Startup Stories: Kids Off the Block

Black History Month 2014

Tell us about your entrepreneurial product or service.
Kids Off The Block was created to give youth resources, tools and opportunities to become successful adults. We offer participants tutoring, mentoring, music, sports, GED preparation, job skills, and much love. I consider this organization to be a “holistic” center, because of our mission to provide positive alternatives to gangs, drugs, violence and the juvenile justice system.

What inspired you to launch your business idea?
I Have eight children (4 boys and 4 girls), I had one at home, she was thirteen at the time. She had nine friends (ages 13-15), girls and boys. To keep up with her, I started taking all of them skating, movies, fishing, etc,. My mom saw this and said to me “Diane you should do something with the kids, they like and respect you”. I must admit I didn’t want to do it, I thought in five years Aisha would be eighteen and off to college, I would then be free! That of course didn’t didn’t happen, and on July 15, 2003 I walked outside to Aisha and her friends and asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up, they said doctors, lawyers, singers, play sports. I asked them if I started something, I had no idea what because I knew nothing about an organization, would they participate.

I started writing corny raps for them because at that time everyone wanted to rap. I would invite their parents over on Friday nights and they would perform. When I saw the reaction of the parents and the kids themselves, I was stuck. The parents were so proud, and the kids were glowing. I began to talk with each one about the problems they face everyday, and as a mom I wanted to do whatever I could to help.

Next thing I know, there are kids coming from everywhere. Mind you, these were kids I didn’t know. Suddenly there were 20, 35, 50, 75 young people coming to house every day to get help getting out of the gang, help with getting back into school, homeless kids. I quit my job because I knew this is what I wanted to do the rest of my life!

What problem does your business or organization solve?
The youth we serve feel “disconnected” from society thus creating the atmosphere of violence, we solve that problem by reconnecting them to caring adults and peers. Linking them to their passions and goals and giving them a sense of family.

What has been your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur and how are you working to overcome it?
Our biggest challenge is finding empathy for our cause. Most people look at the news and see youth as either the victim or the perpetrator. To get people to believe they are worth saving through donations or volunteering is very challenging.

Give us one word that people might use to describe you.

How has Project Eve helped you and/or your business?
Being able to join and post about my passion is one way Project Eve is helping.

Give us an insider tip that relates to your industry or startup story.
In order to help young people feel hopeful, you must show them you care enough to listen.

Company: Kids Off The Block


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