I’ll Mind My Business! – Transcript – Kevin Wortham
Written by Kurtis Baker on May 6, 2018
Our host, Kurtis Baker, is joined by Kevin Wortham of Minding Our Business! Find out how you can help our youth and how to become an entraprenuer!
I’ll Mind My Business!
00:26 Kurt Baker: You’re listening to a podcast of Master Your Finances, with me, Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional. Sunday mornings at 9:00 AM on 1077thebronc.com.
00:35 Announcer: You are listening to an encore presentation of Master Your Finances with Kurtis Baker, originally aired December 4th, 2016. Tune in next week, May 13th, for an all new episode of Master Your Finances with Kurtis Baker, exclusively on 107.7 The Bronc and masteryourfinances.us.
00:52 Announcer: Financial views and information provided by Master Your Finances and its guest, are intended for general informational purposes only. The material discussed is not designed to provide listeners with individualized, financial, legal or tax advice. Always consult your financial planner for professional advice.
01:07 Kurt Baker: Certified Wealth Management and Investment, I am Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional, hosting your show today. And I am located here in Princeton, New Jersey. I could be reached through our website which is www.cwmi.us, or you can call me directly at 609-716-4700. And today our producer is Kyrie. Last week we were very pleased to have qith us, was Richard or Rick Burke, a broker associate with Berkshire Hathaway, Fox and Roach Realtors. And he discussed pretty in depth about aging, and some of the different options available in planning, for as we get a little older as far as our housing goes, and all the different things that we need to think about. If you missed that show or would like to listen to that, you can go to our podcast website, which is www.masteryourfinances.us, and listen to that podcast as well as any of our podcasts here at Master Your Finances, at any time.
02:03 Kurt Baker: This week, we’re very pleased to have with us, Kevin Wortham, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Minding Our Business, or MOB. Kevin, made a lot of changes in young youth. He worked with Steve Mariotti, the Founder and President of NFTE, which is NFTE, the National Foundation for Teaching and Entrepreneurship. Kevin was recognized by them as one of the founding teachers, and one of the best entrepreneurial educators in America today, for the middle and high school levels. He’s teamed up with the national local community-based organization, churches and schools and civic groups. Kevin has become a lead component and formidable team member, that we call our Vanguard, affirming all that we desire is possible. And Mr. Wortham motivates, inspires and encourages people to follow their entrepreneurial dreams. What you do that gives you your greatest passion. Throughout his seminars, lectures in classroom facilitations, Mr. Wortham urges people to think beyond their personal and social boundaries, and create businesses that will become part of a communal legacy.
03:24 Kurt Baker: As an entrepreneur educator and business consultant, Mr. Wortham has traveled extensively promoting the concept of entrepreneurial enclave, a place where culturally distinctive people gather to recognize opportunities, and to act upo0n opportunities. As an advocate, Mr. Wortham urges economic literacy, having all minorities understand the economy and its global impact. He’d be best characterize himself as a social entrepreneurial leader, creating leadership capacities, and utilizing entrepreneurial principles to solve the concerns of the urban communities. And as Co-Founder, Executive Director of Minding Our Business, it’s a community outreach program born from Rider University, where we are at here today, of Business Administration. And Kevin infuses best practices, and the purpose of Minding Our Business program is to advance the personal and vocational development of low income youth and adults through our entrepreneur education, academic enrichment, and mentoring.
04:22 Kurt Baker: In 2008, the program was recognized by the prestigious center for summer learning at John Hopkins University, as one of the top 20 summer programs in the country. And once in a while he does a personal… and or Person comes along where their passions and enthusiasm is outshone by their commitment and perseverance. Although the challenges have been great, Kevin Wortham remains poise without reservation. He’s a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, and currently resides in Trenton, New Jersey. This is really fantastic, and I did a little bit of reading before we got on it, this is a relatively new phenomenon as far as on a wide scale.
05:01 Kevin Wortham: Yes.
05:02 Kurt Baker: I think this NFTE you mentioned before the show had been around for 37 or so years, but as far as through the colleges, it looks like it’s late ’80s, early ’90s, where people started deciding, “Hey, if we’re an entrepreneurial country, maybe we should start teaching our young people what that really means, and what we should be doing about that.” Because you might be born with that passion but you’re not born necessary with those tools to kinda put that passion in motion. How did you get involved and what’s kind of your beginning how you became passionate about entrepreneurial education yourself?
05:34 Kevin Wortham: Okay. But first of all, Kurt, thanks for having me. That was a wonderful introduction. As you were introducing me, I’m looking around saying, “Man, that sounds good. I wonder who that guy is.”
05:47 Kevin Wortham: I believe it was 1986, I am a junior at the University of Pittsburgh, and I started a business called KB Enterprise. And so at that time, I would travel around the Pittsburgh area, encouraging the students to consider coming to the University of Pittsburgh and then also consider more importantly, going to college. And through that, I thought that entrepreneurship, was something that I would really enjoy. You can control your own destiny, flexible hours, and it’s nothing like having other people see you being happy. And so often times you look around the room and folks were not happy, and the reason why they’re not happy is because they haven’t found their passion. And so I thought that in 1986, I found my passion through entrepreneurship, and that was something that I wanted to delve in a little deeper. And so I moved in that direction.
06:48 Kevin Wortham: So upon graduation, I continued the motivational speaking business and started several programs. One program was called BASS, Blacks Acclimating towards Social Success. And I am a graduate of Notre Dame High School, which is down the street. And so my football coach at that time, Chappy Moore, allowed me to come back and to talk to the African-American minority students at that time, about what it meant to be successful. And often times as I would go to the school, I would take a fellow Alumni from Notre Dame to come back to speak to those students, to encourage those students and just to be a sounding board for those students, because again, be mindful. At Notre Dame High School at that time, it was typically a Caucasian school. And so although African-Americans and minorities who were attending, we felt like we were a part of something, but we still didn’t have the true infusement of who we were.
07:48 Kevin Wortham: And so BASS allowed us to come together and really talk about those things that were particular to us. And so then from there, the BASS program kinda morphed into E equals MC square; Education equals Minorities Conquering Culture Shock. And so the BASS program, I did that on a volunteer basis. The E equals MC square, I did that on a paid program basis, and that was at a lot of the prep schools that we are familiar with today. And again, at the prep schools, they had the same issue, and some of those same issues are still pertinent today. And so the issue would be: I am a low income student, academically I am sound. I live in a poverty stricken neighborhood or community, but through my academics, I’m able to be here. You tell me, and everyone else tells me, that my peers are my equals. But I don’t feel that way when I have a bus pass to come to Hun, Princeton, PDS, Lawrenceville, Prep, whatever the case may be. But you’re 16 years of age, your parents are allowing you to drive a brand new BMW or a Mercedes Benz, how are we equal? Because I don’t see it. And you know when you’re a young kid, no matter what your parents may tell you, you only see what you see, and you don’t see equality in that.
09:19 Kevin Wortham: You know that academically you guys may be on par, but in terms of the image that you see and the image that your peers are projecting, we don’t see equalization in that. And so again, the program was allowing the students to have these informal, but heart to heart conversations. I would bring back to those schools, Alumni who have graduated, just to share with them that I too have faced those same challenges. But I too, have overcome those challenges and look at me today, I might be a CPA, I’m a real-estate broker, I’m an attorney, I’m a doctor. And so you too can do that, and so now that gave some pride to those students. And then at that time, there was what we call this huge brain drain, where you would take the best athletes that a black or minority community had to offer. You would then bring them to this elite prep school and because of their athleticism, they would just dominate the prep school scene.
10:25 Kevin Wortham: And the prep schools would go from let’s say a zero and 12 record, then now they’re like 12 and 0, but academically and socially, the student didn’t have that support. And so often times that same minority student would fail out, and sometimes they would fail because of academics, but most of the time they fail out of the school because of social enrichment, they didn’t fit in. And the schools did not consider themselves in a position to provide academic support or enrichment socially. And so here was this kid who was just out of order. And so the schools since that time, here we are some 20, 25, 30 years later, we’ve certainly gotten better. But every now and then, let’s call it what it is, racism, it will raise its ugly head and the community has to come back to support these students, and to also remind these schools that you’ve gotta do a better job in terms of social integration.
11:32 Kevin Wortham: I’ve moved off of that, and I was reading this article in Forbes Magazine, as to how Steve Mariotti was doing what he was doing with entrepreneurship. I said, “Wow, this is fantastic. I wanna do that.” Because now I wasn’t reaching high school students, but I was going after kids who were much younger. I found out where I could send my resume, called Steve. He says, “We wanna meet you.” So I went to Newark. [chuckle] And this was the late ’80s, early ’90s. Met Steve Mariotti, and Steve and I have been friends ever since.
12:18 Kevin Wortham: And so Steve and typical entrepreneurial fashion, had a fantastic passionate idea, and he began to call on some of the richest men in America to help fund this idea. And so one man that funded him was Ray Chambers. And Ray Chambers at that time was very instrumental in the rebirth of Newark. He had also owned the New Jersey Nets at that time. And so for him, this was in his wheelhouse to say, “I like this. This gives me this true 360 degree touching of young folks.” And so we began to work with Ready, which was Ray Chambers’ organization. And Steve and I just continued to build a business, and he had other colleagues and all of those colleagues that I met at that time, we still remain in constant contact with one another, and they still continue to do the entrepreneurial piece through different areas in the country.
13:24 Kurt Baker: Okay. So it sounds like you come a long way, in a relatively short period of time. It sounds like when you went to college, you saw this need and you had this burning desire to make a difference.
13:34 Kevin Wortham: Yes.
13:35 Kurt Baker: That’s a true entrepreneurial basic item, right? You have to be willing to take a risk, and you have to have that passion to follow it through. ‘Cause as you know, when you’re cutting a path through the jungle, sometimes, you can run into a few things.
13:49 Kurt Baker: So you better have a little bit of passion to get through all that stuff that’s gonna happen, especially when you’re blazing a brand new trail. I give you a lot of credit. There’s a lot happening and I think that’s something that we talk about. I know my wife and I used to talk about it, how they don’t really teach finance, they don’t really teach some of these basic tools that you need in real life. Which is some of the basics you need if you’re gonna start a business, if you’re gonna run a business or just run a household for crying out loud.
14:11 Kevin Wortham: Absolutely.
14:13 Kurt Baker: And I think it’s great that we’re starting to actually pay a little more attention to helping people learn things in a more organized fashion, that entrepreneurs kinda just so, “I don’t know what I’m… Basically, an entrepreneurs… I’ll tell you from my own experience. Entrepreneurs, “I know I wanna do something, I know it can be done. I’m not really sure how to do it, I’m just gonna go start doing stuff and I’ll start reading, and learning and talking to people.” And eventually, you find that right solution. It’d be nice if somebody narrowed those options, from 100 down to maybe five or 10, so it’s a little more manageable saying, “Oh, here’s the things you can do and here’s the people you can talk to and the way you can kick start that process.” It would save you a tremendous amount of time and a lot of anguish, because entrepreneurs are famous for learning from failure. And we all fail as entrepreneurs, but it would be nice to reduce those number of failures and learn a little quicker on with each failure maybe, [chuckle] because after a while, it could beat you down if you’re not careful.
15:08 Kurt Baker: And I think that’s one of the big things that I think is great, is you’re pointing out to students who normally wouldn’t realize that this really is a playing field where everybody can participate, so you have to understand that regardless of were you’re starting from, if you can get in the game so to speak, and get a foot in the door and start learning the basics of what needs to happen. It’s a wonderful country where you can start to actually really do anything as long as you find the right network, as long as you find the right business for yourself and that right passion, something you really love and care about. And then get the technical expertise behind it to actually make it become a reality. And I think that’s where you guys are coming in, is you’re gonna point out to those kids that if they have this passion that they can go ahead and go after that dream. And then you guys are gonna help them take those steps, as far as what they need to do. And we’ll talk a little bit more about what happens as you identify these kids and some of the things you help them do to put that dream in motion. We come back in just a few minutes.
16:10 Announcer: You are listening to an encore presentation of Master Your Finances with Kurtis Baker, originally aired December 4th, 2016. Tune in next week, May 13th, for an all new episode of Master Your Finances with Kurtis Baker, exclusively on 107.7 The Bronc and masteryourfinances.us.
16:27 Announcer: We’re talking finances so you can make informed choices for a brighter financial future. Now back to Master Your Finances with Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional, with certified wealth management and investment on 107.7 The Bronc and 1077thebronc.com.
16:44 Kurt Baker: Hi, welcome back. You’re listening to Master Your Finances. I am Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional. I’m here with Kevin Wortham, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Minding Our Business. And we’ve been talking about Kevin’s path from his time at Pittsburgh, and getting that entrepreneurial bug and going out there and starting his first business, trying to encourage people to come to Pittsburgh and other colleges. And realized his passion was trying to help young people in underserved areas and minorities, really understand that anybody could be an entrepreneur, and that if you have that passion, the desire and drive and the tools, the proper tools that you can actually move yourself forward into that world of entrepreneurship and really make a difference in the world, and follow your passion and make that your life’s work.
17:29 Kurt Baker: And so Kevin, it’s time to walk us through that. And one of the major steps is, you started a long time ago with Steve, right? And so tell us a little bit more about how that process worked, ’cause he was kind of that first innovator, right? And you were with him near the beginning, so to speak. And you expanded this into really something that’s pretty major nowadays, that didn’t exist when I was in college, I know that. So tell us a little bit more about how that process went, how we got to where we are today.
17:54 Kevin Wortham: So what happens is, prior to Steve entering into this industry or arena, there were a few small players. But Steve, through his funding and networking, he was able to take this small niche idea and really blow it up, make it blossom. And so Steve was able to take some of the hardest business concepts that major universities were teaching their students who were paying $40,000 and $50,000 to attend some of the previous universities, and he would trickle it down to where a student in high school or middle schooler could understand it. And when we honored Steve about two years ago, I said to Steve that he created this industry now. And so the industry has grown to where there’s still major players, but we all look to him as the godfather of entrepreneurship, in terms of having the ability to teach it to low income youth.
19:00 Kevin Wortham: In my 10 years working with NFTE, there was a common funder, and this common funder was also funding the beginnings of Dr. Hernandez, who is the founder of Minding Our Business. Also Dr. Hernandez just retired as a Marketing Professor here at Rider University. And so 20 years ago, he had this wonderful idea of teaching entrepreneurial skill sets to low income Trenton youth. And so through the mutual funder, they put doc and I together, and that has been 20 years worth of history. And so doc started the program, and the program still runs to this day, but it has two components.
19:51 Kevin Wortham: The first component is called the spring program or Service Learning. And so in the spring program, which actually takes place in this spring semester, we recruit Rider students, to come back into Trenton and to facilitate group-based learning, where they would start and run their business for one day. And so it went from 12 weeks, to what is now a 15-week curriculum, where the mentors, the Rider students, go into the Trenton Schools, and we’re at four schools this year, and we teach them the rudiments of starting and running a team-based business, and so we’ve become quite successful at that.
20:40 Kevin Wortham: And then the summer program, I’m sorry, the Service Learning Program, when we go into the schools, it’s open enrollment, so you can be fifth through eighth grade. We ask for new academic stability, we just want you to exist, and we want you to have, I guess a desire to understand entrepreneurship. And we move into the summer program, where the summer program is much more intense. And since then we’ve morphed into open enrollment to any student in Mercer County, so you can attend any middle school in Mercer county. We only accept between 35 and 40 students, so it’s very competitive, essays, letters of recommendation. Whereas the spring program, it’s open enrollment, but it’s only present for students in the Trenton area.
21:41 Kevin Wortham: And what I like about this program, is in the spring program, you’re taking college students from all over the country, who may or may not have a understanding of urban community or the urban environment, and they are actually mentoring the students. And the students are saying, “Well, you know what? Based on where I am, and based on where I live, never thought college was possible. But looking at these students who’s only a few years older than I, I see their struggles, I see the similarities, I see the commonality, I can do this.” And so in 20 years, some of the students that were actually students in the spring program on the receiving end, are now at Rider, helping us to go back to the very same schools. So when you see something like that that happens, you’re saying we are on to something great. And so we’ve had numerous students who have been on the receiving end, of receiving the mentoring-ship from Rider students, they have now come to Rider; they’re either at Rider now, or they have graduated from Rider, they’ve gone on, but it’s come full circle.
23:00 Kevin Wortham: And so you say entrepreneurship, but it’s really so much more about that. It’s about mentoring, and you’re finding that after 12 to 15 weeks, now you have a friend for life, that can guide you through some of the ups and downs that life may put in front of you. And so the spring program is just fantastic. And so we start that in the spring semester, which will be… I think the spring semester starts January 15th or 20th, somewhere around here.
23:37 Kurt Baker: So in the Trenton School system, that’s a fantastic program, so how many kids participated the Trenton district, roughly?
23:45 Kevin Wortham: Well because we have open enrollment, we can take anywhere from 100 students to 125 to 150 students.
23:53 Kurt Baker: That’s great.
23:54 Kevin Wortham: Because each student is a part of a team, so the team could be as large as eight to 12 students per team, and each student is held down by three Rider students, that would do the facilitating.
24:07 Kurt Baker: And I assume that now it’s within the school system, so if a student is taking this program, they’re gonna talk to their friends. And maybe the other friends will say, “Hey, that’s something I’m interested.” So by putting the seeds, so to speak, right there in the rich soil, you’re gonna start getting other people attracted to the concept, and you’re really gonna start to give people hope that they can live out there dream. I think that’s really the key, is it. A lot of times people don’t realize they have the ability to do certain things, and it takes… Sometimes it just takes that one person to kinda guide them and give them that inspiration and give that hope and tell them, “Hey, look, you can do it.” We all struggle, we all have road blocks. We all have things that come in front us, but I think the big difference between success and failure is when you hit those failure marks of which we all hit.
24:49 Kevin Wortham: Yes.
24:50 Kurt Baker: Somebody gonna help you kinda get over that hurdle or get over that next step, so that you can move on. Because one way or another, you are gonna move on. You’re gonna stay right there and just sit there for the rest your life or maybe go to the side and not live your dream. Or you’re going to figure out a way to get over that barrier, whatever it might be. And I think that’s really… The key, is that the majority of us can get over those things. There’s very little you can’t get through, or can’t obtain, is some modified version, no matter what the challenge is. And I think that’s really key. And I think the younger you get to kids, and the younger you teach them these values, which may not be inherent in their culture already, it’s kinda nice. You’re basically, you’re raising the entire school in my view. You are not just raising that 100, 120 kids. You’re giving them all directly and indirectly, kind of a hope, “Hey, look, I can go out and I can create something.” And you’re talking about an area like Trenton, which is as you know, it’s severely disadvantaged. They got all kinds of other issues happening, that if you don’t live your dream, you’re gonna go off on these tracks, that are very, very negative, which can lead to down issues. You could get addiction issues and you get incarceration issues.
26:00 Kurt Baker: And you get all kinds of… You get single parent issues, you get all these things that’ll start driving you in the wrong directions. So if you learn that you can focus your life on a more positive direction. I just think that adds a lot of cultural things, not just for Trenton, but for the entire Mercer County, and New Jersey, and then the country at large.
26:14 Kevin Wortham: Absolutely, yes.
26:15 Kurt Baker: You really start to… And the fact that you go in here, and I think the point that I really took inspiration from, was you’ve got students going through this program and then they’re returning to be the mentors.
26:26 Kevin Wortham: Yes.
26:27 Kurt Baker: To me, that’s as you point out, I think that’s really the key, because not only they learn, but they found value in it, such that they wanna pass that along, and they wanna pay it forward, so to speak, and help other people. Because you learn from a lot of entrepreneurs, they really, really enjoy sharing their knowledge with the next generation of entrepreneurs, because they understand how difficult that is. And they really don’t have fear of some new entrepreneur coming in and taking over, because they understand. It’s a very interesting dynamic being an entrepreneur.
26:56 Kevin Wortham: Yes it is.
26:57 Kurt Baker: And so, it’s a burning desire. There’s a fire inside that you kinda have to keep it lit and you have to keep that thing going. And when the more of you that get together and inspire each other, the easier it is to kinda move ahead and keep moving on with your dreams. There’s plenty to do out there in the world, that’s for darn sure. [chuckle] Yeah, we appreciate you kinda walking us into that. So now we got the spring program, which is open enrollment, but it’s restricted just to Trenton at this point. But you’ve also expanded the summer program throughout Mercer County, which right now is about 35 or 40 kids, and as you point out, these programs are in most colleges now, and so this is really becoming quite an interesting phenomena, which we’ll talk about a little more when we come back from the break in just a couple of minutes.
27:40 Announcer: You are listening to an encore presentation of Master your finances with Kurtis Baker, originally aired December 4th, 2016. Tune in next week May, 13th for an all new episode of Master your Finances with Kurtis Baker, exclusively on 1077 The Bronc and masteryourfinances.us.
27:57 Announcer: We’re talking, finances, so you can make informed choices for a brighter financial future. Now, back to Master your Finances with Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional, with certified Wealth Management and Investment, on 1077 The Bronc and 1077thebronc.com.
28:14 Kurt Baker: Hi, welcome back, again. You’re listening to Master you Finances, I am Kurt Baker, a certified Financial Planner professional. I’m here with Kevin Wortham, the Co-Founder and Executive Director or Minding Our Business. And we’ve been talking about a great program that stem from his relationship with NFTE and Steve Mariotti, who kind of started him. He was a consultant there for about 10 years. And eventually you started your own local program, I guess, roughly about 20 years ago, MOB right? With Dr. Hernandez who just survived. So you want to tell us a little bit about, what kinda kicked that off. So you gotta break off from the national, and wanna really do something focused on Trenton specifically and Mercer County, and then maybe what’s happened since then as far as some of your entrepreneurs that kinda gone through the program over the last several years.
28:56 Kevin Wortham: Excellent. Before we took the break, I was sharing with you as to how the program started. And so I would be remissed if I didn’t talk about the funding and the tremendous support that Dr. Hernandez received from the College of Business Administration. And I believe it was a small grant, going on at that time, it was a $15,000 or $20,000. And Doc won that grant, and he was able to create Minding Our Business, or MOB. And so through the creation of Minding Our Business, he was able to do the spring program, which we still celebrate today. And then also prior to the break Kurt, we had talked about some of the students. I guess when we were in commercial break, we were talking about the difficulty of fundraising, but I was also sharing with you after 20 years, fundraising still becomes a challenge, but it’s easy because now you can point to successful students.
29:53 Kevin Wortham: And so one of the students that comes to my mind is a young man from Trenton, name Quayshaun Williams. And after 20 years he becomes our first student who the program itself has helped him register his business, so he is a legitimate business owner. And his business is called Mannequin design, so he’s a fashion designer. He just graduated from Mercer County Community College. And I believe he’s attending Montclair now, continuing in fashion and merchandise. And so when he came into the summer program, he really took off because oftentimes he was being bullied because he was different, different in his thought process, different in his desires. And the program allowed him to say to everyone, “A entrepreneur is okay. It’s a person who is different.”
30:52 Kurt Baker: That’s for darn sure.
30:53 Kevin Wortham: It’s okay to be different. And so he was able to take this skill set this passion, and he is doing fantastic. And he’s our first student that we’ve registered his business, and we have two other students, we’ve registered their business. Albert Matlock, is a graduate of the College of New Jersey, was also in our summer program, did fantastic. And he’s out in California now, working for Burlington Coat Factory. And again he still runs a program in Trenton called 609. And the program that he runs in Trenton called 609 is where he brings all these other eclectic artists together, all young entrepreneurs to have a craft day or craft weekend. And then there’s another young lady Sidney Bell. Sidney I think she just celebrated her 23rd birthday, and she started out with us doing necklaces and earrings.
31:57 Kevin Wortham: And when we would take her to the hotel district, ’cause a part of the program in the summer, is that each kid is given a small grant. We take them to the wholesale district so they will use that money to buy merchandise for their small business. Well, she started to go to the Wholesale district in New York, and she was buying jewelry, items for her jewelry business. And she would sell those items at the local market fair that we also create, $3, $4, $5. So here we are some 10 years later now, some of her items are going for 50, 60, 70 dollars, so Sidney certainly gotten good. And then there’s another young man, Foreman, Elijah Foreman. And we actually have a gala every year, we didn’t have it this year, but we’ve actually named an award after him. So while he was in the program he lost his mother, but he still remained steadfast to his passionate ideas.
33:03 Kevin Wortham: So we have the Elijah Foreman award, and we give that to our number one entrepreneur that year who’s gone through multiple challenges to remain passionate about their dreams their desires. And he’s an artist now, an artist and a author. And so we have another young lady, ah Benchres Jussu, who graduated from Wake Forest, in I believe it was film production. And so we utilize some of her services to do work with us, and she’s in the community, using STEM now, which is; Science Technology Engineering Art and Math. I’m sorry, STEAM, not STEM, STEAM. They added that new A.
33:54 Kevin Wortham: So the list goes on, and this is what funders wanna hear about. They wanna read about, because then they say, “Okay, these guys are the vanguard, they’ve been with you. They’ve gone ahead and now we can see that this has sustainability, it’s viable. We like that.”
34:13 Kevin Wortham: But the other thing I want to share with you Kurt, is the uniqueness of this program. So when Dr. Hernandez started the program 20 years ago in 1997, there was a young man at that time, Tracey Syphax, who is now the chairman of our board. And he thought that this was a wonderful program, and the reason why he thought that this was a wonderful program because the school that became the host of one of our sites, was one of the schools where he would also sell drugs.
34:47 Kurt Baker: He sold drugs. Okay, I’ll cut that part. Okay, wait a minute. [chuckle]
34:53 Kevin Wortham: He was he was doing his own nefarious enterprise. And Tracey will often tell you that after serving time in prison, he came out he had learned a skill, roofing. And he turned the roofing business into something quite lucrative. And so today he operates in the city of Trenton, and his offices is catty-corner , from the school where he used to sell drugs, so it’s a remarkable feat. He still maintains and runs that business, and he runs three multi million dollar businesses in the city of Trenton. And I believe if my memory serves me correctly, two years ago, he was awarded the White House Champion of Change. And so as you know, if you are convicted it’s very difficult to come out to have a job. And so he’s been very instrumental in terms of banning the box, so on your application or resume, you don’t have to list that you have a felony, or you were a felon.
36:09 Kevin Wortham: And then he’s also talking about creating programs to cut down on recidivism. Because again, with no skill sets, once you have done your time and you are released, you come home, you still have no idea, the recidivism rate is quite high. So he’s been working with other folks to kind of tamp that down. And he wrote a wonderful book called ‘From the Block to the Board Room’. And in that book, he talks exactly about that, how to overcome these challenges, how he came to be who he is, and how to really make a difference.
36:47 Kevin Wortham: And the next thing that he’s working on is the incarceration rate. How do we take care of our inmates who are coming back home? How do we provide skills for them? How do we welcome them? And so that’s been his whole motivation and that’s his new platform now. And so we are honored to have such a man of his stature working with us, ’cause that just adds great credibility that this does work. And so you can see that the MOB program is prevention and Tracey Syphax, through ‘From the Block to the Board Room’ is talking about activism. What do we do once you’ve served your time? How do we welcome you back into the community?
37:35 Kurt Baker: That’s a tough challenge.
37:35 Kevin Wortham: Yeah, yeah.
37:36 Kurt Baker: You covered a lot of ground there, and I have to say turning your life around the way that Tracey has, going from literally a large drug dealer in Trenton to really one of the major entrepreneurs who’s turning things around and trying to assist with what is a significant issue, especially in places like Trenton, where opportunity’s difficult and services are very limited and the causes behind why somebody initially gets incarcerated and to further that, how do you reintegrate them now that they’ve got this mark on their record and how do we deal with the whole idea of incarceration?
38:11 Kurt Baker: As you know, the United States has a very high incarceration rate, and we have a lot of people in that are incarcerated who actually will probably better served in other facilities, like maybe even a medical facility because a lot of people with mental health issues, especially things like addiction, and other issues are incarcerated where you’re really not helping them, you’re not helping society and it’s an extremely expensive way to hold people and taking them literally out of production. And getting down to the bottom line as far as why that’s happening, and as you’re pointing out, providing people with entrepreneurship, providing them with hope. I think hope is a big factor. Providing them with mentorship are all key factors in trying to build a sustainable structure to alter the societal concept of, well, how do we handle these things and how do we better effectively point people in the right direction so they can help themselves and help those around them. And so we’ll talk a little more about this entire kind of shifting of society really is what you’re doing through your program, and how that’s affecting Trenton on a large scale as well as on an individual scale when we come back in just a few minutes.
39:13 Announcer: You are listening to an encore presentation of Master Your Finances with Kurtis Baker, originally aired December 4, 2016. Tune in next week, May 13th, for an all new episode of Master Your Finances with Kurtis Baker, exclusively on 107.7 The Bronc and masteryourfinances@us.
39:30 Announcer: We’re talking finances so you can make informed choices for a brighter financial future. Now back to Master Your Finances with Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional with Certified Wealth Management and Investment on 107.7 The Bronc and 1077thebronc.com.
39:47 Kurt Baker: Hi, welcome back. You’re listening to Master Your Finances. I’m Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional here again with Kevin Wortham, the co-founder and executive director of Minding Our Business, and we’ve taken quite a journey. We started off talking about entrepreneurship, and I believe we’ve now come to the conclusion that through entrepreneurship, and motivation, and hope where we’re gonna change society for the better on all levels. It is a complicated issue, but I think when you really… Honestly, entrepreneurship has always been a strength of the United States because if you are an entrepreneur, if you have a hope, you have a dream, we do have a structure in place which is relatively friendly as far as our country structure as far as allowing entrepreneurs to grow. Now there’s other roadblocks obviously that we put on ourselves or maybe other people put on you, but as far as being able to go down and file the paperwork to start a business, you can go out and take risk in the United States, which is good. Now you have to understand what does that mean when you take on that risk? How do you turn that passion into a viable business? And then by doing that, we create a lot of employment, we create extra wealth, we create new ideas, we create all types of different things. Like you point out, a number of things.
40:55 Kurt Baker: So there’s jewelry being created out there that wasn’t created. There’s lots of rooms being fixed that weren’t necessarily being fixed as well as they were because every time we create a new business, and if you’re taking business away from another business, that means you’re probably raising the quality of what’s happening, because people are coming to you for a particular reason. People like what you’re selling, people like the value proposition that you’re giving them, and the more people we train on how to offer a value and how to offer new products and new ideas, the more it’s available to all of us and the better our entire life is. So it just flows out from there, and the part really we left off with that I feel pretty passionate about, I don’t wanna get too far in it ’cause we can talk all day about this, is that if you really help people early, early, early in life and give them the tools to deal with whatever struggles they’re dealing with, whether it’s the passion to be an entrepreneur, or you’re getting on the wrong path where the easy way out is to become a drug dealer on the corner by the school, get incarcerated, and then fortunately he saw the light so to speak and realized there’s a better way to do this. He came out and now he’s an advocate.
41:57 Kurt Baker: And then as you’re just pointing out Tracey, Tracey is a big part of this movement and I think it’s great when you see stories where somebody’s going down the wrong path, realized, “Hey, I can correct. That’s not my entire life. Whatever’s behind me, that’s it.” Your whole life’s ahead of you, no matter where you are in life. Colonel Sanders started his business when he was 70 years old. So it doesn’t matter how old you are, you can always correct, you can always move in the right direction, and there’s many ways to do that. I think a lot of the barriers are really self-inflicted, and I think that’s a great part of what you’re doing, is you’re teaching young people that you do not have to do that, you can do anything you wish you wanna do.
42:35 Kevin Wortham: Absolutely.
42:35 Kurt Baker: You just have to take that shot and go. And with mentoring and helping them, I think that’s fantastic. I appreciate it. So where are we going from here? You’ve done a lot, it’s amazing. It really is amazing what you’ve done so far.
42:50 Kevin Wortham: I think where we go from here, is we talk about the tremendous support that we’ve given to the young folks, and we look at our board and we say to the board, “Where do we go?” I think the next thing that we wanna do is we wanna look at what does MOB as a company, what do we do well? We know that we do the spring program, we do that so well, but it’s also quite expensive. So what we’re looking to do now is create a regional and national model where other organizations from different parts of the community in the country would come to us, and we would teach them how to do what we do so they can go back to their own communities and hopefully, have the same results that we are having.
43:45 Kevin Wortham: And before we moved into this, again, we had a wonderful opportunity that came to us. Tracey Syphax moved to Trenton, but he’s originally from Asbury. His father is still in Asbury. So about three… No, five… Actually five years ago, his father reached out to me and he says, “How do we get the program in Asbury?” And so three years ago, we run a very successful program in Asbury up to this date now because of Frank, Tracey’s father being very sticktoitive in terms of getting this program there. So we found some partners, and so we quasi-licensed what we do using the MOB model, and we have now the JET program in Asbury. And what I like about the JET program, it’s not run by college students where the learning process is not facilitated by college students, but it’s a hodgepodge of people: Educators, students, community folks, community activists. So they’re all taking part in what’s going on in Asbury. And as you know, Asbury is only one square mile, but the redevelopment has been tremendous.
45:03 Kevin Wortham: And so we think that the JET program using our model is another fantastic way to get the young folks involved. The light bulb went off and says, “Wow! We can replicate that in a much faster pace if we do the training,” allowing other community folks to come in to a training site and over a three or four-day period, we can teach them how to do what we do. And then prior to that, we used to run another program in Perth Amboy. We’ve tried this model around the State of New Jersey, and we think that the model we have now using the JET program works well. And so that’s gonna be the model that we would like to use in terms of moving the program forward. I’m excited about moving the program forward using that model. The board that we currently have when I share that with them, they are excited. And we’ve got some tremendous, tremendous board members. And I just wanna give them a shout-out. I thank you, board members, and 2017 is gonna be fantastic.
46:05 Kurt Baker: Well, that’s great. Yeah, so one thing I guess I picked up on that, that other people may not realize is, I’m not… You have Trenton, but you have Rider University and TCNJ nearby, so you can mentor with the college students. Whereas, Asbury Park, as far as I know at least, doesn’t have a major Rider over there, they may have community college. So you have to model it based on where you’re located as well, which I think is great. You got creative, you put on your entrepreneurial hat, so to speak, and say, “Hey, we can’t pull as easily as we can in the Trenton area. We do fortunately, have some very good colleges nearby.” And so that’s a win-win for both. So now you’ve got the community involved, and you created a structure of a varying backgrounds and you come together and said, “Hey, we need to really bring back Asbury ’cause that scenario that was thriving at one point turned the corner negatively. Now, it’s coming back the other way.”
46:55 Kevin Wortham: Big time.
46:56 Kurt Baker: Which is great to see because I was shocked one time when I went over there. I was like, “Oh, my goodness, what happened over here?”
47:03 Kurt Baker: I was just shocked. Because of the location, you would expect it to always be thriving, but that’s not always the case.
47:08 Kevin Wortham: Not always the case.
47:09 Kurt Baker: You can’t always rely on that. But being able to model it and using the new JET program, I think that’s great. You turned into a sustainability model where now you can replicate what you’ve created. And it sounds like you’re getting feedback from the new sites, as far as what works and how to make it better every time you go through it. And as you’re pointing out, I think 2017 sounds like you’re gonna go even further, right?
47:32 Kevin Wortham: Absolutely.
47:33 Kurt Baker: We’re gonna see this all over the country, it sounds like. At least New Jersey at this point.
47:37 Kevin Wortham: From your lips to God’s ears. The notion is to have a regional national model. As to how long it’s gonna take, we don’t know. But we’re certainly going to move in that direction in 2017.
47:47 Kurt Baker: Yeah. No, that’s fantastic.
47:49 Kurt Baker: It’s a great idea, and as you pointed out, you’ve got some other colleges that use that. I guess the NFTE program is still an international thing now, right? They’ve gone everywhere?
47:58 Kevin Wortham: Yeah, NFTE is international. Yeah, NFTE is international. And what’s interesting about NFTE is that NFTE continues to work at the high school level, and I didn’t share this with you. So, NFTE is at the high school level but Minding Our Business at current, we have been concentrating our energies and efforts at the fifth through eighth grade level. And the notion now is to move even lower, maybe second and third grade. And then we’ve got some adult entrepreneurial programming coming on board as well.
48:32 Kurt Baker: Well, that’s great. We’ll publish your information, but if people are interested in this, how would they reach out to you guys to maybe learn a little bit more about? We’ll also put it on our Facebook page a little later, but if you wanna just tell us how to reach you.
48:43 Kevin Wortham: Well, they can always call me. So, it’s Kevin. Or text me, it’s 609-731-9311. My email address is quite long so I won’t even…
48:55 Kurt Baker: We’ll post it, we’ll post it on our site if you want.
48:58 Kevin Wortham: Yeah. You’ll post it on the site.
49:01 Kurt Baker: Okay. Alright, but no, I appreciate that. So you’ve taken us on a quite a long journey here today, so I’ll try to recap a little bit here but, through your junior in University of Pittsburgh you realized, “Hey, I think it’d be a great idea to try to encourage kids to come to the university, encourage kids to really go to college in general and through that learning process you created the BASS program, I guess, Blacks Acclimating towards Social Success, and it was really trying to focus on the minority and try to help them realize that they can obtain their potential and they can live their dream. They just might need some of those tools they may not have inherently received in their background through growing up so you can introduce those to them, and the earlier we do these things we found the better it is as far as the kids. And that’s I think true of anything. So, the sooner we teach them, “Hey, look these are things that you can do, here’s the skill set that you need, here’s other people who’ve gone before you to kinda guide you on that,” and creating the mentorship I think is fantastic.
50:01 Kurt Baker: And you pointed out to how sometimes kids would get transferred over to a school because they were very well in athletics but they weren’t necessarily being integrated from a social standpoint or from an academic standpoint. So, we have to recognize that we’re all coming from a little bit different background so we have to identify what tools that we need to put in place to help all of us really obtain our full success. And I think through this entrepreneurship where it’s very flexible and it’s very focused on how do we help people maximize their ability and their dreams through the tools that are inherent through entrepreneurs who are born inherently with this kind of passion and they’re willing to take that risk and I think if we encourage kids, “Hey, look. It’s okay to take a little risk and if you go ahead and go forward and move forward with some faith there’s a high probability you’ll obtain success as other people around that will be willing to help guide you when you do trip up,” which all entrepreneurs do, we all have downsides, we all have a few steps back before we take those three or four steps forward and it’s okay to recognize that.
51:00 Kurt Baker: Then you started off with the spring program, which has been very successful, focused on Trenton, it’s an open enrollment program so anybody can come in and join that and you’ve got, I guess, about 100, 110 a year coming through that program. And then you created a summer program, which expands the concept throughout Mercer County, which is a little more competitive where people compete to get in. But once they do, that’s been very successful as well. And then we’re noticing these kids are, as they graduate and they are going to colleges, like Rider, they’re willing to come back and actually mentor other students, which is the true sign of success that they find value in what they learned and they wanna pass that along to the next generation. And you’ve got a number of great businesses that were starting coming out of Trenton and the one is, I guess, Tracey Syphax, who… Just amazing story where he essentially was selling drugs in Trenton, went to prison, learned a skill while he was in prison, roofing, and then when he got out he took that skill and turned that into a business, and now he’s back helping other people in Trenton understand that, “Hey, look. You don’t have to take the path I took. Learn from my mistakes, learn the right path. I’ll help you to guide through that path and we can make things better for all of us and lower the incarcerates here in Trenton.”
52:18 Kurt Baker: So, Kevin, we’re doing a long journey and I appreciate it very much you walking us through that. You’re listening to Master Your Finances. You can reach us at www.cwmi.us or the Facebook page, which is Facebook.com/masteryourfinances. We’ll put all of the information there as far as how to reach Kevin there as well. You can listen to this podcast, any of the podcasts by going to masteryourfinances.us. Remember, you too can master your finances and reach your financial peace of mind.
52:46 Announcer: You’ve been listening to Master Your Finances with Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional with Certified Wealth Management and Investment, exclusively on 107.7 The Bronc and 1077thebronc.com. Tune in every Sunday morning at 9:00 to learn everything you need to know about personal and small business financial planning, including investing, estate planning, insurance, employee benefits, 401k and 403b plans, retirement planning, and more. Missed an episode? Go to 1077thebronc.com to download and listen to previous shows. Master Your Finances is underwritten by Certified Wealth Management and Investment, focusing on personal financial and small business planning. For more information about all of the Certified Wealth Management and Investment services online it’s cwmi.us.
53:33 Announcer: Financial views and information provided by Master Your Finances and its guests are intended for general informational purposes only. The material discussed is not designed to provide listeners with individualized financial, legal or tax advice. Always consult your financial planner for professional advice.
53:48 Announcer: You are listening to an encore presentation of Master Your Finances with Kurtis Baker, originally aired December 4, 2016. Tune in next week, May 13th, for an all new episode of Master Your Finances with Kurtis Baker, exclusively on 107.7 The Bronc and masteryourfinances.us.