This week’s Misfit Entrepreneur is Jay Haleem Washington. Jay went from working for $8.00 an hour at the Hampton Inn to earning 6 figures as a Commercial Photographer in just a few years. He was able to accomplish all this while being a convicted felon. While working for $8.00 an hour he developed his mantra #IWon’tStarve, which was the catalyst for him to leave his job after only one year. he has become pardoned, and now is a best-selling author 4 times over and motivational speaker.
Over his career, he’s been able to work with the following international brands, Nike, Save The Children Foundation, NFL, Amtrak, and The WNBA. He focuses on strategic development of public sector business, management and administration of client contracts, and client protection via compliance oversight, resulting in growth through government contracting.
But, it’s not so much what Jay does that was the reason I asked him to come on the show as much as it was his message of “I won’t Starve” and how he persisted through to success.
Jay says it was a long journey. He was raised in a crazy home in New Jersey with people on drugs, etc. He was raised by his grandmother and was on the streets early on in life. He got into a lot of trouble but was also a great student. He was smart but using it for the wrong things. He graduated with honors from college, but also committed a white-collar crime that was felony trying to make money in college. After graduating, he was unable to get a job because of his record, so entrepreneurship was the answer.
He started a successful cleaning business and did well, but during the 2008 recession, his wife lost her job on Capitol Hill, and he sold the business moving back down south to focus on raising their kids. He took an $8 job to have something, but new he could do much better and less than a year later started his commercial photography business. An in a short time the business climbed into 6-figures and then grew tremendously as he got into doing government contract work. He then started helping other minority businesses get approved for contracts and has now helped/consulted for over 600 helping them get contracts. He then went on to write his books, start speaking, etc.
What are some of the success principles you’ve learned to succeed in business?
- Early on, it is all about heart and having the guts to do what needs to be done.
- You must personally develop. You can learn to do anything, and you must constantly learn.
- You must learn about the different types of people and how to work with them. You have to take your skill set and match it with others to create a beautiful picture.
- Perseverance. Building a business requires flexibility, endurance, and going through the challenges, learning curve, and progression of building a business.
Talk to us about being persistent and what you learned about keeping going to succeed…
- Jay has seen a lot of people quit and decided it would not be him.
- Knowing he had good skillsets that no one could take away from him, that he could learn, and he was willing to hustle and do what was needed to succeed kept him going.
- Having children gave him the why he needed to continue driving forward.
- He also had seen what happened to people when they gave up and did not want that.
Tell us about I Won’t Starve. What does it mean?
- It came about from spending a lot of time being judged.
- Having to pay back 6-figures for his felony and the other costs made him have to hustle and find a way.
- When he made the decision to leave the $8/hr job, he basically said, “Screw it. I won’t starve.”
- He embodied and started preaching it to anyone who would listen and it resonated.
- “The platform you leap from is more important that the platform you land on.”
- If you build the right platform, you won’t starve!
You have a workshop called UWon’t Starve based on 5 principles, take us through them…
- #1: Hustle while you work. Strive to constantly learn from all those around and look for what you can use to help you succeed. Develop your skills. This works well if you are building a business on the side while working a job.
- #2: Market research. People jump into businesses all the time without understanding the market and how to succeed in it. Who needs your service? Where are they? How often are they buying? And so on. Take the time to have a decent understanding of the market before you leap. Start where you are, but be smart about it.
- #3: Be the one selling the cheese. This is metaphor. If you go to a wine festival, you will see some people like white wine and buy that, others buy only read, but both customers like to have cheese with their wine. Be the one selling the cheese, because then you get both customers instead of just one. Is your solution, the cheese?
- #4 and #5: Use strategic partnerships and JV’s to grow. Partnerships are a great way to grow because you can create scenarios where 1 + 1 = 3. You both can benefit in a larger way that just on your own.
Talk to us more about how to create great partnerships…
- We have to watch our egos are they can stop us from creating great partnerships.
- We can only get so far on our own.
- What does your business do that can complement other business’s needs? What are you willing to do that other businesses are not? How can you help others become more successful?
- The more you help others get what they want, you will find you will get what you want and more.
- Partnerships are a business strategy and should be treated and planned for as such.
What are some of the most consistent challenges you see entrepreneurs have and how do you help them overcome them?
- In the government contract space, it is paperwork and time. There is a lot of hoops to jump through and they don’t move fast.
- You have to find your way into their system and once you get in, you are in good shape. But, you have to break through that barrier to get your first contract.
- It is networking and getting in front of the right people.
- Additionally, you need to build the right systems and teams in your business, so you can focus on the bigger picture and work on the business – not in it.
- Businesses are like a baby. At some point most people have to get a babysitter or day care of their baby so they can go to work. That is what it is like when you build systems and a team – they are the babysitter for your business, so you can truly go to work on it.
Any other advice from your journey?
- Partner and teaming is the name of the game.
- Entrepreneurship is tough, so find others going through the same type of journey and network with them. Help each other.
- If it makes to have a partner in your business, do it.
Best Quote: The platform you leap from is more important that the platform you land on...
Jay's Misfit 3:
- You don’t have as much time as you think, so go hard early going after what you want.
- Find people that will support you whole-heartedly. People with support systems go so much further in life than those that don’t. Get your Amen Corner!
- Be unapologetically authentic. It hurts being someone else. Be you.
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