Innovative Minds

Local entrepreneurs discuss joys, pitfalls of starting a business

At its first event of 2016, the Good Life Youth Foundation featured three Syracuse entrepreneurs who shared their ups and downs of
owning a business. The goal of the panel was to encourage attendees, especially the youth, to consider starting their own businesses.

GoodLifeSide“I believe that every youth and adult has to be an entrepreneur in thinking,” said Hasan Stephens, the founder and executive director of Good Life. He invited Darren Chavis, Gabriela Escalante and Cedric Bolton to the South Side Innovation Center on Saturday, Jan. 23, to talk about their experiences establishing their businesses.

An attendee listens to the panel on entrepreneurship organized by The Good Life Youth Foundation held Saturday, Jan. 23, at the South Side Innovation Center. | Yu Hua, Staff Photo

Chavis, the owner of Creole Soul Café, said he first established his construction company, moved to real estate and then opened his restaurant in 2015. He talked about some of the harsher realities of owning a business, like being accountable to yourself.

“It’s hard to explain being a true entrepreneur because you have to be able to stand alone and live and die by the decisions that you make,” he said. “Another thing an entrepreneur never needs is someone to pat them on the back.”

Escalante did not sugarcoat her experiences. She said her biggest mistake was going into business with her best friend because when things didn’t work out, she lost a coworker and a friend. Her current business, EB Active, sells light-up active wear. As a representative for the South Side Innovation Center, Escalante also talked about the resources the center provides for entrepreneurs and offered her advice to young people.

“I think it’s important to give back, and I know the importance of having a guide,” she said.

Bolton first sensed his entrepreneurial spirit as a college student when he needed money for books.

He said he went to his church pastor for help, and his pastor encouraged him to do yardwork for other church members to make some money.

Cedric Bolton | Yu Hua, Staff Photo

Now, Bolton has a catering business, BoDean’s Smoked Chicken & Ribs, which he hopes to turn into a food truck. Bolton said his top three tips for a beginning entrepreneur are to “find your passion, find a resource to develop it and start working
towards it.”

The Good Life Youth Foundation hosts workshops and panels to educate disenfranchised and at-risk youth on financial literacy, asset building and entrepreneurship.

Stephens, who previously worked as a teacher at Hillbrook Detention Center in Syracuse, said his goal is to inspire youth to break the cycles of poverty present in Syracuse through entrepreneurship and financial independence.

Overall, the event allowed community members to connect with and hear from three business owners at different stages of entrepreneurship. Chavis warned the crowd not to view entrepreneurship as a fail-safe method of success, however.

“There are way more valleys than peaks, so take time to smell the roses,” he said. “But if this ends tomorrow, the last seven years, I’ve been truly fulfilled.”



–Article by Ashley McBride, The Stand staff reporter

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