Where did you get the idea for REFAL?
The idea for REFAL began went I went to a lecture in Brooklyn – the speakers ideas moved me. I started going to lectures in North Jersey. Every time they’d have them, they would rent a church. I then started organizing events with guest speakers in church basements and other venues in North Jersey, but every time we would end up having to move. We got to that point I told them I couldn’t be a part of anything unless we had our own building so I got a little jar, put it in the store and asked people if they could just donate whatever they can to get our own building.
How did selling the honey and your organic gardening start as a way to create more income?
Producing the honey was a brother’s idea. He thinks outside the box. To me, any idea is a good idea, it just all depends on who’s going to work it. The honey helps people start thinking with a business mind. It’s hard because when you’re just an employee you never think on the other side of that coin of ownership. Like for me, I used to work at Food Town and I try to tell people the owners don’t make a lot of money off of one item. They make pennies off of each item, but they have thousands of items. When people think poor, they think a nickle is not a lot of money. But when people have money, they know that those nickels add up.”
When was your first encounter with GNEC?
I’ve been with them for years. I’ve been with them for a long time. I don’t even remember the first encounter to be honest with you. I remember I had went to a bank years ago when we first got my space and they didn’t give me a loan. They told me ‘we only give loans to companies and groups that do not need loans’. That’s exactly what they told me. Years later I went to GNEC and was able to get a loan.
What would be your advice for someone just starting a business today?
Think as high and wide as you can think and dream. I say this is a nice and wide building but we got to have building that’s like 30 floors or 50 floors. Until we have that, we are not there. Until we can hire 300 people, or 500, people. It is all about thinking outside the box. If you’re satisfied with your work, I don’t care what you make as a salary. If you accept that as your worth, you must say to yourself I have unlimited worth and unlimited potential. Everything is digital now so you have to think how can we reach thousands of people. You have to use the tools that are available to you and try to keep up with the technology the best you can.
What would you say most motivates you to do what you do?
We have good brothers and sisters but they’re financially poor. REFAL stands for Reconstructing Economics for African Love. I like to provide a space and opportunities for us to understand “How do we take our money to do the things that need to be done.” It’s an economics problem but what we lack is love. Love of self. And you can tell because if we really loved ourselves, neighborhoods would be different now, but we aren’t control of things. It’s about power – but how do you get power? You get power by being in control of yourself. And we’re not really in control of ourselves. Because we don’t know who we are. The school system is not going to give it to us so I used to lend this space out a lot of times with little children. Its important to exercise and get knowledge.
This building we are in used to be an old ice cream parlor. We got this place, but we couldn’t hold events in it at first because it needed so much work. So we had all meetings outside in the summer. And we fixed many parts ourselves.
Last, would you recommend GNEC services to friends and family?
I would recommend GNEC services to anyone and everybody. GNEC helped us with a loan. In fact, I only have two more payments.