepreneur.”

To say Connolly is passionate about entrepreneurship is an understatement. Beyond his business selling Stinky Cakes, he has written two books on entrepreneurship and regularly speaks to audiences on the topic — both in person and through a pervasive social-media presence, including a blog centered on starting and running a business.

He’s not convinced anyone can be an entrepreneur, but “if it’s in you, it can be nurtured. Entrepreneurs see the world differently. They don’t see a problem, just something that hasn’t been solved yet. They solve the problem, and then plug people in to keep that system going.

“Entrepreneurship is a mindset that creates systems to solve problems,” he reiterated. “That’s what entrepreneurship is. If you don’t create systems, don’t call yourself an entrepreneur.”

Candy Crush

Growing up in the Bahamas, Connolly probably didn’t call himself an entrepreneur, but he certainly had the mindset.

“My stepfather had a little pest-control business,” he explained, and as a child, he’d tag along on jobs. “I’m very analytical, and I paid attention, and I saw that, in wealthy people’s homes, their coffee tables always had business publications.”

He started watching finance shows on television even though the concepts weren’t exactly pitched to kids. “I’d watch the shows with the ticker, and I didn’t understand what people were saying, but I knew I wanted to. That’s how I started falling in love with entrepreneurship.”

Then, at age 9, he started a candy company “by mistake.”

He recalled that his grandmother would go to Florida and return with “loads and loads” of candy that was unavailable on his island, and he shared it with his friends. But he eventually grew tired of people hounding him for treats, so he started saying they were for sale, not free, just to get them off his back. “Instead of leaving me alone, they said, ‘how much?’”

He knew about concepts like price markup from those business magazines, so he started earning money selling the candy and chilly treats he’d make by freezing Kool-Aid. “My grandmother had no idea this stuff was going on,” Connolly recalled — but soon after she found out, the two teamed up in the business, and she eventually left her own job to sell candy — and did so until her death in 2005.

He had caught the sales bug, and already recognized that his mind was suited to identifying needs and meeting them. “If you told me 25 years ago when all this was happening that I’d be in Western Mass. doing this, I’d say you’re crazy,” he said. “But I always knew I would be an entrepreneur; I just didn’t know what the product would be.”

Fast-forward to 2009, the first full year in the diaper business, and early sales were strong. But the following year raised some serious issues that had nothing to do with baby gifts.

“I ended up working so hard on the company that I wasn’t sleeping, and I was eating really badly,” Connolly said, noting that his weight, which had been around 220, shot up 70 pounds, and he ended up becoming diabetic, with high blood pressure and high cholesterol to boot.

He sought help — and it’s a good thing he did. “The ICU doctor said that, if I hadn’t come in, I would have ended up in a diabetic coma. I could have died. Fortunately, I survived, and that made me grow up mentally as an entrepreneur. I always had this goal that, when I was done [building a company], I would start a foundation to help kids become entrepreneurs. But when I was staying in the ICU, I realized time is really precious, and tomorrow is guaranteed to no one.”

So for the next year and a half, he took his foot off the gas and “let Stinky Cakes run on autopilot” while he instead focused his energies on working with young people through Westover Job Corps, teaching them entrepreneurship, marketing, and leadership skills, among other things.

Many of the questions they asked him became part of his book Launch + Stand Out, in which he breaks down 23 different business ideas and discusses how he would apply the Stinky Cakes model to each of them. Throughout, he never loses focus on the importance of marketing.

“It’s not about the diapers; it’s about marketing and branding; that’s where it all happens,” he said. “Companies don’t go out of business because of lack of capital; they go out of business because of lack of sales.”

Changing Times

But Connelly is a natural marketer, expressing his passion for entrepreneurship through various forms of media, old and new, and, by extension, keeping his identity as Mr. Stinky Cakes at the forefront.

His blog — mrstinkycakes.com, of course — is one mode of communication. Others include an active social-media presence (and a book, Going Viral Unlocked, about using social media to grow a business), his public speaking through the Empact Connect network, and his role as entrepreneurial correspondent for The Engine, a radio show on WHYN 560-AM launched by Junior Achievement.

Connolly emphasizes financial literacy on the show, noting that people often don’t realize its importance. “If you give an entrepreneur $1 billion to start a company but he’s not financially literate, be prepared to give him another billion in a year.”

And it’s still not something adequately addressed in schools, he added. “We go to school to learn to read and learn to write, but where do you go to learn how to make money? Nowhere.”

He said guiding young people toward their own self-created success stories is especially gratifying.

“That’s the reason I’m a spokesperson for Junior Achievement, being able to help a kid who wants to be an entrepreneur, when no one is able to answer his questions for him. He’s got a mindset that most people are never going to understand, and when I see the lightbulb go on — when he thinks, ‘I can do this’ — that’s the best feeling.”

He recalled another satisfying moment, this one before an adult audience at Holyoke Community College. “When I was done talking, this lady comes up to me, crying. I said, ‘why are you crying?’ She said, ‘because what you said about overcoming fear — that’s the same thing my grandfather used to tell me.’ I said, ‘that’s not me talking, and it’s not your grandfather talking. That’s the successful version of you telling you where you need to go.’

That said, “not everyone is built for the fast track. I think the best entrepreneurs see the path from point A to point B and follow it; they don’t allow any noise or distractions to deter them.”

Again, whether it’s an e-commerce venture or any other type of business, “honestly, the key to it is marketing, marketing, marketing,” Connolly told BusinessWest. “There’s a market for everything. There are grandmothers blogging and writing books on knitting and making $1 million, because they have 50,000 people buying their $20 book.”

It makes sense that he’d come back to grandmothers, since his own played such a key role in his development as an entrepreneur.

“I don’t have an MBA, none of that stuff,” he said. “But I had that 9-year-old entrepreneurship moment with my grandmother, so I knew it worked. If I didn’t have that moment, I don’t think I would have started Stinky Cakes.”

mikec2

Living the Dream

Connolly was quick to add, however, that entrepreneurship isn’t easy, even for those who grow up with that passion.

“Entrepreneurship is a lonely, dark place at times,” he said. “You speak a different language, and if you’re not around people who speak the same language, you have to have a mindset where you know where you’re going, and just keep moving forward.”

Even as his writing and speaking roles continue to grow, Stinky Cakes will continue to be a big part of Connolly’s life, although he has shifted the business model to emphasize the residual income streams developed by forging partnerships with other companies.

“That’s my baby; that’s why I call myself Mr. Stinky Cakes,” he said. “But I’m a serial entrepreneur; I love being involved with fun startups and companies that are growing. To me, that’s like breathing.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at bednar@businesswest.com

Source: Social Media Bar

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Positive Black Male News: Moziah Bridges, 11-Year-Old Entrepreneur, Bringing Back The Bow Tie With ‘Mo’s Bows’

Positive Black Male News: Moziah Bridges, 11-Year-Old Entrepreneur, Bringing Back The Bow Tie With ‘Mo’s Bows’

Positive Black Male News

Forbes  |  By Karsten Strauss

When you look at the short but potential-packed career of Moziah Bridges, one gets the impression that this is a young man in a hurry. The Memphis, Tennessee-based youth is carving himself a place in the fashion world one bow tie at a time.

Young Master Bridges – Mo, for short – has been designing and sewing his own ties since his grandmother taught him how when he was nine years old. Like all innovators (yeah, I said “innovators,” let’s give it to him) his product ideas arose out of a lack he saw on the market.

“I really was a young dapper man and I couldn’t find any other bow ties that I really like,” he told Fox News. “So my grandma – my lovely grandma – she’s been sewing for over 80 years, or something crazy like that, so I wanted to start my own business making bow ties.”

“You don’t have to wait until you’re older,” his mother Tramica Morris said. “If you have a dream and you have a passion, we say go for it.”

Bridges chooses the fabrics for his creations himself and is quite particular about the styles. His pieces range from relatively traditional polka-dots and stripes to multi-colored paisley and sports team-themed ties. He has earned over $30,000 thus far with his one-man (one-boy) business, selling on his own Etsy page accessible from his website.

But Bridges is also attracting the attention of retail stores. According to his site, his wares are available in boutiques in Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina and Arkansas. He recently got a shout-out from Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine.

Bridges has also created a product that raises funds for a charity. “I made this bow tie called the Go Mo! Scholarship Bow Tie and 100 percent of the proceeds go to help kids go to summer camp because I feel like it’s good to help the community and that’s what I’m doing.”

As for the future of Mo’s Bows, Bridges told FORBES that he’s looking to expand his offerings. “I see Mo’s Bows adding neck ties, pocket squares and other accessories for men,” he wrote in an email. “I also want to get enough money to start a cool kids clothing company that has nice blazers and pants for kids who like to look good like me.

Ralph Lauren started selling neck ties when he was 10 years old so I think I can be real famous like him so I will keep my business going all the way until I get older.”

The surge in online shopping and ecommerce has liberated several generations of artisans and entrepreneurs. No longer slowed by the cost of paying for brick-and-mortar retail stores, designers of products from fashion accessories to software are finding that not only can they start and run their own businesses for less money and less help, they can also make a killing doing it.

The ease of starting up an online shopping experience has freed up the younger generation as well and kids with supportive parents to offer a guiding hand can get a head start as entrepreneurs, turning their interests into businesses. One notable success story in progress is 15-year-old Madison Robinson, of Galveston, Texas, founder of Fish Flops apparel. Robinson has exceeded $1 million in sales and looks to expand her product line while inking deals with mega-retailer Macy’s.

Will Bridges reach a similar money milestone some day? He is certainly on the right track.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/06/mos-bows-bow-tie_n_3714536.html

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League of EXTRAordinary Black Men: Francis Orekoya

League of EXTRAordinary Black Men: Francis Orekoya

League Of Extraordinary Black Men

I think the entrepreneurial spirit developed because of my passion to have a positive impact on people’s lives. ~ Francis Orekoya

I think the entrepreneurial spirit developed because of my passion to have a positive impact on people’s lives. ~ Francis Orekoya

TheBlackManCan is in Brooklyn, NY to bring you a rising star in the fashion industry. We bring to you a man whose goal is to create original works of art that are simple yet sophisticated, while giving glory to the most high and embracing Religion, Ethnicity, Art & Culture. It is our distinct pleasure to introduce Francis Orekoya creator and sole designer of FDyanmo1986. Francis sits down with TheBlackManCan to discuss success, having an entrepreneurial mindset, FDynamo1986 and overcoming obstacles.

TheBlackManCan: Francis, how do you define success? What does it take to be successful?

FO: Success is when you accomplish your goals in life. One’s goal may be to get married and have a family, or to land that dream job they’ve always wanted, and they won’t feel successful until they do so.

TheBlackManCan: How did you develop your entrepreneurial spirit? Why is it important for youth of today to develop an entrepreneurial spirit and mindset?

FO: I think the entrepreneurial spirit developed because of my passion to have a positive impact on people’s lives. An entrepreneurs job is to make a living by satisfying others, building connections, and giving consumers something they want/need. For me, whether it’s selling someone a shirt that makes them feel good, or leading and team to victory, I love to serve others. When the youth develop this mindset, they’ll be able to be great at anything, because realistically, we are all working to help someone else feel good.

TheBlackManCan: You excelled in the classroom and on the athletic field. Why is it important to embrace the student part of being a student-athlete?

FO: More than likely, most teenagers WANT to play sports, but feel like they HAVE to be a student. In life, we will always do what we have to do, in order to do what we want to do. Embracing the student part of being a student-athlete prepares us for life.

 The inspiration comes from a lot of things actually. Music, culture, religion, people, traveling, New York city, animals etc. These things help me create original works of art with substance and meaning. ~Francis Orekoya

The inspiration comes from a lot of things actually. Music, culture, religion, people, traveling, New York city, animals etc. These things help me create original works of art with substance and meaning. ~Francis Orekoya

TheBlackManCan: What ignited the spark to start FDynamo1986? What is the meaning behind the name?

FO: The “F” stands for Francis, my first name. “Dynamo” was one of my older brothers nicknames, and I wanted to be like him, so I started calling myself Dynamo. Lastly, “1986″ is the year I was born, and together the name “F.Dynamo1986″ was created. I knew that I always wanted to use my God given gift to draw as a way to make a living, so I combined that with my passion of making people feel good. Seeing someone feel confident or attractive wearing an item I created is something I can do for the rest of my life.

TheBlackManCan: What is the inspiration behind the designs of FDynamo1986?

FO: The inspiration comes from a lot of things actually. Music, culture, religion, people, traveling, New York city, animals etc. These

 In life, we will always do what we have to do, in order to do what we want to do. ~ Francis Orekoya

In life, we will always do what we have to do, in order to do what we want to do. ~ Francis Orekoya

help me create original works of art with substance and meaning. Designs that represent things that people can relate to and would want to embrace.

TheBlackManCan: Can you tell us about your upcoming summer line? What can we expect? Where can one purchase FDynamo1986?

FO: The summer line is part 2 of our “Hail to the Victors” line. The designs in this line represent victory, something we all want. Some designs have a sports feel, some have a religious feel, but all in all we want people to walk out of their homes feeling like winners wearing FD86. You can expect simple yet sophisticated art, with great summer color schemes, and a photo-shoot/look book that represents a victory party! The line will be sold online at FD86.com, but you can buy them in person at Ragga Muffin, Last Minute Boutique and The City Don’t Sleep, all stores that are located in Brooklyn NY.

TheBlackManCan: Where do you see yourself and FDynamo1986 in the next five years?

FO: Being a household name amongst our target market and having a great impact on people’s lives.

The more black men and boys see Black Presidents, Fathers, Teachers, Coaches, Doctors, Business owners, etc., the more they'll believe that they can do the same. ~ Francis Orekoya

The more black men and boys see Black Presidents, Fathers, Teachers, Coaches, Doctors, Business owners, etc., the more they’ll believe that they can do the same. ~ Francis Orekoya

TheBlackManCan: What have been some of the obstacles you had to overcome in life and starting your business?

FO: Understanding that it’s a process, a long process. People don’t become doctors overnight, it takes years of school to just get the degree, then you have to take time to actually find a job. I had to understand that it’s the same with being an entrepreneur (or anything), it takes years of learning, before you can even get in the door.

TheBlackManCan: If you have to name two books every person should read what would they be and why?

FO: “The Bible” and “The Tipping Point”. “The Tipping Point” because it explains how little things can make a big difference, every house is made of little bricks, nails etc. and they are ALL necessary. “The Bible” because whether you believe in God or not, the advice given in that book cannot be matched and it relates to all aspects of life. There is no problem The Bible doesn’t have an answer to (you just have to find it).

My advice is that we must work hard, work together, and work in peace! ~Francis Orekoya

My advice is that we must work hard, work together, and work in peace! ~Francis Orekoya

TheBlackManCan: Why is it important for black men and boys to see positive images of themselves?

FO: Because most people tend to believe that they can only be what they see. It’s hard to tell or influence an African American to can be a Nascar driver, when there aren’t any popular drivers, if any at all. The more black men and boys see Black Presidents, Fathers, Teachers, Coaches, Doctors, Business owners, etc., the more they’ll believe that they can do the same.

TheBlackManCan: What words of advice do you have your young black males of today?

FO: My advice is that we must work hard, work together, and work in peace! The only way to be anything worth something, is to work hard, very hard. Whether it’s to be a good father, employee, employer or friend, it’s all hard work, no ways around it. Now although we must work hard, I was once told that “more hands makes less work”. If we work hard and together we can accomplish a lot as a community! Lastly, if we work hard, together, and peacefully, we will all live a blessed life, together as black men!

Visit Fdynamo1986 Now –> http://www.fdynamo1986.com/

Go and Shop now –> http://www.fdynamo1986.com/shop/

League of EXTRAordinary is where we at TheBlackManCan highlight Black Men who are making positive and remarkable contributions to society. Nominate a Black Male today on the contact page or team@theblackmancan.org

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League of EXTRAordinary Black Men: J.T. Solomon

League of EXTRAordinary Black Men: J.T. Solomon

League Of Extraordinary Black Men

Listen to advice, but most importantly, listen to yourself. Finally dream big and strive to be the best. ~ J.T. Solomon

Listen to advice, but most importantly, listen to yourself. Finally dream big and strive to be the best. ~ J.T. Solomon

TheBlackManCan is in New York, NY to interview J.T. Solomon, Editor-In-Chief and Publisher of The FIRM Magazine .  Check out what this EXTRAordinary Black Man had to say about his experience as an entrepreneur.

TheBlackManCan: JT, What led you to create The FIRM Magazine?

JTS: Well I had the idea for F.I.R.M. since my Sophomore year at Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA. I had been a reader of VIBE, The Source, and Black Enterprise for a long time, but I was felt like something was missing. Vibe and The Source had everything you wanted to know in the entertainment world and Black Enterprise had all of your business needs. But I didn’t see why both of them couldn’t be combined to form one publication. So I drafted a business plan for a magazine that would not only entertain my readers, but would educate them on everything they needed to know to help them mentally, physically, and financially prepare for the future. But I put it on the back-burner to pursue my Masters in Publishing at Pace University in New York. After they visited my Shakespeare class at Morehouse to recruit, I had a better understanding of what I needed to do to get this magazine off the ground.

I worked on it a little more in my “Creating a Magazine” class where my professors, Vaughn Benjamin and Betty Rockmore (who also worked in the publishing industry during the day), gave me excellent advice on how to clean-up the business plan draft I had created in college. I learned the publishers role, editorial work-flow, production and distribution, and online publishing at Pace and was ready to put my plan into action. But again, I put it off because of job opportunities after graduating Pace in 2007. I went on to work for Reed Business Information, American Media, and Conde Nast Publications mainly in Production and Distribution.

It was only after getting laid-off in 2009 that I was able to pick my draft back up and fully devote all of my time to making my dream happen. I was confident about my knowledge of the industry and where it was going and now had the experience to back it up. I realized I would have to choose between being comfortable and achieving my dream. I chose to achieve my dream and have been working on F.I.R.M. since then.

TheBlackManCan: Why did you decided to focus on Fashion, Investments, Recreation and Music?

JTS: I decided to focus on Fashion, Investment, Recreation, and Music by accident. It was a great acronym, but it needed to fit what I wanted to accomplish in the magazine. Then I had an epiphany – The things that make most people happy fall under these four categories. Looking good, living good, having fun, and great lyrics and a beat can a big difference in your life. But I wanted the magazine to be more than just entertaining. So in establishing the entertainment side, I also found an opportunity to educate people while they were being entertained.

Fashion for instance is not only about the clothes and trends of today, but also how to wear them. Appearance unfortunately IS everything. From the moment someone meets you ( and sometimes before an introduction), they are subconsciously or consciously forming an opinion about you based on what they see. You want to make sure you make a great first impression and you don’t have to do it by wearing every designer label known to man. You just have to develop your own style and dress for the occasion. Also, I discovered that this was the perfect time to educate all of those people who had an intrest in fashion but may not be model material. Let’s face it; everyone is not a model. But models need clothes, stylists, make-up, and a lot more in order to be the person we see on magazine covers and runways. I feel that through interviews, columns, and editorial pieces, I could reach someone who may have thought their dream of working in the Fashion industry was over simply because they weren’t model material.

When people think of investments, they automatically think of money, but its so much more. I wanted to educate people on the other things they should be investing in like real-estate, credit, friends, time, politics and even their communities. We tend to put these things off in our pursuit of wealth and find that they are tied-in as well. I also wanted to educate those who might want to go into these areas the same way I did for Fashion.

Recreation is another category that covers an array of things such as  food, travel, film/theatre/art, sports and lifestyles. In order to grow we have to expose ourselves to different things. Most people don’t even own a passport. I admit that I have never traveled outside of the United States (but will be doing so soon). i wanted to expose my readers to different cultures, places and things to broaden their scope of the world. We tend to live inside of a bubble; oblivious to the things going on outside of the familiar. after reading recreation, it is my hope that my reader will be exposed to something they didn’t know about before or at least open up to doing new things.

Finally, music is the biggest category. There’s a song for everyone. Unfotunately because of the radio, most people listen to the same songs. There are so many talented artists out there with great music that we dont hear everyday. I wanted to expose my listeners to different music in hopes of broadening their scope on music. I also wanted to take the time to educate thos that are interested in the music industry, but might not be the artist. Not everyone can perform music and not everyone should.  But just because you can’t perform it doesn’t mean you can’t write, produce, or market it. The industry needs songwriters, producers, instrumentalists, and managers as well. Also there are bills like the Performance Rights Act that every artist should know about because it affects their trade, but don’t because they are so focused on the money aspect. I want my readers to get this information from my magazine.

TheBlackManCan: How did you develop a passion for writing?

JTS: To be honest, I was involved in a shooting incident while I was in undergrad. I was a bystander that got hit by a stray bullet. I was angry and didn’t know how to realease the anger about the situation. It happened on campus and i felt like the administration at that time did nothing to help me. I had worked hard to get into Morehouse, paid money I never had to attend (at that time it was only $25,000 a year compared to the $40,000 it costs now), and earned good grades. I wanted to know how it was allowed to happen to me on campus. I had no one to talk to or relate to and writing it out in a notebook became a release for me. I started to write in it everyday, sometimes at the expense of my school work. Then one day after hearing a poem I had written, one of my classmates asked why I was a computer science major instead of an english major? Money was the only reason I was a computer science major. I heard that they got paid and coming from a single-parent struggling household, that was good enough. but after the incident, it wasn’t enough anymore. So I switched my major and have been on this road ever since then.
TheBlackManCan: How has print and online publishing changed over the past few years?

JTS: Some people have said that print is dead. Don’t believe that. People like the feel of a magazine in their hand especially when their battery has ran out. Magazines, unlike newspapers, were not built on a “news now” structure. They started off as ways people could capture timely events and read up on their favorite hobbies and trades. I believe the fall of print magazines had to do with the cost of production and distribution and the intricacies that go into creating cost-cutting plans that will help to get the product out without breaking the publisher/publishing company. Since magazine postage is determined by weight and advertising, big books like Vogue and Interior Design cost a lot of money to be mailed. I think people see now that it is cheaper to create online magazines than it is to create them in print. Also they are much more accessable to a wider range of people which the internet made possible. Some people say that print is dying or dead. I believe that it has only become secondary to the internet. You just have to figure out what the people want and how to deliver it to them. The new generation doesn’t like paper ( me included). It clutters up everything and is not needed with so much access to the internet.
TheBlackManCan: FIRM magazine is geared toward the 21-35 year old demographic, why did you choose this target audience?

JTS: I wanted to target this audience because it is the decision-making and defining period of our lives. It is where obtaining that credit card can affect our ability to purchase a new home. Where wearing the wrong clothes can keep us from landing the right job. Where eating the wrong foods can cause us a lifetime of stress and problems. Where living in a bubble can evoke feelings of regret later down  the road. This demographic is the tipping point of our lives and I believe F.I.R.M. can make the biggest impact at this stage.
TheBlackManCan: How has the growth of social media been important to the growth of FIRM Magazine?

JTS: It’s funny you should ask this because I was just telling someone else that most of the writers I get I have never met or don’t see on a regular basis. In fact, two of my writers in the music department have been working with each other for several months now and have never met each other until I brought them together for an after-work event recently. I interact with them through text, email, Twitter, and Facebook. It has made starting this business easier. I am able to build my brand using Facebook and Twitter and reach people I might not have reached if this magazine was solely in print form. You can hit so many people at the same time without costly marketing which makes things easier. Not to say marketing is not needed, but now you can do most of the initial footwork yourself.
TheBlackManCan: What are your future plans for FIRM magazine?

JTS: I plan to bring F.I.R.M. out in a print version a couple of times a year and also launch a couple of conferences, events, and community initiatives. I got a couple of other things up my sleeve too, but you’ll have to watch and read to find out. Trust me, F.I.R.M. Magazine is going to do publishing in a way that no other magazines have done it before. We are the new face of publishing.
TheBlackManCan: What words of advice would you like to leave for the youth of today?

JTS: Shoot for the stars…and if you miss…get a bigger gun and blast them all out of the sky and take your pick. You have to try a couple of things in order to find the business that works. Don’t be afraid to try something outside of your comfort zone. Listen to advice, but most importantly, listen to yourself. Finally dream big and strive to be the best.

You can reach J.T. Solomon at jt_solomon@firmmagazine.net.

League of EXTRAordinary is where we at TheBlackManCan highlight Black Men who are making positive and remarkable contributions to society. Nominate a Black Male today on the contact page or team@theblackmancan.org

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