Dozens of students from across Brooklyn graduated from the first Teen Entrepreneurship Explosion on Saturday, after learning to draft business and marketing plans, meeting entrepreneurs and community leaders, and receiving a $1,500 grant to start their own businesses.
The program is run G-MACC, (Gangstas Making Astronomical Community Changes), an anti-violence group that seeks to uplift neighbors and disrupt a cycle of drugs, guns, poverty and prison. The program is funded in part by Brooklyn Councilmember Farah Louis.
The high school students who participated in the program set up exhibition booths inside Borough Hall, spotlighting the variety of businesses that include hair, makeup, interior design, food and even a teeth whitening service.
One goal of the workshop was to give students substantive entrepreneurship experience, setting itself apart from job skills and training courses that often focus on students being employees instead of employers.
“Now we actually have the opportunity to help them meet their full potential,” said Louis. “I’m excited about today’s graduation, about what the future looks like for these young people and we have so much more to come.”
Kaseem Gomez, 19, started his fashion brand ‘Four-Five-Six’ from the funding he received from G-MACC and the city. The name references an automatic winning roll in the dice game cee-lo.
“It’s not just about winning, because you’re not going to win all the time,” Gomez said. “If you keep trying, keep rolling, you’re bound to win. Just keep your head up no matter what, even if you’re losing.”
Shanduke McPhatter, 35, started G-MACC after serving time in prison and was looking for a way to end the cycle of poverty and gang violence that he came from. “Having them become CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners has really opened their minds up to reality,” McPhatter said. “To come here today and have other people see that, inspires them even more. They’re taking that back to their community and their peers.”
Mark Davis is a Brooklyn-based photojournalist. His work has appeared in Forbes, Bushwick Daily, and Brooklyn Magazine.