Interested in starting your own journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ashanti Jackson, Founder of Gameface 4:13 Training Academy, located in Jacksonville, FL, USA.
What's your organization, and who are your members?
I run a registered 501(c3) organization called Gameface 4:13 Training Academy. Our organization's mission is to serve youth in three areas:
- Physical training (sports camps, clinics, and youth basketball leagues)
- Mental Training (academic camps and life skills)
- Spiritual Training (character development, community service, and local/global mission trips)
Our organization has partnered with schools, churches, small businesses, and community leaders here in the Jacksonville area to do work such as:
- Leverage the popularity of basketball to produce strategic solutions for children and families.
- Create a character-leadership class in which community leaders host mentorship workshop sessions with youth participants.
- Generate a safe haven and encouraging environment for youth participants, teaming up with the city's vision to stop youth violence and non-productive behavior by giving kids a positive outlet.
- Provide scholarships for youth participants and families in order to be a part of our programs.
Our goal is to create a holistic approach for the youth through GameFace 4:13 Training Academy. Through this, we combine physical, mental, and spiritual training to make that possible. We currently host monthly basketball camps and mentorship workshops for youth. We are looking to expand into academic workshops and after-school programs for the youth through continued partnership.
Tell us about yourself
I was a college basketball player and played for Jacksonville University. The game of basketball taught me life skills that have transferred off the court and have made me the woman I am today. Those seeds planted even at a young age through the game of basketball have radially impacted my life and kept me on the right path. Consequently, knowing the impact, the game had on my life forced me to examine how I should properly use the gift God had given me and impact my community. My non-profit started out of faith and need in the community. In 2016 I was going through a tough season in my life, questioning what I wanted to do with my career. After I decided to transition into education and public service, the urgent need for youth in our community became clear.
Knowing the need, I stepped out on faith and started a simple basketball camp which turned out to be an instant success. Fast forward a few years later, God placed it on my heart to take a deeper step of faith and turn my simple basketball camps into an official non-profit organization. Now Gameface is more than just basketball camps; we provide other services that will impact youth in a holistic way. By making that move, we have seen exponential growth and greater impact through the support of our community, city, and individual partners. The end vision keeps me going and puts fuel to my fire. I won't rest until my assignment for this organization is complete. My goal is to provide exceptional service for families.
What's your biggest accomplishment as an organization?
My biggest accomplishment as a business owner is seeing exponential growth. Over the past year, we have seen the fruits of our labor and its impact on youth in our community. Seeing that type of growth as the result of our hard work is extremely gratifying. We have a lot more hard work to do, but I love seeing new faces and hearing new stories from families.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being an organization?
The journey to being a non-profit founder and maintaining my organization's mission has not been easy. In general, entrepreneurship on all levels is a challenge and has many bumpy roads. There are many days I must get over the fear of taking risks and daily rejection. Not only do we as entrepreneurs endure hardships in the process of growing our start-ups, but we must overcome stagnation, break out of traditions, and develop forward-thinking mindset shifts. As a result, I need to constantly surround myself with others with the same drive, passion, and desire to become lifelong learners.
Being an entrepreneur has opened my eyes to the possibility that every person is built differently and brings to the table unique giftings that can change the world. Not everyone is the same, and that's okay. There are plenty of people who are content with playing it safe and might not have the motivation to step out, explore, and rock the boat. However, one of my deepest beliefs concerning every person is having the capacity to develop an ownership mentality. Even if you're working and serving at a company that is not owned by you, that's equally important! Having an ownership mindset and entrepreneurial spirit can uplift any company and strengthen the operational structure of that specific job. I'm currently working in other lanes besides entrepreneurship and have learned so many valuable skills. Being a teacher for several years and doing outreach and managerial work at companies and churches has been a great experience. One of the greatest quotes that come to mind on this topic is this bible verse. Luke 16:12 says, "And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?" This quote means before you can manage your own vision, you must be a good steward of another man's vision (our boss).
Furthermore, some people have a calling to be a builder and pioneers, and those specific people can understand my journey better. Being a non-profit founder, I realized that I've had to move past people saying no and focus on those who've said yes. I've had to "stay in the game" and develop grit and perseverance. The non-profit sector –especially being a new non-profit is also a challenge. We are an organization that's not built off the back of another person's established non-profit. As a result, I've had to build my own tables and teams and invite others to sit at those tables. My organization Gameface is relatively new to the non-profit sector, and I have to work hard to prove credibility as we continue to establish our work and put our– "boots on the ground."
The struggle to continue pushing forward and produce quality work, despite the recognition, helped me develop my character. Not only is my character continuing to be formed, but it is continually creating a drive and credibility to help others who will go behind me. I've had to work part-time jobs and full-time jobs while working for my non-profit organization. There have been many days I've had to make sacrifices and do things I don't necessarily "love to do," which opened doors for me to work on my passion and continue on purpose. Every person's journey is different, but I've learned to embrace the challenge and grow stronger.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow an organization today?
- Have a vision; it will drive you past your "no's" you will encounter along the way.
- Be consistent; it fosters trust, which breeds success.
- Have systems in place that will keep you and your company organized.
- Have the heart to serve and have exceptional customer service.
Where can people find you and your group?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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