♪ >> Funding for NJ Business Beat funded by… IBEW Local 102.
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♪ >> This is NJ Business Beat.
>> Hello I am Raven Santana.
Thank you for joining me on NJ business beat.
We are winding down our third season at NJ business Beach.
We want to highlight influential business leaders we have spoken to this year and share their stories again.
Normal 9-to-5 workers with side gates, and entrepreneurs with the next big ideas.
We spoke to entrepreneurs steering our economy in the right direction.
This first individual was honored with the American Main award.
I went to talk with John Mackey, the Executive Director of Touchdown Alliance to hear about downtown transformation.
This is not one of New Jersey’s main streets, it is one of America’s favorite main streets.
What has it been like?
>> In the past few weeks we have been inundated with attention from the media and other main streets across the country that are reaching out to us when they are struggling.
They would like a little support which we are so happy to have those conversations.
We feel like it is a privilege because we receive so much help from experts over the last many years.
Particularly the MainStreet community across America it is the heartbeat of America.
And it is why it makes us special.
It is a community-based model that you could only do this when there is buy-in from everybody.
The residents, merchants, landlords, everybody has a stake.
That is why this award is incredibly special.
The volunteers on the ground that really take care of so much h. Winning this award has put my touch and this little New Jersey town–some people have never heard of this town they cannot pronounce it.
Raven: [Laughter] >> They have never been here.
And the question now is what is going on there and buy have never been there?
That is a real opportunity for us.
We see investors calling to see if they are our buildings for sale.
And we have retailers looking for space.
Remarkably what a great problem to have.
But we do not have a lot of empty storefronts for people who want to be here.
That is an amazing testament to work.
Raven: It’s interesting you bring that up.
New Jersey has so many main streets.
What is the secret ingredient here.
What separates this town from the rest?
>> It is a wonderful collaboration between the people who live here and the principality working in concert and everybody growing in the same direction.
But the volunteers are the secret sauce.
Raven: What is interesting about this town is there is the historic charm with mom and pop is this is that there are new, modern businesses here.
Talk about how that played a critical role in winning this award in MainStreet.
>> The public loves a piece of history that we need to keep an eye on the future.
How do we go where we have been with respect but also take the community forward and I think this has done a great job.
We have the business, we have the rude awakening.
They’ve been here almost 18 years.
It is customers that have become family over the years through the pandemic.
The community rallied to make sure they kept their businesses alive.
Raven: Is there a number you can share over the past few years that you have invested into this MainStreet?
>> Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been invested in storefronts.
During COVID, so much money came in through the Covid really funds that went to outdoor dining to help put up structures so that people could safely continue to serve.
Tables, chairs, heaters, tents.
The pandemic, with all of its challenges, brought an incredible opportunity.
Raven: What is the short-term plan?
What do you envision now?
>> The plan is to care for the outer district with a little more intention.
Anytime you start a project like this you have to make the core solid because everybody benefits when the core is solid.
And the core, knock on wood, is really in good shape.
Now we are paying attention to the aesthetic of businesses.
We see beans and bread that delivers food from Brooklyn.
Bread, cake, pastries every single day and he is on the outskirts of Middlesex.
And we are making sure we are now carrying it outward.
Raven: You do not have to just beyond MainStreet.
>> You don’t.
That is the joy.
It reverberates out and the municipality is committed to creating an arts district at the end of the district where we have a wonderful restaurant called Angie’s.
And pulling that altogether so we feel cohesive and put a little bit more of our investment into making placement of the edges.
Raven: Are you planning a celebration?
>> We are planning a very big event.
Raven: OK. We have not gone crazy public with it but I will tell you to save the day for June 10.
Metuchen Is turning into a downtown fun house.
Think of Coney Island?
>> Exactly 100%.
Raven: Alright I love it.
>> You never know who will be walking down the street on June 10.
But you should be here for it.
Raven: All right.
Cheers to Metuchen.
Thank you so much.
Throughout this season we have covered rising inflation and its impact on prices and everyday habits.
Even as inflation cools, higher costs during the pandemic have contributed to the rising side hustles.
We met one New Jersey man who works in finance by day, but becomes a master of labor at night.
John Morris introduced us to his side hustle Joys Islands Spice.
Raven: I know you do finance by day but here in the kitchen is your office and it is your side hustle area tell me about it.
John: that is right.
My day job, I spent 25 years developing and selling intangible things.
This is the first time I have made something that is tangible that people love and I’m passionate about it and that has been the oxygen area it is born out of COVID where we were essentially isolated at home.
My elderly mom lived with us at the time we and we were conservative of what we attracted from outside.
I needed to get out, but I was not in that emotional space so I started cooking.
Raven: When you talk about love and passion you could not have done that without your mama.
Let’s talk about Joy.
She is right on the packaging.
Think about the background, the passion.
Your mother has a lot to do with that.
John: For sure.
We lost mom a year ago.
She was a remarkable human being.
She touched many lives.
She herself had four different lives professionally.
She was a professional math teacher, then went to university and became an economist, she was one of the first female trained, nutrition’s in the Caribbean.
After graduating, she went back to University and majored in English and literature.
She was a character.
And the product line is named after her joy–spice.
The recipes originally came from my dad side of the family.
He grew up in a very beautiful part of Jamaica called Gulf Bay.
It has an abundance of fruits and vegetables and spices.
He learned to transform nature’s gifts into sauces from his dad.
Raven: A lot of people who are watching are going to be interested and my question to you is, how much was put into this?
And then what does your income look like with the business?
We started this largely among the capital we invested was primarily legal.
Setting up corporate structure, doing research, getting the products tested by the lab.
The rest of it.
The initial capital in this business was investment of 10 grand initially.
And we are a private company so we never took profits, but we have a pretty wealthy income stream now because we ship globally.
So far we have sold in 10 different countries.
Raven: Where is the furthest?
John: The furthest is probably Hong Kong.
John: Part of this was bringing new customers in.
We developed this — that is shipped in a glass bottle.
But he developed this packaging for that site it is shatterproof and it has a label in braille.
We wanted to do a solution that involved those who are blind.
The thought behind the brand is eating healthy and delicious made easy.
You do not have to have a trade-off.
And it is inclusive.
I want people to gather around the fire metaphorically and literally and come together and enjoy each other while having something very delicious.
Raven: We have a lot of delicious meals here.
Tell me about what you have here and what sauces you used.
John: To demonstrate the versatility of our spice line we have jerk barbecue wings, we have a onion tart, and we have salmon that we call the six minute salmon.
And I think the six minute salmon is the one in front of you.
Raven: Yes you said we would focus on this.
John: I think it is a recipe everyone should know because it is healthy and delicious and more importantly working moms need to know about this.
Raven: All right listen up.
[Laughter] John: Within six minutes it can be prepared and dinner is ready.
Healthy, delicious, six and it’s it is ready.
Raven: Let me try it.
Oh, my God.
John: That reaction is what we live for.
That’s what we live for.
John: They could get it on our website.
And I want to take it globally.
More long-term aim is to displace this as a condiment.
If you have this there is no reason to have ketchup.
Raven: Thank you for telling me about your side hustle.
John: The pleasure is mine.
Raven: Many workers seeking better pay and working conditions during the pandemic before returning to the workforce.
One often overlooked part of the workforce is the formerly incarcerated.
Those looking to reenter society and contribute to the economy.
Former Governor Jim has made it his commission to help the formerly incarcerated to get back on their feet.
I spoke to the governor about how this group of people can help New Jersey’s economy.
Governor, you have made this your mission to help those who are formerly incarcerated.
We know this is not easy.
This is something that is not sexy.
But this is your mission.
Why have you made this your mission?
Jim: I have made mistakes and no one wants to be defined by their worst mistake.
People coming home from prison and jail, veterans are coming back from war, people coming back from addiction treatment.
They need the support of a community.
They need guidance and direction.
And I do not mean to be — but a lot of the fellows and gals that we work with never even had a first chance.
They were not blessed the way I was blessed to have parents they cared for them.
Make sure their glass of milk was there, I had breakfast before I went to school.
It is the challenge of understanding the chaos and the trauma in their lives.
Now they are trying to do something different.
Trying to help them do something different.
The easiest thing is to go back to what we know and that could be selling drugs or whatever.
But a lot of them want to do something different.
They do not want to wind up in the jail cell again.
It is giving them the tools necessary so they can change of direction in their life.
It is exciting to watch.
Raven: We talked about credentials and support.
You have a hand in that so let’s talk about, one of any programs that you started.
How is that adding them on the right path?
Jim: We are in a competitive economy.
There are certain jobs that need to be filled.
Businesses are looking for those jobs where people have that credential.
Whether that is HVAC, CDO, or F lobotomy cries.
We had a group of women go through a phlebotomy class.
Literally all of the women have a job because phlebotomists are needed.
What we say to people it is not about the warehouse job, not just putting somebody out back into the community, it is giving them that credential, giving them the technical proficiency so they can compete in the marketplace.
And all of a sudden the private sector says all right, this young man or woman who was a welder now has a national certification for welding.
I need welders so I’m going to take a risk on you.
You may have sold drugs or made bad decisions but I need a welder.
Now you have a national certification.
It is a rational business decision for the private sector to say I’m going to hire this young man, this young woman.
Raven: You know that has to do with purpose.
When you have purpose you have a vision.
Raven: Sometimes that vision can be distorted when there is stigma.
Jim: I think the best way to change stigma is to provide for the certification so that you have the technical skills.
And to show people the possibility of changing people’s lives.
And then, we all change a little bit.
The person coming out of prison changes, the community changes, and I will just say this, you know, when I first started New Jersey reentering, I went to, you know, all the friends of mine that were in business.
I mean some old, literally people that have middle income businesses.
They were involved and I knew them through government.
They hired these guys almost as a favor to me, right.
At the end of it, a lot of them at that went in time were mostly men.
They had almost adopted these young men as their sons.
It is understanding no matter where we are from, what we look like, the challenges are so basic to us as humans.
For a lot of young people men and women, it is giving them the chance and holding them accountable.
It is surprising to me how much these individuals want to be held accountable because it is the statement of your word.
Go back to your word you are respecting them but you are asking them to respect themselves.
To be on time, do a good job, play by the rules.
I will say part of the recidivism rate is less than 10%.
In terms of employment rate overall it is about 56-57%.
Raven: Living proof that kindness and giving someone an opportunity cannot just change their lives, but just the lives of everyone else.
Jim: Yeah and their family and the community.
Raven: That’s right.
Thank you so much.
Jim: Thank you on sorry to take up all the time.
[Laughter] Raven: Thank you.
Throughout the season we spoke to business leaders who contributed to their industries throughout the years.
We wanted to hear from the next generation of this is leaders, young entrepreneurs that are waiting to push their grand ideas.
We visited an art studio in New York that runs an entrepreneurial spirit program where students learn about starting a business through the arts.
I spoke to Carol Losos, the Executive Director of GlassRoots, about what the students learn when they take the course.
So this is where great entrepreneurs are made.
They get to perfect their craft.
Tell me what they are and tell me about this program.
Carol: Thank you so much.
We are sitting in the flame shop and GlassRoots is an arts center founded 22 years ago.
For 22 years, we have been working with students in a program called YES, which stands for youth entrepreneurial spirit.
We believe that the arts are a unique way to teach business skills, entrepreneurship skills, life skills.
When a student comes with us, sure, they can learn how to be a glass artist, but that is not our only goal, we love it when they leave creating beautiful objects, selling beautiful objects saying I want to be an artist or work in an art career.
But just as important to us are the skills that they learned along the way.
About how to write a business plan, how to create a product, how to market a product, you can imagine in 22 years how that is changed.
How to market a product online.
One of the skills that they come to us and say that they remember the most fondly or they thought was most important was public speaking.
How to sell their product, how to sell what they have done in front of an audience.
All of these skills as you know, our life skills.
They are career skills.
What we feel like we are doing here is we are creating artist, but we are also helping to mold people and, of course, our future adults who are going to be out in the work world, everywhere.
And here is the thing what I love most about this program it is not traditional books and studying, you get hands-on experience.
Carol: The students come after school.
Our basic program they come after school from all high schools around Newark and the surrounding area.
It is a program broken into semesters.
It is taught by an artist/ entrepreneur.
If you want to go and be an artist you have to learn how to sell yourself and your art.
We bring in teaching artists who also have successful careers and they want to impart that to young people.
Once we have had a few sessions, they can get on the torches with adult supervision.
And start making wave for all their colleagues to show up.
Then there is a class portion of the day where each teacher’s has a curriculum, we will have a theme for the day, an idea.
And spend time in the classroom portion introducing how artists work and create businesses.
So it may be how do you create a product?
How do you package your product?
How do you sell the product?
There will be different themes in which there are some quick classroom setting and then it is what are you going to create?
It is on to the torches or the hot shop.
These are all glass works.
But they move onto making their own product and thinking about how they’re going to present them.
The idea is not to spend too long in any classroom setting, but to get their hands on and start working through the products right away.
Think about a 14-year-old, think about a 24-year-old, we like doing, we learn by doing.
Here, they think about how to create business, how to sell, all of those skills.
And then they do it and they actually make a product.
Raven: Tell me success stories that have come out of the program.
Carol: We love our students to become artists.
We love art and we work with them.
Some of our success stories are our own employees who have been through the program, gone off to college, university, some are still working while in college right now, others have graduated.
They have chosen a career in the arts and they have come back and they are our teachers.
They work with students day in and day out.
That is one level of success stories.
Those that have become artists.
And they pay it forward.
And then they become teachers.
That is invaluable.
Raven: Arts entrepreneurship and really a safe space to perfect their craft.
Carol, executive director of GlassRoots, thank you so much.
Thank you for your time today.
Raven: We speak with individuals and the challenges they face with growing their careers.
More than 2 million businesses in the U.S. are owned by Latinas but they are not in leadership positions.
Only 1% of board members in the U.S. are Latinas.
I speak with an individual on how to find mentors on their way out.
>> Having sponsors to guide you whether it is life skills and how to navigate within cultures, every company, entity has a different culture.
Having sponsors to bring you along to understand what is the culture of that entity where they are working, that is like supercritical for somebody success.
Raven: That does it for us this week.
Remember to subscribe to our NJ’s but YouTube — NJ YouTube channel.
Next week we highlight the contributions of workers and the organizations supporting them in the workplace.
Thank you for watching.
I am Raven Santana.
And I will see you next weekend >> Funding provided by IBEW local 102.
Proudly serving New Jersey’s business community.
Local 102, lighting the path, leading the way.
And for 100 years we have been focused on the investment, advancement, and success of our members.
We are the voice representing all industries.
We are working together to build a more prosperous New Jersey through advocacy, support, networking, and benefits.