My Dreams Are Windows To My Freedom
I am a self-proclaimed dreamer. Many of the things I possess or may be involved with, at some point, I probably dreamed about it. Being physically fit, I dreamed about losing all the weight I was carrying around while stuffing my face with food. Singing in the church choir, I dreamed about it, while practicing in my car over one of WOW Greatest Gospel productions.
In short words, I will typically act on something if I dare to dream about it. I have used the gift to dream while sinking in some of my lowest moments. I wanted more, and dreaming of something better made it almost feel like I was there. I learned that there is power in what we dream about.
In that same breath, my dreams have been filled with thoughts of hope and sometimes regret. If I could turn back the hands of time, I would. If I could reverse some of the experiences of my life, I would. If I had the ability to reach back into my past and open some of the doors that were shut and close some that I walked through, I would. One might ask me why, and my response is quite direct; I would if I could.
Now, it’s not my intent to sound as if I do not appreciate the life God has blessed me with. My message is quite the opposite. I love my life and all that has helped to make it what it is. Still, I wish I could have avoided some unnecessary experiences. However, I am wise enough to know that everything has been necessary. It is all part of God’s plan for me.
Acknowledging and accepting where and how my life began instills a sense of reality into my heart. Dreaming of places where I wish I could be also encourages me to keep striving for that which is greater.
My message is simple. Life is but a whisper, and I refuse to get lost in the chaos and confusion. There is way too much for me to do, and if I never achieve all that I dream of, I will remain enthusiastic about what tomorrow promises. Tomorrow, if it comes, is provided by God. And when God blesses me with another day to live, He also blesses me with another day to dream and get to work.Terry L. Watson
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Tasha Teaches Spanish
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Tasha Teaches SpanishBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Rolando Ochoa of Integro Photography
Arkansas native LaTasha Moore is a wife, mother, striving entrepreneur, and countrywoman at heart, hailing from the small southwestern town of Falcon.
She is a woman full of wisdom and credits being born to elderly parents giving her the advantage of seeing life differently at an early age. She believes that titles and accolades don’t mean anything if one’s character is not exemplary. She is also someone who has accomplished a great deal in life. Some things include closing in obtaining her Master of Arts in Spanish degree from the University of Central Arkansas. That feat complements her Masters in Public Health she acquired from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Arkansas State University. LaTasha has also lived and worked in Spain as an assistant English teacher through the North American Language and Culture Assistant program.
Currently, LaTasha is the face and founder of Tasha Teaches Spanish. Her company’s focus is to unite communities through language. “We know that learning the Spanish language shouldn’t be limited to school and college classrooms. People need Spanish education in a variety of settings for a variety of reasons, and we exist to meet that need,” she says.
LaTasha shares her company began on a God-fixed plan. “In 2018, I had just been laid off after only one year of teaching Spanish at an area charter school. Pregnant with my first child, I needed a source of income even though my thenpartner (now husband) had offered to handle the bulk of the finances. One day I received the divine thought to make a post on my personal Facebook page stating that I would teach and tutor Spanish lessons. By the end of the day, my post had over 100 likes and 40 shares. This made me realize there was a market and a need for my talents.”
Four years later, LaTasha’s business is running better than ever. She’s contracted six teachers, obtained an office space, and carries out various services and programs to serve her students and community. Some of her achievements since opening the doors of LaTasha Teaches Spanish are being the Winner of the 2020 BIG Pitch competition, Winner of the 2020 Entrepreneurs Unlimited pitch competition, Winner of the 2020 Little Rock Regional Emerging Minority Business of the Year Award, 2022 Little Rock Regional Minority Business of the Year finalist, and acceptance into the 3rd Cohort of the WEM Hub program sponsored by the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas. She is also the 2022 recipient of the Small Business Growth Fund grant.
“We know that learning the Spanish language shouldn’t be limited to school and college classrooms. People need Spanish education in a variety of settings for a variety of reasons, and we exist to meet that need.”
Besides helping others become the best version of themselves, LaTasha loves her life’s calling. “I thoroughly enjoy helping people remove self-imposed barriers and fears when learning Spanish. I enjoy helping them realize that they don’t have to be worried about perfection when beginning their language-learning journey. I encourage my students to be serious about learning, study often, and be committed to reaching a high level of fluency. I am happy when they can connect with Spanish speakers in their communities, churches, at local festivals, etc.,” she says.
LaTasha says s he is inspired by the possibility of a more lingually diverse state. “The Pew Research Center puts Arkansas in the bottom five states for Spanish education. My brand, Tasha Teaches Spanish, exists to change that,” she shares. “When we think of new programs and services to offer, we keep in mind that we want to contribute to improving the Spanish language learning all over the state, not only in our area. This year we will begin to host our annual Spanish camp in different regions, and our long-term goal is to bring a Spanish language immersion school to Arkansas.”
Like many entrepreneurs, there was a time in business when LaTasha only made money through it. She shares that she did not work another job and had to rely on others for her financial wellbeing. “Humans are shaky. They are committed today and gone tomorrow. The high and low seasons of business often resulted in me being in financial binds,” she says. That was challenging for her, but she persevered.
While the journey has been unique and even challenging at times, LaTasha says there aren’t many things she would change about the way things have happened. “I would change our initial hiring practices and staff training. I was the only teacher from 2018-2020, and in 2021 we began contracting teachers to work for us. However, my hiring process was not thorough, and we ended up acquiring a few teachers that were not good fits for the role. Additionally, I failed to see the importance of frequent staff training throughout the year, and I wish I had started that sooner as well,” she says.
The future is looking bright and promising for Tasha Teaches Spanish. This year, there are plans to expand their Spanish summer camp to different regions in Arkansas. They also host community events such as trivia and movie nights, and in December 2023, they will carry out a Spanish Christmas children’s choir. Their long-term goal is to open a Spanish immersion school. Please visit their website
Project Community CenterBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Monnai McDowell
With a population of nearly 630,000, Louisville, KY, is regarded as the biggest city in the bluegrass state. Of that number, African Americans make up 28%, invoking a presence full of culture, history, and promise. One of Louisville’s prominent residents has made it their lifes’ journey to give back and create opportunities for others.
Quintina Monnai McDowell is the founder of Project Community Center Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring urban projects from the West End and the East End of Louisville together using an intergenerational approach to become the center of success for everyone. To accomplish this, the organization uses the following principles; Creative and Performing Arts, Health and Wellness, Education and Leadership, and Services for families and Military Veterans.
Monnai was born and raised in Louisville, KY. She’s a mother of four children and a two-time business owner. She has a passion for children and health and wellness. Additionally, she has two degrees, one in Business Administration and one in Human Resources. Monnai enjoys meeting new people, spending time with family, and connecting with others.
Another thing Monnai enjoys is sharing her testimony of how she began her traditional lifestyle journey. “I’ve had some challenges along my journey, but I’ve overcome many of them. I’ve been married and divorced. I’ve been at my lowest, and I’ve mentally quit on myself. I felt like I lost just to only realize that it was a test of my faith, and that I had to lose to win. One thing I am proud of is that I never physically gave up. I’ve always been a fighter at heart and I love hard. I’d rather blame myself than blame anyone else. I don’t have any regrets in my life. Everything happened according to God’s will, not mine. I thank God everyday for what He has already done, what He’s doing now, what He’s about to do.”
Some of the services offered by the Project Community Center are Business Entrepreneurship, Financial Literacy Mentoring, Belize Cultural Dance, and Health & Wellness. “We have implemented a health and wellness program through our nonprofit. It helps to educate children about health and wellness and how to build a healthy immune system. We also provide a transitional lifestyle program that prepares them as they mature and make lifestyle decisions and choices,” Monnai says.
One other business Monnai has produced is Sea Moss by J. Cortez. Like her nonprofit, this brand came to life in 2020. She says, “For three years I kept running from the dream that kept chasing me. I finally prayed to God and I ask “what is your dream for me?” Then it was revealed. One day, I was talking to my brother on the phone, telling him I want to start my own nonprofit. Not realizing that I was manifesting my vision. Then I wrote it down. Thereafter, I started it with three children. Soon I had 63 children. The next year came and I had 150 children. All these blessings without a permanent location to call our own. While we still don’t have a permanent location to call our own, we plan on having 300 plus children during our free summer camp this year. We’re excited and can’t wait to see what God does,” she says.
It is evident that Monnai is walking in her calling, and while walking purposefully, she has acquired a greater appreciation of love for others. “I love engaging and educating everyone about health and wellness and connecting with others spiritually. I am a huge giver and love to see everyone become successful. I love all my children, and my passion involves them. I’ve always believed that if I could help or change one person, I could change or help many,” she shares.
Like most business owners, Monnai has faced some challenge along the way. She says, “One challenge I’ve faced in business is “trust”. It’s hard for me to trust anyone. I had to learn how to overcome that obstacle in my life, especially in business. I was listening to a motivational clip from DMX and he explained trust. “Trust a person to be who they show you they are. Trust a snake to bite you, trust a thief to steal from you, and trust a liar to lie to you”. I wanted trust, but I had to also show that I could be trustworthy. I’m a very loyal person, so when trust is betrayed, it’s hard to trust again. In business, I had to learn how to trust without implementing emotion. What I mean by that is, removing my feelings from my business by separating the two. Business is business, it’s not personal. This could be a challenge for givers because you’ll always have to watch out for the takers.”
As life continues for Monnai, she plans to continue serving the Louisville community with great products and services via her brands. She also plans to continue to be a blessing to others and expand her organization in other states. “My passion is worldwide. I’m not saved to sit. I am saved to serve. Therefore, whatever path God has for me, that’s the path I’m taking,” she says.
Please visit their websites to learn more about the Project Community Center and Sea Moss by J. Cortez.
For three years I kept running from the dream that kept chasing me. I finally prayed to God and I ask “what is your dream for me?” Then it was revealed.”
Model Too ModelBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Is’Londa
The best way to describe Is’Londa Eman is someone full of love and compassion for others. She has always been active in her community. She has played basketball, she’s danced and even modeled.
The Huntsville, AL, resident was born in Mobile, AL, to Stephanie Rodgers and James Knighten. She is a honors midyear graduate of C.F.Vigor High School. Later, she enrolled in the Job Corps in Atlanta, GA, and TCU. There she took up health occupation and received both her CNA and Phlebotomy license and credentials in local transportation.
Today, she is the face and owner of Model Too Model modeling agency. Her company was launched in 2017 under the name Genisis. “It began by supporting local models with model bags that shadow different spectrums and paths of life. I relaunched my business in 2022 and named it Model Too Model,” she says.
Model Too Model is a very diverse business Is’Londa shares. Their goal is to provide each customer with a personalized designer product bag. “We call them “Model Bags”. They contain all the items our clients may need throughout the day based on their career, hobby, or event.”
Is’Londa’s journey of becoming a model began at an early age. One night, at the age of 17, she was scouted by a prestigious director after an annual ballet recital. She was cast to help promote and perform in one of the first tour shows in Mobile with Tan Stephens and Ncheechi Productions. She quickly grew a passion for the runway and for serving others.
As life continued, Is’Londa found her way to Huntsville, AL, and connected with KBoss Models. She was cast for a national pageant, Miss Fashion Global, the first for her.
“My height was a huge problem that affected me for many years, yet I found ways to pull out my torso for longer grace and length and learned how to walk in heels of every inch to increase my chances of being cast.”
Is’Londa enjoys volunteering all over the community of Huntsville, and helps out with Habitats for Humanity, and a summer lunch program with the public school system. She also has been a lead teacher of a local preschool and daycare for over four years.
Between serving and meeting new faces, Is’Londa became very observant of the lifestyles of everyone around her. One thing became obvious; she was depended upon to bring big bags of materials and supplies to share. This level of preparedness spilled over into her modeling career as Is’Londa found herself sharing supplies out of her model bag with other models for shows and shoots. These items included first aid supplies, a pair of heels, tape, and more. Those experiences sparked an idea in her mind. Is’Londa partnered with sponsors on very different career paths and other local and distant models with a similar passion. After only six months, Model Too Model was born.
While she has enjoyed a short professional modeling career, she has faced some challenges and hardships. The major disadvantages for Is’Londa have been her height, hair, and skin complexion. “I am dark skinned with full, thick hair, and I stand at about 5’5” tall, she says. She has witnessed discrimination from different agencies because of her skin tone. She was even told she wasn’t bright enough to sell a product and was denied casting opportunities. “Early in my career, a lot of hairdressers had no idea how to manage full-course hair,” she says. Her height was also a challenge as most runway models are of the average height of 5’7” tall. “My height was a huge problem that affected me for many years, yet I found ways to pull out my torso for longer grace and length and learned how to walk in heels of every inch to increase my chances of being cast. I’ve also taken many workshops to enhance poses, smiling, smizing, and elongated dressing.”
The year 2022 was a very progressive year for Is’Londa and her company. In November, she was cast once again to represent the city of Huntsville in the Miss Fashion Global Pageant. This time, it was for the new Petite category. The event was a huge success for her. Not only was she crowned, she was also honored with an Alumni award from CEO, Terrance Howard. She has also been nominated for the 2023 Miss Humanitarian Award. Moving forward, she plans to expand Model Too Model. She also plans to continue modeling, promoting and volunteering.
In closing, Is’Londa offers a few words to those whose journey may feel and look similar to the one she has traveled. “Always remain true to yourself and your craft, and always stay prepared and do your research. Also, keep an updated portfolio while maintaining the works of modeling and not just the photogenic side because being a model is more than the photos. It involves good character, preparation, and execution,” she says.
To learn more about IsLonda and Model Too Model, please contact her directly or visit her website.
The Dixon GroupBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Ryan Dixon
It’s been said that it takes two to make a thing go right. In the case of Ryan and Cherri Dixon, that assertion couldn’t be more accurate. Together, they make up the Dixon Group, which operates under the RE/MAX Champions Realty The Dixon Group Greensboro, NC. This full-service realty brand provides professional real estate services for purchasing or selling Commercial, Residential, and Investment Properties throughout North Carolina.
Ryan is a father, grandfather, and husband to Cherri. He is also a Greensboro native and James B. Dudley High School graduate. He is a proud U.S. Air Force veteran who served for 20 years. Some of his deployed locations were Iraq, Kuwait, Cuba, and Australia. He shares he met Cherri at his first military duty assignment at Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina.
Cherri is a native of the Bronx, NY, and moved to Charleston, SC, during her grade school years. She is a devoted mother, grandmother, and wife to Ryan and says she loves traveling with Ryan, meeting new people, and giving back to the communities they are a part of. In addition to the brand she is building with Ryan, she works as a Human Resources Specialist for the United Postal Service. She pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Workforce Education Development and one in Human Resource Management from Southern Illinois University. Together, Cherri and Ryan have six children, and two grandchildren.
Ryan and Cherri say they love witnessing a family’s happiness when buying their firsttime home or a forever home. “We both were inspired to pursue Real Estate mainly because many of our close family and friends have succeeded in this field. We also love being business owners and helping people achieve their dream of home ownership. We love seeing entrepreneurs’ dreams come when they purchase an investment or commercial property. Most of all, we love working as a husband-and-wife team and building a foundation for our family and a business for future generations.”
Looking forward, Ryan and Cherri plan to expand. They hope to accomplish this with their children joining their business and also venturing out to other states. “Our goals for 2023 is to get more face-to-face contact with potential clients, network, and promote our business. We also want to increase our sales and see more smiling faces, knowing that we helped someone buy or sell a home,” they said. To learn more about The Dixon Group, please contact them directly.
Brownlee A Hero In His CommunityBy DorJae’ McClammey Photos Provided by Geno Brownlee
Community Activist, Geno Brownlee is committed to doing his part to change the narrative for the youth in Memphis, TN. A South Memphis native, Geno has a ground-level perspective of the inner workings of Tennessee’s second-largest city. Most importantly, he understands the challenges that young citizens in his community face and refuses to sit on the sidelines. Geno has jumped into the heart of the matter, with hope and purpose as his sidekick.
Geno is a father, independent artist, children’s book author, motivational speaker, and visionary of Changing Lives Global Foundation. Through his foundation, Geno focuses on changing the lives of kids and young adults across the mid-south.
Growing up in a tough city like Memphis made Geno want to bring light to his community. He admits that he never imagined being a children’s book author. “It all started when I went viral on the social media platform TikTok for creating a new dance. In no time, the video gained over four million views. I eventually used this engagement to promote my song,” he says. The name of his song is called, “Saucy”, and its focus is to encourage young kids to dress for success, and to stay in school, and achieve good grades. It is also a tool used to prevent bullying.
Geno made his first official school visit at Levi Elementary in Memphis on September 21, 2021. To date, he has performed for and hosted motivational seminars at over 132 schools and has been featured on local news stations countless times. He has written five children’s books, including “One Day the Sun Will Shine” and “A Superior Christmas with 901 Nazcar and Friends”.
Through Changing Lives Global Foundation, Geno has developed the Stop the Bullying Workshops, which are 15 to 20-minute sessions designed to teach kids and young adults about the different types of bullies. He’s spoken to kids from the daycare level up to the college level. What’s more impressive is that Geno’s words have spread across the country, from the mid-south to Atlanta, GA, and Cleveland, OH.
He is unequivocal and purposeful about helping youth and his work has given him a chance to connect with some big names in the entertainment industry, including T from Superior, Hadrat Faatimah, MoneyBagg Yo, Glorilla, Bankroll Freddie, Dee Mula, Marcus Ward Sr., Penny Hardway, Zach Randolph, Reagan Garland, and more.
The journey for Geno hasn’t always been easy. It has come with a few challenges here and there. Growing up, neither of his parents was in his life, and while building his foundation, many people continued to leave. He shares, “I faced a lot of people quitting on me, giving up on me, and telling me no. But when adversity sets in, that’s when I’m at my best. When things get hard for me, I go harder.”
Geno finds inspiration in serving his community and by improving child literacy one day at a time. “I sometimes believe the youth in my community are being steered in the wrong direction. By being a positive role model for them and leading by example, I want to show them what can be possible if they strive for more,” he says. “I also want to show my own kids how to succeed.” How is he doing that? One way is by developing the Changing Lives Global Foundation into a family business and enlisting his seven-yearold daughter, Brooklyn, as his manager.
In the future, Geno plans to do more for the youth in Memphis and the United States. He is currently working on four new books and taking the Changing Lives Global Foundation on tour. He will also take his Stop The Bullying Workshops to 32 more states nationwide.
Geno’s advice for others who may follow a path similar to the one he has is clear. “You’re going to go through some pain, but I promise God will use it to make you stronger. He has a purpose for you, so don’t give up. It will be a rocky road to success, but you must keep going when things get hard. Success will not come easy.”
To learn more about Geno Brownlee and all his excellent work, please follow him on Instagram and TikTok. You may also contact him directly via email.
“I sometimes believe the youth in my community are being steered in the wrong direction. By being a positive role model for them and leading by example, I want to show them what can be possible if they strive for more.”
Divine Dream DesignsBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Pink Poppie Media @pinkpoppymedia
Born in Aurora, CO, and partially raised in Bainbridge, GA. Kieshon Davis has enjoyed small-town living and the bigger city lifestyle. This young and budding entrepreneur is also a mother of two wonderful children and says they are her motivation and inspiration for everything she does. “Everyday, I push hard to one day make them proud and leave our family with a legacy they can enjoy and pass down to their families. Next to my children, my Christian faith is my greatest blessing. My faith in God has enabled me to look forward to each day with gratitude and encouragement,” she says.
Kieshon owns Divine Dream Designs, a full-service, lifestyle-based, professional event planning and design company. Divine Dream Designs specializes in corporate events, dinner galas, luxury outdoor dining, grand openings, and private events. Her commitment to providing great customer service from start to finish, while keeping her client’s goals, vision, and budget in mind, sets Kieshon’s brand apart from others. “I am committed to delivering on every detail while offering less stress and more fun,” she says.
Kieshon describes herself as a serial entrepreneur and says her journey began when she was a lot younger. “In grade school, I sold candy, cool pencils, silly bands, and more to the other kids. I did this so that I could have money for extra snacks. That ambition followed me to my adult years. I have owned a natural skincare line and various craft businesses. My skincare products were what pushed me to plan my first event. I had all these great products and needed a way to market them locally and generate sales. So, in September 2020, I decided to have a craft market that featured myself and 19 other African American female entrepreneurs. There was food, music, and games. The event went so well that I started having them once a month. Next, I began having an annual Cup in Hand Kickball Game and an Adult Field Day event. There, I tried to decorate my first seven-foot balloon arch and learned that it was way more difficult than I expected, and I ended up paying someone else to do it. I was inspired, and I began doing more and more balloon decorating at family events. I eventually realized I wanted to focus on the designing and overall planning of events,” she says.
Some of the products and services Kieshon offers are full event decor, main displays, draping, centerpiece making, planning, day-of coordination, and hosting. Each package includes a complete set-up and take-down, table settings (place settings, cutlery, glassware, centerpieces, balloon decor with flower garnishments, candles, and a complimentary bottle of wine, complete with lights for optimal romance. She also offers rentals for games and stands. “My favorite service is the Luxury Outdoor Dining Experience, which features a see-through, 10x10 bubble tent that encapsulates the best picnic experiences,” she says.
Kieshon says she loves being creative in everything she does. “I enjoy bringing my client’s dream events to life and seeing the look of pure joy on their faces when they realize that I took care of every last detail. All they need to do is enjoy themselves. That is what I enjoy most,” Kieshon shares.
Like most businesses, Kieshon has faced some challenges. One, she says, has been able to delegate responsibility. “Small business owners sometimes think we can do it all. We often put too much on our plates, which can eventually diminish the quality of our work. To overcome this challenge, I have built up a loyal team who see my vision and want me to reach my goals. I appreciate everyone, including, my Mom, Teresa, Aurie, and my event planning sister, Autumn. Without them, I would not have made it this far,” she shared.
Futuristically thinking, specifically within the next 5-10 years, Kieshon hopes to have her own venue and cater to luxury weddings and events. Until then, she plans to continue to perfect her craft and stay on top of trends. Her advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs who may follow a path similar to hers is never to lower your price. She says, “If your clients complain about charging what you are worth, get new clients. Someone will see your value, and you won’t have to convince them why they should pay you what you deserve. Secondly, build a solid team of those who believe in you and your vision. Behind every great leader is an amazing team of brilliant people who want to see you win. You can’t be afraid to network with other entrepreneurs who do the same thing as you and, most of all, stay positive and keep going no matter what,” she says.
To learn more about Kieshon Davis and Diving Dream Designs, please visit her website. www.divinedreamdesign.com h
TheBeardedOne.By Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Michael Arnett
The saying goes that when a man looks good, he feels good. Budding entrepreneur Michael Arnett of Charleston, SC, has set his sights on ensuring it becomes a reality for all men who desire it.
The 59-year-old father, husband, caretaker, and retired Police Officer is a native of Harlem, NY, but was raised in the Bronx. Living in a melting pot, Michael saw different nationalities and cultures of people. That experience helped him grow as an individual. He says he was determined to escape his environment and see the world.
His story is that of someone who has persevered despite what his surroundings presented to him. He shares, “I lived in public housing (the PJ’s) for 25 years. I come from a two-parent household, along with two other siblings. We had great examples as parents; my father was a Police Officer, and my mom worked as a Secretary. My parents always told me to work hard, and that anything is possible. My dad told me I could be better than him and that nobody was going to give me anything.”
Michael always loved fashion. After graduating from vocational high school in 1981, he enrolled at a community college. He attended school full-time and worked full-time. His major was graphic arts and advertising. Michael successfully received his associate degree in 1985. “After college, I worked several jobs but wasn’t satisfied. In 1987, I joined the US Air Force, served for five years, and spent time in the Gulf during Desert Storm. After leaving the military, I worked until I became a police officer and was accepted into the academy in 1997. I later retired in 2018 and started on a mission of entrepreneurship, fueled by my love for fashion and to be different,” he says. In 2020, Michael relocated to his current home in Charleston to care for his mom.
Today, Michael is the owner of TheBeardedOne., a clothing apparel company that produces T-shirts, Hats (Bucket and Farmer), and Hoodies. Michael’s clothes are geared toward the Bearded community and cater to individuals with mustaches, goatees, etc.
Michael says TheBeardedOne. began after he grew a beard in late 2017. “I began to think about how to incorporate my beard into my business model. After going back and forth, I figured out how to make it happen in December 2020.”
While he has a genuine love for fashion, Michael says he also finds enjoyment in being different. “Fashion is what you make it! I have made a business out of fashion, and because I am the owner, I can do what I want and not answer to anyone,” he says.
Like most small business owners, TheBeardedOne. has faced its share of challenges. Michael says some have been finding a way to navigate through a saturated T-shirt market and rough economy. He has also had to deal with operating with limited resources. “I have overcome the saturation by offering different and unique clothes of good quality. I have found good quality clothing and still profit from my prices. With limited resources, I have attended more networking workshops and located events that allowed me to vend and showcase my apparel,” he says. Michael is also a member of the cigar club, Good Times Gang. That connection, he says, allows him to network with people from all over the country.
While his journey has been a little challenging, Michael says he wouldn’t change much about the way things have happened. “I would not change anything. The trials and tribulations are a part of life. You can grow from them or fall back and blame everyone else for your misfortunes. My advice to others who may follow in my footsteps is to keep God first in everything you do. You must have a plan, execute, network, and bring the love of what you do to your business. Stay focused and cut back folks that don’t have the same energy as you. And don’t be scared to let the world know you are here,” he says.
Living in New York prepared Michael for life at an early age. Moving forward, he plans to continue to grow his brand. He also hopes to purchase a van and convert it into a mobile store. He also hopes to have a storefront to display his apparel and help out other local fashion-based companies by displaying their apparel in his store.
It’s All About Her Love For KidsBy Dorjae’ McClammey Photos Provided by Shaunielle Foster
Who has a bigger heart than Shaunielle Foster? She is the founder and CEO of Footsteps to Follow, a non-profit organization based in Guilford County, NC, that focuses on special needs children and the inclusion of the buddy system for standard children.
A native of New York, Shaun, as she prefers to be acknowledged, has cemented her “footstep” in the modeling industry and is highly sought after for her creative expertise and fashion savvy.
Modeling is something that Shaun grasped at the young age of three. Soon she was appearing in commercials and print ads. Living in a city that never sleeps offered her opportunities at every corner. However, these opportunities did not focus on just modeling but allowed her to branch out and explore different arts, such as dancing and performing arts. Growing up in multiple industries, she felt the need for modeling would let you express who you are regardless of what the person is wearing. And the rest is history.
“It all began in 2009 with a simple conversation. My friend and I were discussing their child who had special needs. While talking, they realized there were no opportunities available for the young person to participate in the fashion and model world without being stigmatized. At that moment, the idea for Footsteps to Follow came to life,” Shaun says.
For Shaun, it is all about loving her kids. The open platform that Footsteps To Follow have gives children ages with special needs between the ages of two to 18, a sense of inclusiveness in the fashion world. With bi-annual fashion shows during April and October, they can forget their disabilities and enjoy themselves. Shaun’s mentoring program, “The Buddy System,” allows them to be matched and create life-long friendships with other children who don’t have the same setbacks or illnesses.
Another project Shaun has her hands in is a workshop called ‘Stytches.’ It allows the kids to create their own garments and showcase them during the fashion show that Footsteps To Follow produces. She has also created various partnerships with her community members to ensure the kids in her program and her community are receiving everything they need. One partnership is with the local HBCU, North Carolina A&T State University. Together, they pair each of her kids with a mentor from other local non-profits. Another program called ‘Wrapped Up In Music’ serves kids who are patients in local hospitals.
Shaun’s love doesn’t end there. She has been a foster parent for seven and a half years and has fostered over 290 children. “I felt like it was necessary to be able to be more than just a bridge gap for so many children,” she says. She has also found a way to get her family involved with her programs. Her son Kingzton, a young KidPreneur and model, has created an all-natural self-care line called “Kingz Korner.” He has all-natural lip therapy, bath bombs, awareness suds, and more. The colors of his logo are dedicated to his mother and represent all she has done for kids in the foster system. “Green is for missing children, blue is for adoption, and yellow is for unconditional love.” Shaun also has launched ‘Fatz15’, a clothing line dedicated to her daughter Daisha who she calls Fatz because she barely weighed five pounds at birth.
Although there have been challenges along the way, Shaun says she is unphased about them. “I always find the silver lining. It’s not about the challenge; it’s about finding the solution,” she says. As for the future, she is working on acquiring a brick-and-mortar location for her programs.
For anyone looking to follow in Shaun’s remarkable footsteps, her advice is to be authentically you; there is only one. “Follow your hopes, dreams, and heart, and be passionate about what you do. Doing so will not feel like work.”
To learn more about Shaunielle Foster and Footsteps to Follow, please contact them directly. h
Timothy Fowler Boys to Men FoundationBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Todd Youngblood
Timothy Fowler of Charlotte, NC, is the founder of Boys To Men Foundation. His organization provides thousands of boys, ages (9-17) who are referred through partnerships with local school districts and juvenile court systems) with positive alternatives and a robust support network. The mentoring program presents opportunities for enrichment, exposure, support, and guidance through group mentoring sessions led by trained volunteers and mentors. They also connect young men with consistent, positive male role models who foster effective relationships, community involvement, interactive teaching, and open communication in a loving and nurturing environment.
Timothy was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He grew up in a household with seven kids and says his father took care of them and ensured they always had a roof over their heads. Today, Timothy is a father of a teenage son, and he has a daughter who attends Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. Timothy graduated from Medgar Evers College with a BA in Elementary Education in 1995. He has worked as a Pre-K teacher for nearly 30 years. His first teaching position happened at P.S.190 in Brooklyn, and upon moving to Charlotte in 2005, Timothy worked as a Pre-K teacher at Morehead Stem Academy. Currently, he works as a Pre-K teacher at Highland Renaissance Academy.
Upon graduating from Medgar Evers College, Timothy began a career in education and has served as a role model for young people ever since. In 2008, he founded the Boys to Men Foundation. BTM’s workforce development benefits two groups: It builds character for mentees as they acquire knowledge, skills, and aptitude for gainful employment. It also benefits employers who participate in the apprenticeship program by providing an effective means of communication with a familiar candidate pool, helping to meet their demand for stellar employees.
Timothy’s desire to serve started a long time ago. He shares, “Back in my hometown of Brooklyn, I first noticed the nonexistent presence of positive male role models in underprivileged communities. Out of this need, I started my quest to counsel young teens through programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. I was a Big Brother for over five years and worked at the YMCA, and I continue to be active today. As a young male, I would always strive to bring people of all walks of life together. While attending Medgar Evers, I started a program called the Black and Latino Male Initiative. The initiative’s goal was to bring males together to discuss common issues affecting society at that time. When I moved to Charlotte, I continued that initiative by starting the Boys to Men Foundation.”
Timothy understands that he must care about others who need help outside his immediate family. “It’s a selfless act to fight for someone who is virtually a stranger until that relationship unravels. Ninety percent of our boys come from single-parent households. For these young men to have someone they can trust enough and be vulnerable with to reach out when they need help is invaluable,” he says.
Timothy says his life was greatly impacted by his grandmother, who lived in Wilmington, NC. As a young boy, he would travel there every summer to visit her. He witnessed her give back to her community and how she poured into anyone, regardless if they were members of her family. This explains why he loves giving people new experiences and watching them grow. “Every day is different. I always tell my mentees they help me grow just as much as we help them,” he shares.
For BTM, Timothy says operational funding is always tough. “There are a lot of non-profits that all need funding, so it’s a competitive environment. Fortunately, we have cultivated some great relationships with local businesses. Finding good people to help me carry out this organization’s vision and mission has also been a challenge. Yet, we are moving ahead and always looking for good people to help us,” he says.
Timothy says BTM’s goal for the upcoming year is to form more partnerships with local businesses and corporations to aid in their effort to empower young men. h