It was the first week of April, 2012 and I was in Philadelphia getting prepared for the next stop of my "Less Talk...More Action" Empowerment Tour, which would be held in Philly the following week. After a long day of meetings with community partners, I stopped at my bank to take out cash from the ATM. It just so happened there was a mini rally to help the homeless happening immediately in front of my bank. Having a soft spot for the homeless, I stopped to talk to the coordinator of the rally to learn about the initiative and tell her why I was in Philly; I was actually hoping we might be able to support each other. Eavesdropping on our conversation was a homeless man, Jason Mercado, who after I had concluded my conversation with the coordinator, began to tell me about his story -- I was sold immediately!
Jason Mercado is homeless and currently lives in a homeless shelter with over 40 others. He is one of the many tragedies of this hard economy who has entered into the realm of the impoverished. However, "down" he may be, but "out" he certainly isn't. On that day Jason told me about the business he had started -- "Just Cookies."
So here I am on a random weeknight talking to a homeless man about some business he has created. I must admit to being skeptical because I have heard just about every story under the sun. People hear I appear on CNN and suddenly people think I am the Pope where they confess every fleeting business they have ever had with the hope that I will turn it from a far-fetched notion into the next Google. However, then he started to tell me about his plan and execution:
• He partnered with a local community-based organization which allowed him to use their kitchen for free to make cookies and baking goods.
• He took a few free business courses through local community organizations to learn the basics of business and applied those principals to his business.
• He assembled a small team of volunteers from his community to help him make, produce, and market his business in return for a future paid position if the business takes off.
• He continued to increase and tap into his network to raise the limited, but still much needed, $100 to $200 to purchase the products and start operations.
• He printed some free business cards with a custom made logo design which was donated and he handed me one on the spot.
He was a walking, living example of one of the primary principles I teach:
All people were born with the same three things -- the mind, the body, and the earth underneath your feet. If you look around you right now, nothing around you didn't come from one of those three things. If you are sitting on a chair, that chair originally started as a vision in someone's mind. That person then used his body as a tool to manipulate materials which came from the earth and form the chair. No matter how little resources you think you have, you always have what you need to create success as long as you have access to your mind, your body, the earth, and a healthy helping of faith to make all things work together for the greater good!
Inspired by his presentation, I decided to put him to the "test." This is what I told him:
"I have an event coming up next week and I want you to make a presentation about your company at this event. Here is $40 to purchase cookies for you to give away at the event. There is nobody but me, you, and God who knows I am giving you this money. You can choose to walk away keeping my money, or you can choose to come to the event and give away your cookies to help market your product."
He took the money, the flier with event details, and my cell number and we parted ways. What he didn't know was that already in my mind I had decided that if he did show up I would do everything in my power to help support his efforts even beyond my event.
Jason Mercado showed up at the event that following week with cookies in hand, a full staff, and was early! He made his presentation to the audience and his cookies were a hit! I sat back and watched the participants crowd around his delicious cookies at the conclusion of the event and couldn't help but see the larger picture. Here we have a homeless man who had the unrelenting audacity to overlook his financial situation and start a business...here we have a homeless man promoting his business at my event. How many others in his situation would have been able to take advantage of this opportunity? I have always heard that lady luck favors those who work the hardest to take advantage of opportunity, but have never really experienced such an extreme example. After seeing someone like Jason Mercado, what excuse does anybody really have for not taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way?
Jason Mercado represents the "American Dream" in action to me. While he is concerned about what happens in Washington, he will not be swayed by policies at the state or federal government level; he will continue to be diligent about making cookies for a profit -- no excuses! He will continue to rely upon the volunteers and free resources in his community. He recognizes that his current living circumstances do not give him a reason to stand still and not move forward -- no excuses! There is no complaining or protesting from Jason because he is too busy making cookies to do anything else.
So, America, what's your excuse? Why haven't you started your business? Why haven't you taken that idea that God has planted in your head and made it into a reality? If there is one thing that will turn this economy around it is the revival of the small business. However, as long as we continue to fabricate obstacles as to why we can't be successful then, those ideas are destined to die with us along with the notion of a stronger economy...a stronger economy that most effectively comes from stronger implementation of our vital ideas.
That's all I have to say in this article because my words really don't do justice to Jason Mercado and his vision. Here is the interview of Jason for you to hear directly from him. His cookies were good, but the inspiration that he has given me and hopefully to you as well is even better!
Ryan Mack Interviews Jason Mercado -- The Homeless Entrepreneur