I am so excited to share the first People Who Prosper Entrepreneur of 2013, Monique Muhammad. Her story is absolutely amazing and so moving. This woman has been through a lot but through it all has risen above it all. She is the owner of Code Pink Productions, a nonprofit that is committed to helping community through the development of youth, low-income parents and raising funds for medical research. Her interview tells it all. Enjoy reading about her journey to being a CEO.
1.Tell me your story. What were you doing before you started your own business?
I was working at the High School that I graduated from (Thornwood High School in South Holland, IL) as an In-School Suspension Supervisor, Substitute Algebra Teacher, Girls Basketball & Track Coach. While also working part-time in a Beauty Salon and having a home office Income Tax Preparation Business during income tax season. I also was a single foster parent to 2 girls 13 & 15 years old.
2. What made you want to start a business and what is your mission?
I became fed up with the politics that I was dealing with at the High School because I was so young, my Track team had received State Championships and my Basketball Team had made school and district history as being the first of the school and first Girls team of the district to make it down state so in my opinion a lot of why I was at the job had been done and even though I was there to help the children my spirit was being torn down by the system and it was no longer worth it. I had been there for 7 years, touched and helped many children and it was now time for me to put the businesses and skills that I had put in the background in the foreground. I opened my own Beauty Salon and took the Income Tax Preparation business to an outside office. My mission was to provide all the things I felt was missing in these two industries, which was reliable, quality and professional service with integrity.
I was tired of women getting mistreated in Beauty Salons by going to stylist who did not respect their time and their environment who felt that because they provided good styling it was okay to have women waiting in a salon 4 or more hours for service that shouldn’t take more than 2 hours. Getting serviced in atmospheres where many times they did not feel safe because the owners did not ensure their rules were enforced. The income tax preparation business was starting to be flooded with “Big Name” companies who could care less about the consumer they were only looking for customers they did not care if they were providing preparers who were knowledgeable and honest and they were charging sometimes 3 times the amount that I was providing the loans on the income tax payers own refund. I wanted to make sure that since I was also of this community I was treating my customer the way I wanted to be treated, I wanted to provide quality, educated, professional and ethical services at a fair price. I knew I may not reach millions quite as fast but I had my integrity and faith that I may crawl to get there but when I did arrive my conscience would be clear because I focused on ethics first before prosperity.
My Non-Profit organization was started at first to show that women could get along and accomplish something. It then took on a life of its own with my being a Breast Cancer Survivor, former educator and foster parent. Since I did not any longer work at the schools but knew how much I loved being an impact in the lives of young girls, I knew that this was also my passion. And since I did not want to go back into the school system I needed to do something to provide the same services to the girls as well as help as many low-income parents as I could. Being a foster parent I saw that many children were in the system because the parents didn’t have the tools or motivation to make a better life for themselves and their children. I feel that if you help the parent you help the child and if you happen to get to the child after the fact we must teach them that they are only a product of their circumstances if they choose to be and you can choose to complain about the hand you are dealt or play it the best way possible. I have always chosen to play mine the best way possible.
Being a Breast Cancer Survivor I felt it would only make sense for my organization to also do things to raise funds for Cancer research amongst other illnesses that have taken the lives of those loved ones of the people in our organization or health issues that they are currently dealing with. Some people are just blessed with that fighter spirit and some have to be taught how to find it within them and that is what Code Pink Productions, Inc and the ladies involved are committed to doing.
3. What inspires you? What keeps you motivated daily to keep growing your business?
The fact that this young Black woman, raised by a single mother in one of the worse neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago could have graduated from High School received a Bachelor's degree, Cosmetology License, become an adoptive parent of 2 girls then have a biological child at 31, become a single parent, become diagnosed with Breast Cancer at 32, mom diagnosed with Colon Cancer just 1 week later, both go through Chemotherapy & Radiation while being Self-Employed and raising 3 Children, lose my mother 6 years later, receive my Masters Degree in Accounting 1 year after that and am now raising a 10-year-old daughter and God continues to wake me up daily to continue what I plan to do.
This all inspires me because as I approached each thing I had faith that if God gave me the goal he would also provide me with what I needed to accomplish it. As long as I didn't give up on him or myself. I pray daily and ask him to continue to give me the strength to pursue my dreams and to wrap his arms around my businesses and keep them and me safe. Every idea I wake up with I act on and in doing that I continue to get confirmation that I am on the right path. I make sure that I take time for myself and my daughter to keep my mind and ideas fresh while always pushing 100% toward achieving my goals and building an empire that I can leave my daughter & granddaughter. That I am ensuring through their education that they are prepared to run and continue to grow in my absence.
4. Do you have a mentor? Who is it and why? Do you believe it's important to have one?
I had my mother up until age 39 because she has always been an entrepreneur just never accomplished all that I knew she could and now that she is gone I actually just make sure I watch and listen to Oprah's Life Class as well as all those successful African-Americans who are or have gained success in the way that I want. That is for the long-term and making sure that you help others as you help yourself. I always say you can tell if financial security is a Blessing or Curse by whether or not it brings out the Best or Worse in you. I know God has blessed me with a good heart and spirit I want that to continue on even once I gain the financial comfort I am striving for which is I why I listen to those who I feel have accomplished that in the same way. "What does it profit you to gain the Whole World and lose your Soul?" I believe is it important to have one because none of us know everything and for me having older people who I can gain knowledge based on experience is a factor that keeps me pushing.
5. What would you tell someone who wants to get involved in your line of business but doesn't know how to get started?
Well right now I am currently a Cosmetologist with a Salon Suite in Texas (The Yeshe' Salon), an Accountant with an Income Tax Prep business (JPTS Tax Pros), President of an Non-Profit Organization (Code Pink Productions, Inc.) and lastly just became a partner in a Luxury Virgin Human Hair line(Ziye' Luxury Human Hair Extensions). So with all that being said I would say have a passion for the things that you aspire to do. If you have a passion you will never give up and that eventually means the money will come. Passion also ensures that you will love the fight for achieving success in something that you are truly passionate about. Once the passion is there, do research, consult others in that industry and in business as a whole, never think you know it all because you can always learn from someone and once you know what it is you want to accomplish never give up until you do. I am just blessed to be passionate and talented in 3 areas and because of that I push to be successful in all of those areas. I know I may reach each one at a time but I know because I am passionate about them all success is guaranteed no matter how long it may take because the will and desire exist.
6. What advice would you give to someone with an entrepreneurial spirit?
Believe in yourself and your God gifted talent and desire He has given you, Once that is done you will know that you have the ability to accomplish any and everything you set out to accomplish as long as even when obstacles come in your way you know that they are nothing but Challenges for a Champion! How strong we are is determined by how much we had to go through or fight to achieve all that you set out to. I get discouraged often but I also know that with my life I was put here to allow my test to be testimonies to the strength that God blesses us with to survive and accomplish any and everything that we desire.
7. How can people get involved to help your non-profit?
By donating monetary amounts on our Facebook Page www.facebook.com/codepinkproductions email firstname.lastname@example.org and if you are in the Dallas area we are looking for professional women all professions or women with a story of turning tragedy into triumph to volunteer to help us with our mentoring programs for at risk girls, young girls and low-income single women. Monetary amounts will help us with many of our mentoring programs through sports, workshops and our annual Breast Cancer Research fundraiser in honor of myself and my mother.
Thank you Monique for sharing your story of faith, courage and success. Please support Monique’s nonprofit and Breast Cancer patients everywhere.
Be someone’s motivation and tell us your story! To be featured on PeopleWhoProsper.com email Tamara@garrisonprosperitysolutions.com. Put PEOPLEWHOPROSPER in the subject line and share a little about yourself.