Photo Courtesy of CNN
Last night I had the privilege of being in the room with Jerome Jenkins (above), one of the principals at C Jenkins Company in Ferguson, MO. You may remember seeing pictures or stories about Jerome and his wife, Cathy (also above) during the riots in Ferguson following the shooting of Michael Brown. Their restaurant, Cathy’s Kitchen, was one of the bright spots during the uprising, a frequent subject of news stories by the national media.
If Jerome’s in the room, and he’s talking, you’re going to listen. He’s got a quiet intensity about him that makes you pay attention. I had to meet him.
20 in 20
I spend a lot of time with people who have big ideas and want to build big things. Or at least I thought I did. Then, as I was talking to Jerome after the meeting, the subject came up of what he was working on. He said “My mission is to open a new business every year for 20 years.” Um, what? Who even talks like that? He went on.
“I’ve got restaurants already, and a chemical company. I’m looking at a gas station next, then a grocery store. Ultimately I want to start my own bank because I’m tired of seeing black people cash their paychecks and stuff money in their mattress. I’ll do all of these in Ferguson.” Jerome’s family lives in Ferguson as well. He talks freely about the war he’s been in, not to keep people from burning his stores down, but to keep corporations and the government of Missouri from running him out of Ferguson. Yes, you read that correctly.
The state and local government is trying to run a local, African-American entrepreneur out of his locations in Ferguson. I bet you never read that story during the riots.
The Real Deal
If you want to know what it looks like to be a real entrepreneur with real courage, in my mind it looks a lot like Jerome. He’s decided to be a part of the solution, and he’s got little to no tolerance for just talking about it. For him, it’s simple: “Ferguson gets fixed with true equality, and nothing less.”
When he was asked by the panel moderator if he had been in any of the meetings on fixing Ferguson, he replied simply: “I don’t have time for meetings. I’m working.”