Twenty-Something Tycoons: Detroiter Turns Passion for Fitness Into Personal Training Business

For the month of May, the Twenty-Something Tycoons series will focus on twenty-somethings who are heading their own businesses in honor of the 10-year reunion for Detroit’s Renaissance High School, class of 2008.
With a lot of hard work, sweat and creativity, Detroit native and Renaissance High School class of 2008 alumna Laura Washington has built her personal training business from the ground up. A month into the entrepreneurial world, Washington is on a mission to empower women to feel confident and to redefine society’s definition of “sexy” and “beautiful” through physical fitness. Her personal training services provide one-on-one support and allow clients to set individualized goals and work toward them in a private setting.
Laura’s mission to empower women through physical fitness couldn’t be more timely with one-third of American adults living with obesity. This includes non-Hispanic blacks at the highest rate of obesity at 48.1 percent, followed by Hispanics at 42.5 percent, non-Hispanic whites at 34.5 percent and non-Hispanic Asians at 11.7 percent. Of young adults (ages 20-39), 32.3 percent are obese.

Here’s what Laura had to say about her personal training business and the importance of physical fitness:

Tell me about your business.
I offer personal training services to help clients reach desired physical attributes, improve overall health and gain confidence. I train in a private gym or (if preferred) at client’s at-home gyms.

How did the idea for your business come about?
I’ve always enjoyed fitness, not only for the physical benefits but also the mental and emotional benefits it offers. Yet, for years, I was unsatisfied with my weight and shape. I finally decided to invest in a personal trainer. I set specific goals and worked consistently to reach those goals. On my journey, I developed stronger self-discipline, perseverance and confidence. I transformed my entire body and, more importantly, my sense of self.


The world (TV, movies, music and social media) constantly makes women feel discontent and ashamed of their bodies. It forces a limited perception of what “sexy” and “beautiful” looks like, perceptions which we as women often unconsciously internalize. This unconscious internalization is detrimental to our self-esteem (i.e calling ourselves “fat,” comparing our bodies to other women’s bodies and hoping to lose weight.) My goal is to empower women to have confidence in their bodies through setting personalized goals and gaining pride through hard work to achieve those goals.

What separates it from similar businesses?
My personal training services is centered completely around the client’s objectives and desires. This can range from weight loss to toning to improving cardiovascular health. Workouts are developed to challenge and encourage the client when working toward his/her specific aims. Additionally, it offers a private setting (typically just myself and the client) to avoid the discomfort of most gyms.

Describe your business in three words.
Difficult, yet therapeutic

Where do you see your business in the next 10 years?
I hope to reach more people. I simply want to help people fall in love with their bodies and maintain a healthier lifestyle.

Who is your target audience?
My target audience is women of all ages, shapes and sizes who desire to feel more confident and self-empowered.

What advice do you have for high school students thinking about starting a business one day?
Stay disciplined and persistent. Obstacles undoubtedly will occur, but continue to keep your faith, hope and goal in mind to motivate you during the worst of challenges.


For more interviews with interesting twenty-somethings, click here.
With hope,
Stevie

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Twenty-Something Tycoons: Breana Curry Is Disrupting Financial Illiteracy in Urban Communities

For the month of May, the Twenty-Something Tycoons series will focus on twenty-somethings who are heading their own businesses in honor of the 10-year reunion for Detroit’s Renaissance High School, class of 2008.

The costs of financial illiteracy are high. Poor money habits equal a bad credit score. A bad credit score equals a higher price tag on the cost of living. It’s a vicious cycle of poor money management. In America, families of color fall behind in building wealth compared to white familes. For example, in 2016, black families made seven times less than white families.

Detroit native Breana Curry wants to change the game of finances for the black community. Breana works to help urban families make better money decisions through her company, Curry Financials LLC.

The financial coaching company is on a mission to empower young people and adults with the necessary financial literacy to build their personal wealth. At it’s heart, Curry Financials seeks to disrupt long-established cultural and social systems that cause African Americans to fail by teaching them money management.

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Here’s what Breana had to say about Curry Financials:

Tell me about your business.

Curry Financials’ mission is to educate young adults on the basics of credit, budgeting and saving. The vision is for families to embrace financial literacy, end generational poverty and establish generational wealth.

How did the idea for your business come about?

When I moved to Atlanta in March 2016, it was a leap of faith. I didn’t have a job or a place to stay, but one thing I did have was a plan. After submitting what felt like a million applications from March to June and not hearing anything back, I was finally connected to the United Way of Greater Atlanta, a nonprofit I genuinely wanted to work for. I became a financial coach for the their veterans program.
I thought it was just an opportunity to get me in the door and help pay the bills. I had no idea it would turn into a business because finances was not my thing. Nevertheless, I grew to love it. I helped formerly homeless veterans increase their income, repair their credit and learn how to budget and save. After working with them and hearing their testimonies, I was able to see the difference it made when a person learns the art of money management. Check out a few of the testimonials on CurryFinancials.com.

What separates it from similar businesses?

Curry Financials is different from similar businesses because we focus on educating our clients. Companies with similar business models, especially those with a credit component, focus on “fixing your credit.” I’m not a credit repair lady. My mission is to educate you on how your credit score is calculated, how to make it increase and what will make it decrease. After we’re done, you will know how to fix credit yourself.

I am passionate about disrupting systems that are put in place to make African Americans fail. In order to disrupt these systems, we have to educate ourselves. The financial system was never set up to benefit us. Did you know the history behind Wall Street’s name? It is called “Wall Street” because there used to be an actual wall built by slaves where snipers would shoot slaves who tried to escape from being sold. We were the first commodity sold on the stock exchange. Clearly, we have always been valuable. Today, Wall Street is known as one of the most influential financial districts in the world. If the economy has always depended on us, then why are so many of us still poor? One reason we remain in poverty is lack of knowledge about our history and the basic rules of money management.

If you have poor money habits, then you probably also have a bad credit score. If you have a bad credit score, then you are literally charged more to live your life. You pay more for everything: from the type of house/apartment/car you can afford (because your down payment and security deposit depends on your credit score), to how much you pay when using a credit card (low credit score = high interest rate). Essentially, this is another form of control because you are only allowed to do so much. They’ll offer you credit cards galore, but no one ever teaches you to never go above 30 percent of your credit limit. If you have a credit card with a $1,000 limit, then you should never spend more than $300. Understanding simple facts like that and knowing how to manage your money can change the trajectory of our livelihood. They want us to continue to drown in debt, stress ourselves out and live paycheck to paycheck. They know how powerful and valuable we are, which is why so much effort is put toward the continuation of oppression. We must disrupt these systems by educating ourselves, strengthening our legacies and passing down healthier habits.

Describe your business in three words.

In less than three words- Financially Lit (lol)

Where do you see your business in the next 10 years?

In the next 10 years, Curry Financials’ curricula will be implemented into school systems across the country. It will include unique lesson plans for students in elementary all the way to college. It has already been created, but I’m taking these next few years to learn and become as solid as possible mentally, spiritually and professionally. This way when it’s time for me to steer the ship, it will sail forever.

Who is your target audience?

My target audience is young adults ages 16-24. I am dedicated to making the information relatable, fun and easy to understand. Young people are our rising leaders, and they need to learn about financial literacy at an early age. Eventually, they will know it so well they’ll inevitably teach their parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and, most importantly, their future children.

What advice do you have for high school students thinking about starting a business one day?

Put your thoughts on paper. Goals in your mind are just ideas. You have to write them down to call it a plan. Once you write them down, keep them in sight. Write on Post-its or write on your mirror in erasable marker. Stay organized. The more you see it and the more you talk about it, the more likely it’ll come into fruition. Somebody has to do it. Why can’t that somebody be you?

How have you grown or changed since joining the entrepreneurial world?

I’ve become much more responsible. I take pride in my brand, and I understand I’m accountable for how my business operates. Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” When people encounter Curry Financials I want them to feel love, compassion and genuine concern. I believe whatever you do, you should execute with excellence. Don’t waste your time or energy being mediocre. Give it all you’ve got.

For more interviews with interesting twenty-somethings, click here.

With hope,
Stevie

Twenty-Something Tycoons: Detroit Native Dominque Collins Is Levitating the Fashion World

For the month of May, the Twenty-Something Tycoons series will focus on twenty-somethings who are heading their own businesses in honor of the 10-year reunion for Detroit’s Renaissance High School, class of 2008.

There’s a worldwide trend in today’s twenty-somethings (or Gen Y- people born between 1985 and the milennium), they want to call the shots in their careers. According to an University of Phoenix study, 63 percent of people in their 20s either owned a business or wanted to in the future. Of those who weren’t already entrepreneurs, more than 55 percent of American adults in their twenties want to start a business.

Levitated Conscious is an apparel company founded by Detroit native Dominque Collins in 2016. Based in Ohio, the brand is a thought-provoking, edgy and fashion forward line that is redefining what style looks like.

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Here’s what Collins had to say about Levitated Conscious:

How did the idea for your business come about?
I started Levitated Conscious because I wanted to be a voice for our culture, the voice that makes you think about the bigger picture of life.

What separates it from similar businesses?
Fashion is such a dynamic outlet. So we decided to disrupt the minds of others through what we call statement pieces. We use the word disrupt because society embeds in our brains cultural norms that we begin to believe. Our goal is to disrupt every negative notion that society has placed on us as a people.

In order to truly be Levitated, you have to open your mind on a grand scale. This pertains to your well-being, relationships, money as well as your biases and prejudices.

Who is your target audience?
Our target audience is African Americans between the ages of 20-38 years old.

What advice do you have for high school students thinking about starting a business one day?
Listen to your heart and focus on what you love because that is important. Read lots of books on communicating with others and finance. Learn about budgeting for your personal life first.

Take chances on yourself because no one will believe in you before you do. Pray and meditate before making impulsive decisions. Entrepreneurship is hard, but it is also rewarding with hard work.

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For more on Levitated Conscious, visit the wesbite or catch the line on social: Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

For more interviews with interesting twenty-somethings, click here.

With hope,
Stevie

Ms. Not Know-It-All

If there’s anything that I know as a twenty-something, it’s that I don’t know everything.

To be 100 percent candid, it feels like I hardly know anything most days. And that’s OK. In my 20s, I am learning about being an adult, about living on my own, about negotiating salary, about mortgages, 401K’s and how to live with roommates. I am learning about what friendship in adulthood looks like versus college and the teenage years. I am learning about dating, about my wants and needs in relationships, about setting boundaries in love, work and friendship.

I am learning. Aren’t we all?

Since being in Italy, I have been confronted with the reality that it is impossible to know everything and have it all together at all times. It is not only impossible, but it is also not the point of travel. The point of traveling is to learn about other people, different cultures and, inevitably, about yourself in the process.

Since living abroad, my brain has been on constant information overload. I am literally always learning something new. Whether it is a new word, directions to go somewhere or a cultural norm that is different in Italy than in America, there’s always something new to learn. I kind of like it that way. The stumbling, the baby steps, the blunders are all a part of learning something new.

One of my teacher assistant friends speaks five different languages. (FIVE. Count ’em!) Needless to say, I am very impressed by him. I have remedial Spanish skills, and I can hold a conversation if need be, but other than that, English is all I’ve got. My friend and I were talking about what it’s like living in a foreign country and the process of learning a new language.

We also talked about teaching our students English. We had a similar experience in that we found a good majority of our students were afraid to speak English in class. I thought back to my Spanish classes in high school and college, and I could completely understand the reason why. There is a fear when trying to learn a new language and speaking that you will get it wrong. There’s a fear of being embarrassed and of not knowing the right words to say or of saying them wrong.

Twenty-Something Advice (For Anybody): “Throw caution to the wind. Don’t let fear of getting something wrong stop you from doing it.”

Here’s what I am learning and trying to bravely accept: It’s OK to get it wrong. In fact, the only way you will ever learn is by stumbling, taking a few wrong turns, and falling flat on your face. It’s OK to mess up. The older you get, the harder it seems to embrace this idea of learning and messing up. As adults, our pride can inhibit us from learning new things for fear of embarrassment and the fear of what other people will think.

Any person who speaks more than one language will tell you the best way to learn is by listening and speaking. You have to be willing to get it wrong so you can eventually get it right. Heck yes, sometimes it’s awkward repeating the same word in Italiano over and over again, but it’s the only way I am going to learn. So I keep trying. I keep asking questions. “Come si dice…” (how do you say…) is how I start most of my sentences in Italy.

I make a lot of mistakes, and I am sure sometimes my accent sounds really bad, but I am trying. I won’t let fear of embarrassment stop me from learning. Also, I think I have embarrassed myself so much in life that, at this point, nothing phases me. I’ve learned to laugh at myself and not sweat the small things.

“To make mistakes is human; to stumble is commonplace; to be able to laugh at yourself is maturity.”

I encourage you to fail your way to success. Don’t be afraid of getting it wrong, but instead, just accept that you will make mistakes ahead of time. You won’t learn until you try!

With hope,
Stevie

The Importance of Dreaming in Adulthood

Have you ever had that moment when you recall the words of a parent or adult in your life years later and you realize he or she was right? I’ve had these “ah-ha” moments numerous times. Keep your hands away from the stove. Don’t date that guy. Be careful of the company you keep. One moment stands out particularly.

It was my senior year of college, and I was home in Michigan for winter break. My uncle worked in Ann Arbor so I drove with him into town to visit friends at the University of Michigan’s campus.

On our ride home that night, we were talking about my college career and my plans to pursue a career in journalism and writing post graduation.  We talked about how the average salary for a journalist compared to that of other, more lucrative careers, and I told him how that didn’t matter to me. Writing was it for me. I just knew that it was what I was supposed to do.

Then, my uncle said the most profound words. (Drum roll please. The ah-ha moment is acomin’.) He said, “You are one of the lucky ones. You know what it is you are passionate about, and now, you get to spend the rest of your life doing that.”

21-year-old me didn’t quite understand what he meant, but his words stuck. They were there when I moved to Minneapolis, a city where I barely knew anyone, at 22 years old to work at a travel magazine. They’d come back years later when I moved to California without a job lined up. His words would ring in my head when I got laid off from my editorial assistant position almost a year later. His words would echo in my head whenever a new person would ask, “So what do you do?”

Writing is something I have always just done, and I absolutely love it. I wouldn’t want to live a life or pursue a career without passion. Money will come and go (like literally this happens. Just ask my bank account.) Yet, at the end of the day, I know I am truly blessed to get to do what I love.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “Live a life of passion. Keep dreaming of the world you want to make.”

Living a life of passion propels me forward during uncertainty, struggles and loss. It helps me put one foot in front of the other even when I cannot see the full staircase. Knowing that I have a passion and using that gift for a purpose fuels me every day I wake up.

I have had to learn the hard way, no, I am in fact not what I do. I am not just a writer or a journalist. Writing is what I do, and I love it. Yet, it is not who I am. It is not my identity. Having this realization allows me to freely and passionately pursue a life of purpose using my gifts, writing being one of them, to make an impact on others.

As far as my uncle’s words, he gave me a new perspective on the importance of dreaming and living a life of passion. My uncle has worked at a job he hates for years. He explained to me how draining it was but how it paid well.  He talked to me about how his focus when he was in his twenties was making an income and how if he could, he’d go back and discover his passion. He instead pursued the good old, practical American dream, making a dollar.

I’ve always been of the mindset that if I persistently pursue the things I am passionate about and that I am good at, the money will come. It may not be easy, but dollar signs can’t be my motivation. I think a successful life is just as much about having your head in the clouds as it is about keeping your feet on the ground. You can be a realist and an optimist. You can be a dreamer while being practical.

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We shouldn’t allow practicality to overtake our dreams. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl. I think my younger self would be pleased to see adult me walking that dream out. I recently found an old journal of mine from high school. I wrote down a list of life goals and dreams. A handful of them made me laugh, but a lot of them I was proud to say I had accomplished or I was working to accomplish.

One dream I had completely forgotten about, and there it was in my own handwriting from almost 10 years ago: Travel to Italy. I am headed to Italy for a three-month teaching assistant job in less than a week! Apparently, going to Italy was something I have been dreaming about for  a really long time. It was exhilarating to see myself accomplishing something I set out to do a long time ago.

What’s my point? I think in adulthood, we often get caught up in trying to make a living, buying the nice car, making a name for ourselves or just being practical that we forget to dream. We forget to live a life of passion. I never want to live like that. Even if they call be crazy, I want to be a dreamer. I want to be surrounded by other dreamers who are actively pursuing their passions despite the odds and the naysayers.

I hope your dreams keep you up at night. I hope they give your life color. Never stop passionately pursuing your purpose. Never settle for practical. After all, you’re never too old to dream again.

Stevie

 

What Burn Out Can Teach You About Yourself

As I wrapped up my last few days of work for a freelance gig, I could feel the pressure in my chest surmounting. Even though my time with this client was coming to an end, I still felt stressed and overwhelmed. Every extra task asked of me in my last few days left me feeling jaded, taken advantage of and slightly bitter.

How had I gotten to this point? When did this working relationship go sour? Did I miss the red flags? Why had I stayed in a bad working relationship?

The first thought that comes to mind is three words: my bank account. Yet, somehow the payment and compensation I was making didn’t make up for the stress the position had caused during my time there.

There had been a number of red flags throughout my time with this client, poor communication, untimely communication, aggressive communication, unprofessional communication. (So clearly a lot of communication issues.) Also as the breadth and depth of my job duties expanded, my pay did not. I was making a meager hourly rate based on my experience level and compared to many freelancers in my state and industry.

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Yet and still, I chose to ignore the red flags and keep keeping on. I chose to fight the good fight as they say in church, but the good fight left me feeling burnt out by the end of the job.

When friends asked how much I made for the amount and type of work I was doing, the common response was: “You make that for all that? You are not being paid enough for your services.”

You see, at the end of the day, a service is exactly what I was providing. I realized I needed to value the services and work I provide. Otherwise, the professional world will not either.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “In work, in love and in friendship, you set the bar for how you will be treated.”

Here’s what I have learned since the end of this work relationship: I will only get what I ask for. If I don’t ask for better pay, then, certainly no one is going to just give it to me. My innate response of feeling weary and worn at requests to do more work from this client surprised me as I am usually the type of worker who goes above and beyond in her job. I now understand the direct correlation between valuing your craft and the ability to produce high-quality work. If my work is not valued, eventually it will be hard for me to produce it.

Just as important as pay, I learned that the communication between this client and myself was not normal nor healthy. The unprofessional emails and texts left me feeling frustrated and disrespected. You never want to not feel valued by a person or company you are working for. Respect is key in any working relationship.

This wisdom does not only apply to career. How similar are friendships and dating relationships? You get what you ask for. People will treat you how you allow them to. If you never learn to set boundaries, one day you’ll wake up wondering how you got here, underpaid, over worked, taken for granted, ignored and not valued.

Burn out is real- in career, relationships and friendships. Maybe the best way of avoiding it is knowing your worth from the beginning. Perhaps, setting boundaries and requiring a certain level of respect is as much for you as it is for the people around you.

Stevie

The Imperfection and Beauty in Adventure

I am a newly, self-diagnosed perfectionist. If wanting my i’s dotted and t’s crossed is wrong, then I don’t know that I want to be right.

Being a perfectionist and travel enthusiast is a unique pairing. When you travel a ton, you know imperfection as a way of life. Nothing will ever go exactly right all the time. I was painstakingly made aware of this fact earlier this week when my flight from Minneapolis to New York was cancelled due to a massive winter storm pounding down on the Twin Cities.

I had a hectic travel schedule set for the day. A afternoon flight from Minneapolis with a layover in Charlotte. Then, another flight to NYC’s La Guardia airport. Next, I’d either take an Uber (the more expensive, easy option) or take the subway (the less expensive but longer, harder option– I had three bags to carry.) I’d arrive at the Port Authority Bus station to take a 12-hour (yes 12- hour) Greyhound bus ride from New York to Burlington, Vermont. There, I’d be staying with a friend for two weeks before heading to Italy for a three-month volunteer stint.

It was already an advantageous trip. Then, snow happened, and it completely threw my plans for a loop. No one can halt Mother Nature.

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The morning after the storm hit Minnesota

Yet and still, my situation actually ended up working out for the better. I was able to rebook for a flight the next day straight from Minneapolis to Burlington (with no crazy bus ride from NYC.) I retrieved my checked bags within an hour, and I stayed with a super generous friend for the night in St. Paul. (Thanks Michelle!)

Things ended up working out. Dare I say it, things turned out for the better.

When I look back over the last month since I’ve been on this crazy adventure, it’s been a whirlwind. I moved out of my apartment in Los Angeles exactly a month and a week ago, stayed with friends for two weeks in Los Angeles, stayed with another friend for two weeks in Minneapolis, and I am now finishing up my last few weeks in the states in Vermont/New York before leaving the country.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “Take any situation, curve ball or plot twist you encounter and have the courage and perspective to call it good.”

There have been so many ups and downs in the past month and a half. There was the stress of cleaning and moving out of my apartment. There was the ant attack of my laptop bag at my friend’s North Hollywood condo. The flooding of the kitchen counter at the same apartment. Putting my two weeks in for a freelance client. The disagreement with a friend. Finding out my security deposit return for my old apartment had been mailed to the wrong address. Missing my connecting flight and bus.

It’s been a lot, but when I take time to get some perspective, all in all, it hasn’t been too awful. It’s been imperfect but not unbearable. If there’s anything travel has taught me is life and all that it entails (people included) will never be perfect. The trick is being able to look at a situation, a curve ball or a plot twist and to find the perspective and foresight to call it good. In the midst of what seems awful, find the positive thing in that imperfection.

As far as the uncertainty and adventure of travel, I have learned there’s no point in worrying about tomorrow. Today has enough cares (flights to rebook) of its own. Take it one step at a time, find the beauty in the imperfection and get some perspective. Just because life isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it isn’t still worthwhile.

-Stephkt