This is not a portrait of me, but more so a portrait of both an agenda, and a business (not my own) on the move. The business is DROBE Clothing, founded by Operation HOPE success story Ryan Taylor, but more on this later.
As I lay out in my piece entitled What America Needs Now: Financial Literacy, Entrepreneurship and a New Era of Jobs, which I wrote exclusively for the White House and the White House Blog, financial literacy is the new civil rights issue for this generation, and entrepreneurship is the broadest, deepest and most relevant tool for silver rights empowerment in and for the millions toiling in urban America, without hope. Entrepreneurship is a practical way out, and forward, for an entire generation of people who feel that opportunity, education and traditional jobs have passed them by. If the world has no job for you, then I vote for not sitting around and bemoaning this fact, but getting up and out and creating our own jobs. Becoming entrepreneurs, small business owners and self-employment projects. As I say in this piece, "every big business was once a small business, and before than, an idea.
The White House and President Barack Obama can create broad-based public policy, as well as the bully pulpit environment where entrepreneurship, and a generation of urban entrepreneurs, nurtures and grows. But you don't need to wait on the President or Congress or the U.S. Senate to act, or even your government or mayor to act; you can do something yourself.
My friend Jamail Larkins, founder and CEO of Ascension Aviation, LLC, a fellow YGL (Young Global Leader) with the World Economic Forum and someone we featured at the recent White House Urban Entrepreneurship Summit at Rutgers University, decided he wanted to be his own boss at the age of 15. Today, Jamail, who happens to be African-American, but it really doesn't matter in this regard, runs a $10 million thriving aerospace business in Atlanta, Georgia.
Or Ryan Taylor, who as a young man in his 20s, approached one of our Operation HOPE Financial Literacy Empowerment Centers, run by Lance Triggs on my team, about his dream of starting and building a custom clothier, making suits for men. After a robust financial literacy empowerment agenda, covering more than 18 months of intensive engagement, Ryan Taylor took out a $35,000 loan arranged by HOPE, from HOPE Partner Union Bank (then Union Bank of California), and today his business, DROBE Clothing, is doing hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue — and he makes all of my business suits and shirts today. He made the suit I am wearing in this photo.
To quote my late friend and shero, Dr. Dorothy I. Height, "we must become dreamers with shovels in our hands."
Okay, let's go….
Author's note: A special congratulations and thanks to one Michael Blake of the White House, without whom the White House Urban Entrepreneurship Summit, recently held at Rutgers University in Newark, NJ, would not have become a reality. Michael, is a dreamer with a shovel in his hands too.
John Hope Bryant is a thought leader, founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), and Member of the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for President Barack Obama