Welcome to my blog. Don’t let the title fool you. Actually, it’s a celebration of the persistence, resilience, and resourcefulness of entrepreneurs from all walks of life. The word “entrepreneur” gets thrown around a lot, conjuring up thoughts of whiz kids feverishly working to become the next Google, Facebook or Uber. The truth is, many entrepreneurs are small business owners who decide to follow their life’s dream.
Every entrepreneur goes through a hero’s journey that is unique to them. I liken it to becoming a mother or father. Two women can go through childbirth, but that journey, the emotions that come with it, the labor, and delivery is a different experience for each. The same thing for becoming a first-time father.
Just A Kid from Queens Village
A little about me. I am the product of Haitian immigrants having settled in New York City in the late 1960s. Like most Haitians, my parents wound up in Brooklyn, home to the largest population of citizens from the Carribean. From there we moved to Queens Village, New York into our first house. Queens Village is the most eastern part of Queens, bordering Long Island. A 20-minute walk would take me to Belmont Racetrack.
We arrived when most whites had abdicated the neighborhood to blacks moving east from the other boroughs, particularly from Brooklyn. I had two white families on my block and within a short time, was down to one. I guess the older white gentlemen who lived alone from what I gathered, figured there wasn’t much in it for him to move.
Queens Village would later be renamed by the streets to “Shadyville” as it went through the plague of the crack epidemic. However, what made Queens Village special for me was that it was a real community of working-class folk. The Catholic school I attended was made up of 80% Haitian Americans like me and the rest from the other parts of the Carribean, African Americans, and Latinos. There was only one white kid in my class when I arrived and before long his family decided to leave town.
What really made Queens Village special was that it was right next door to Hollis, Queens, hometown to world-renowned hip hop group, Run DMC. The main bus line, the Q2, ran straight down Hollis Avenue and terminate in Queens Village. It wasn’t uncommon for us to see Run, DMC, Jam Master Jay, or all three riding around in fancy cars. LL Cool Jay was frequently sighted as well. Queens would become the scene for groundbreaking talents like Nas, A Tribe Called Quest and countless others.
Yep, we had front row seats to how hip hop was changing black culture and entering the mainstream. Little did we know that what we were witnessing was entrepreneurship right in our backyard.
Chasing The American Dream
For many, homeownership is part of the great American Dream. However, at the core of The American Dream is the freedom to pursue one’s own happiness. For the entrepreneur that means defining life on your own terms, and not following the herd. As a child of immigrant parents, school and hard work were prized and as a Haitian American, my choice of career boiled down to just a few options: doctor, lawyer, architect, or engineer. That was it. I’m sure many children born to immigrants can relate.
So it came as a disappointment to my parents when I took another option: business. That to them was the equivalent of saying that I was pursuing a career in armed robbery.
I’ve always been fascinated by business, in particular, the people that owned and started businesses, which is why I started selling T-shirts at college parties on campus. I even took a course in New York’s esteemed Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) to learn screen printing.
Then there was the men’s African-print necktie business when I was going through my black power movement phase. After that, it was “The Cold-Blooded Vagabonds”, a comic book created by a friend about a group of good vampires who took up martial arts to curb their appetite for consuming human blood. You could probably still find a copy of it on eBay. Yes, being my own boss had always appealed to me and I was going to do just that even if it cost me everything and man did it ever!