“Did you know…started in a garage?” If you’re a first-year business major or the C.E.O. of a successful company, you’ve heard or even said this phrase before.
There are many inspirational stories of hungry, inventive individuals who started their globally recognized company in their garage. It usually goes like, “Did you know that Apple started in a garage?” Yes, incredibly, there are quite a few famous companies that began in a garage (read Business Insider‘s list for more). These are remarkable stories that deserve repeating. They represent the entrepreneurial spirit of our nation and encourage us to take risks for a better future.
As impressive as these stories are, I’m telling you, I’ve witnessed something even more inspirational. Not once, but many times. These individuals take a different kind of risk, but also for a better future. Let me explain.
Over a decade ago, I founded The Victory Project, Inc. (VP), a faith-based, non-profit serving disengaged inner-city young men, 12-18 years old. But this isn’t your typical non-profit. In fact, I’m not aware of anything like it. Here are just a few of VP’s unique features.
- Students attend voluntarily
- Curriculum-based on Education, Entrepreneurship & Enlightenment
- Open year-round, six days a week
- Dinner served every weeknight
- Employ students at our micro-business
- Accept no government funding
Now, back to the story.
Some years ago, we were speaking to a new group of VP Students about local and national entrepreneurs at our Life of Valor class. Keep in mind, these young men have never been employed, and their families are a couple of generations deep into abject poverty. Many end up stuck in public housing, supporting their families off government assistance. While getting a job isn’t impossible, finding a well-paying career is much harder; this is the purpose of introducing our students to the value of hard work and the joy of creating income.
During class, we shared the “Garage Story.” But this time came with an unexpected response! Here’s what happened:
Instructor: “Did you know that Apple, Amazon, Disney & Dell all started in a garage?”
Teyveon: (under his breath) “Man, I gotta get me a garage!”
Hearing this, I busted out laughing but quickly stopped when I noticed Tey’s face. He wasn’t joking. After realizing what I’d laughed at, Tey seemed embarrassed, and I was mortified at my lack of awareness and consideration. Of course, I circled back to make sure they knew that I wasn’t saying you needed a garage to be successful. It was an illustration of people creating wealth from humble beginnings.
Later, as I contemplated what happened, it became clear to me that this had more profound implications. Think about it for a moment; there are no garages in public housing.
But really, Tey wasn’t talking about a garage; he was talking about ownership, having a place you’ve earned, sacrificed, and saved for, a safe place to build his future. From Tey’s point of view, a garage represented that hope.
When much of life’s essentials, like food and shelter, are provided to you for “free” by The System, you end up paying something more valuable than money. It costs you the freedom of choice, the sense of privacy, security, and control that comes with ownership. Options on where to live, what schools your children will attend, and even what you eat is all taken away when you receive subsidized housing and welfare.
Let me pause here. I am not suggesting that government assistance is wrong. It’s a blessing for millions of elderly, injured, and special-needs individuals. Even temporary support for the able-bodied is a good investment in our society.
While I am glad we have the safety net of social benefits, I also know a net can be used to capture things. There are generations of families subjugated within a monstrous, complicated, and unsympathetic machine. And I’ve seen young men take risks to break the cycle of poverty by pursuing self-sufficiency at VP.
Tey’s excited utterance became a turning point for me. We’ve enhanced our Life of Valor classes to include first step financial literacy courses, like budgeting tips and opening savings accounts.
The results speak for themselves: more alumni graduating high school, going to college, joining the military, and finding a trade. But also, like Cody, VP Alumni seen here, they’re building families, moving to better neighborhoods, and becoming homeowners. Yes, some even have garages.
In closing, The Victory Project is at capacity, and we’re making plans to expand. By not accepting government funding, we rely on philanthropic individuals, businesses, churches, and private foundations for support. Please give a tax-deductible contribution through our GoFundMe Campaign. Or sign up to attend one of our Beating The Odds events to see Victory Project for yourself. “It’s less about what we Do and more about what we Undo.” Visit our website to learn more.