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Kadeem Dunwell instills confidence, inspiration and hope in young entrepreneurs

Photo Credit: Kadeem Dunwell/YEA

Photo Credit: Kadeem Dunwell/YEA

Kadeem Dunwell is the founder and chief executive officer of The Young Entrepreneurs of Atlanta Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit organization that supports, educates and encourages young people under the age of 24 to improve their chances of success by promoting youth entrepreneurship as a viable solution to unemployment. Through their programs, they provide young entrepreneurs with tools, mentorship and resources that aid them in the growth and development of their entrepreneurial goals.

Dunwell is devoted to community involvement and the branding and marketing of companies run by young professionals.

Following the success of Young Entrepreneur Conference 2017 at General Assembly in Atlanta, Dunwell shares insight on social entrepreneurship.

What is your day-to-day like at work?
My day varies depending on the different tasks at hand. I could be heading to a development meeting, seeking sponsors, or finding different ways to educate myself on what’s new and how we can implement these trends into our system. Typically, our boots are on the ground within the communities we serve. Whether we’re providing training or entrepreneurial programming we try our best to ensure that we are visible within the communities we call home every day.

What inspires you to show up at work every day?
Love. As an entrepreneur, there are times when things don’t look as good as some might think judging from your Instagram. Often, you’re trying to figure out if that light at the end of the tunnel is a new beginning or a train coming full speed ahead. You can’t do what we do without love. Young Entrepreneurs is a passion project. It’s my story. The story of a kid who dreams of building his own way out through business… and not necessarily having the mentors, structure, or knowledge on how. This is the story of many millennials today.Which is why our organization is so important.

How did you determine your career path?
Growing up, I watched my parents live the “American Dream.” They had great jobs, two cars, a decent size home and excess cash for vacations and dinner at random restaurants on weekends. It wasn’t until I got to college and the market crashed that I realized at any moment, when an opportunity has been given to you by someone else, it can also be taken away. With that in mind, I decided that I would create my own opportunities and not leave my future families success in the hands of someone else. Instead, I wanted to build something I could pass down to my children instead of having them “work just as hard as me” only to be able to buy a better house or better car for themselves. I wanted my children to be able to create, build, and continue a legacy that lasts for generations to come.

What industries connect to your career choice?
I’m a social entrepreneur. Meaning I have the freedom to work at whatever capacity I choose. Mostly, the work that I do revolves around bettering the lives of the people I touch everyday. I thoroughly enjoy working with youth. Not just because they are our future, but because they are the smartest most misunderstood generation we have on this planet today. The more we tell them what they can’t do, the more they figure out new ways to show us how and why they can. I thoroughly believe that sort of “ youthful genius” is in all of us–if we don’t let someone rob it from us on the way up. Our educational system does a horrible job of fostering these ideas. Which is why we’re so focused on providing young people with the tangible resources they need to truly be the person they want to become in business and in life.

Describe the future skill sets that are essential to future business leaders and innovators.

  • Relationships. Relationships. Your relationships are the keys that unlock doors to your future success. Greet the janitor the same as you would the CEO
  • Build your brand/business on a solid foundation. While perception may be reality, if your brand is built on half truths and whole lies. It nor you will last long.
  • Don’t be afraid to die. Throughout your journey your friends will leave you, your family will deter you, and you will go through a lot of grief and anxiety along the way. These things are necessary to get you where you want to go. More than likely you will need to make new friends, develop new habits, and you will need to unlearn everything you thought you knew about yourself in order to become the leader that can truly take on building a brand or business.
  • Practice until you don’t get it wrong

Most people try to go too big too soon. Develop a plan, perfect your craft, and build a solid reputation around your company’s main vision and goals. What part of your company will everyone know you for because it’s done extremely well and with passion? What is it?

Define innovation methods you apply to your business and life.
I never thought “truth” would be innovative. But you see a lot of crazy stuff when you actually start rubbing shoulders with certain people out here. Other than that, I try my best to think about the things I know I would enjoy doing as a youth or as a budding young entrepreneur. Typically, I’ll kick those ideas around to my team and trusted individuals in my circle. After about a week or so we have a full blown timeline and action items on our hands. Teamwork truly does make the dream work. When you have a board or peers around you who truly want to see you win and aren’t counting your eggs vs. theirs it becomes less challenging to collaborate and work together towards cooperative success.

Describe goal setting methods you use and how do you evaluate your success.

  • Write it down.
  • Create checkpoints along the way
  • Cut the fat (if you don’t need it let it go,move on)
  • Assess your outcomes with your intended goals and evaluate where you fell short.

In between projects, find YouTube videos, mentors, or books that will help you gain more knowledge on the skill set you notice may need some improving.

Who do you consider your peers in your field? How have they supported you? What best practices have they shared?
Okay. I want to make it very clear, everyone that is in your field is not your peer. Pride, Ego, and the illusion of “making it to the top” causes a lot of people who should be working together to connive, steal and deceive one another. Some call it business, I call it bullshit. Either way, it happens. There will always be healthy competition and that’s good for the sport. It pushes everyone to greater heights and of course creates a better outcome for customers looking to receive better products and/or solutions.

When you are finally able to find someone or a group of people who by into your vision, the support is unreal. Obviously all the members of Young Entrepreneurs I consider family. The biggest support you’ll need in this game is mental. True businessman/businesswomen will always find a way to make money. Even if it does look dark; finances typically always seem to come from “somewhere.” If you have a tribe that respects one another, level headed, focused, and constantly inspiring one another, you honestly don’t have much to worry about. Your mental health is most important. Get you some peers who can keep your mind together when everything is falling apart. Because trust, it will.

Name your favorite role models for success in two different industries.
I love John Hope Bryant. He gets it. In his own way.

I also love Alan Watts. Our mind is the most powerful tool we have in this world. Most of us think the way we do because of the environments we were raised in and the experiences we’ve gone through. But their are certain parts of life that are universal and connect all of us. He does a great job of identifying those underlying characteristics and crafting them into simple tangents on how we can all do better.

Names four books that changed how you saw life and you recommend to others.
Rich Dad, Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki
Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice – Dr. Dennis Kimbro
Caught Between A Dream and A Job – Delatorro McNeal
The Art of War – Sun Tzu

Describe why lifelong learning is important to you?
I am intentional about learning. I try to learn something new everyday. I try my best to stay up to date with what’s new and going on in the world. Unfortunately if you don’t, you stand the chance of becoming obsolete and or falling behind. My family deserves more than that.

Describe the voice of success that you hear in your head.
There was a time when I can honestly say I doubted myself. It wasn’t so much of me not believing in myself as it was me listening to outside opinions and allowing others to dictate whether or not I felt as if I was good enough. There’s 7 Billion people in this world. The moment I realized I was onto something, and it wasn’t up to 10 people in Atlanta to decide whether or not I made it or not.. I was good.

Community success based on what you do in the community means what to you?
Moving the needle towards progress. Inspiring more young people to say I can versus I can’t. When we first started our programming, there was a dropout crisis in many of the high schools we worked in. While we’re able to sort of steer that issue because we provide activities and programming that students actually like on a consistent basis, the next issue becomes college. I’m a college dropout. Why? Because of finances. Number 1 cause of divorce, finances. Number one reason someone decides to rob someone, finances. Number one reason most Black and brown students don’t finish college, finances. It’s a slippery slope. With technology and automation right around the corner, there’s less and less of a need for people to do jobs a robot or computer can do. If we don’t get these youth creating, if we don’t get these youth to re imagine the future and give them the tangible tools it takes to create it; We’ll forever be hoping junior can shoot a ball or rap for the next 200 years.

Technology plays what role in your daily life?
It’s very important. We’re expanding to multiple cities this fall. Without Internet or a way to communicate with your team hundreds of miles away, the world would stop. Period.

What software and technology tools have made the biggest difference in your life?
I grew up on HP. Bill Gates and I could have been cousins we had so many HP and Windows products growing up. Same with Blackberry. Now, I like to use Apple products. They’re easy to navigate and allow you to complete multiple tasks at once. It’s hard to beat their picture quality for mobile devices.

Define your personal culture.
There’s this whole movement of “acting like a king” or “acting like a queen” going on in our culture today.That’s cool. I admire the ideology behind it. But you never really know what that means until you’re in the presence of one. I had the opportunity to travel to Paris recently and sit/converse with Presidents from many different African Countries. It’ll change your life. It has very little to do with you being able to show off your wealth and/or flash the latest designer whatever… It’s the embodiment of principles. The understanding that I represent a legacy and a culture. I come from a lineage of individuals who have fought and built a better world for me and my children. Meaning there is no doubt in my mind that I will do the same. I want for nothing. Because all that I need I already have or it is within my reach no matter how far. Forget who I thought I was, I’m on that now.

How does music impact and influence you?
I am a musician. I played trumpet since I was nine and was in the marching band. Music does something to you that is truly unexplainable. Imagine how a sad day can be turned around by listening to your favorite song. Imagine how even when you can’t find the words to say thank you, the choir comes on and the organs play, next thing you know there’s tears coming down your eyes. There’s a spirit that comes with music. I don’t listen to the radio much anymore. However, I am a fan of SOULECTION Radio. It’s an independent radio show online hosted by a guy named Joe Kay and his group of Dj’s from time to time. They have fun, and they travel around the world mixing cultures with their own flair. After I heard them mix Gucci and Miles Davis during one of their sets I was like yea… this is me.

Describe your favorite vacation spot.
My favorite vacation spot would have to be somewhere quiet with a lot of water and great food. Jamaica is pretty cool.

If you could change one thing about the world what would it be?
More hope

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
There’s this whole thing about “enjoying the journey” that folks are throwing around lately. I get it. There’s a particular level of being introspective that comes before someone decides to say “I want to change this” or “I want to change that” about themselves. I honestly love the person that I am now. It’s definitely not the person I was yesterday let alone last year. I’m enjoying the ride and setting new goals to become better day by day. Discipline is huge with me. Understanding that it took me awhile to get here and it will take even more time to get to where i’m trying to go is apart of the process. And while I may hold others to the same standard, it will take them some time as well… I guess …thanks for saving my relationship Yvette.