One entrepreneur that has opened both his mind and heart to the Detroit community is Sebastian Jackson of the Social Club Grooming Company, a unique barbershop located between FedEx and Starbucks on the West Side of Wayne State University. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to him speak this past week at the Detroit Shapers Conference at TechTown. Besides regularly hosting poetry slams and acoustic concerts, the barbershop also functions as a community space. It is a space for people to tell their stories, spread ideas, and speak about their vision of how Detroit can rise from the ashes. It is a space to break down racial barriers. It is a space for people to listen to the trials and tribulations of their neighbors with the patience of an old friend.
In particular, I was struck by the innovativeness of his business model. Jackson takes the cut hair from patrons to construct nitrogen composts, which is then used as fertilizer to grow apple trees in local Detroit neighborhoods. Five trees are grown for every six pounds of hair. Also, he uses wood cut from unsafe, abandoned housing to build bookshelves for the company's growing library. Libraries, he said, are houses of ideas and innovation that connect not only space and time but people.
Sebastian Jackson, I salute you. I applaud your creative mind and your efforts to see your ideas come to fruition, and I wish you the best of luck on your journey. As I continue on my own journey, I hope to emulate both your hunger to see a more connected, understanding world and your thirst to create opportunities for both yourself and for the people around you. You are an example of social entrepreneurship at its finest.
For me, social entrepreneurship is about connection and opportunity. It is about bridging the distance between two human beings. It is about enabling everyone the right to a stable job and income. It is about sustainable funding streams and grants and social systems and ingrained patterns of poverty. It is about embracing your haters. It is about failing and failing and failing and briefly succeeding and then failing some more while keeping your head up the entire way. But mostly, it is about hustling to make your brilliant idea a reality, and then seeing the smiles of the children whose lives that you have improved along the way.