Tell me about yourself.
-Jake is from a “tiny middle of nowhere” town called Middleton in between Saginaw and Flint, Michigan. He lived there for 16 years of his life until he attended Central Michigan University for Dietetics. His first job was at a farmer’s market at Flint.
How did you get to where you are?
-After he graduated, he was lost, deciding between going to graduate school and working. Thus, he took a year off and ended up stocking shelves at Whole Foods to save up for potential graduate school. He ended up going to Oakland University for non-profit management in administration. He went through half of his graduate school program and realized that it may not pay off in terms of helping him get a higher paying job. He soon became a nutritionist and recycling specialist for Whole Foods in Naples, Florida. Once his position got eliminated, he was looking for a way to get back into food, especially through non-profits, ideally in Detroit. He didn’t have a plan and just moved back to Detroit and ended up applying for Detroit Food Academy and Gleaners AmeriCorps programs. Initially, he did not get the DFA position, but the day of his interview for Gleaners, Jen, co-founder and current executive director of DFA, gave him a call back and mentioned that the other person pulled out, so the job was his. He developed the Small Batch program and received the funding from the Skillman Foundation for a 3-year pilot program. He is currently a yoga instructor in training. He got involved in yoga initially to impress a girl but then discovered that it was his favorite form of exercise. His background is nutrition, and a year and a half ago he became a personal trainer. His new goal is to try to implement his health and fitness passions into DFA curriculum. He is also trying to come up with his own nonprofit and for-profit spin-off companies.
Describe a hurdle you had to overcome.
-One of his really good friends passed away as he finished his senior year of college. This made him question everything because he was unsure of his next steps in terms of career and lifestyle.
How would you describe social entrepreneurship?
-One of Jake’s goals of is to get youth interested in entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship and an entrepreneurial mindset are very different, he claims. Social entrepreneurship can occur organically, as someone creates a business that is socially minded, socially driven. For example, Pepsi is getting socially aware with less sugar, smaller portions, so they are incorporating this social entrepreneurship. His big thing, however, is teaching an entrepreneurial mindset: what goes into building a business, what goes into hustling, what goes into hard work, and what goes into being a leader. This is what he argues one utilizes to create a successful a business. One can also do a lot of social good by going into a present business and integrating it with a social entrepreneurial mindset.
Why did you choose to live in Detroit/what does Detroit mean to you?
-When he received the job offer at DFA, he moved to Detroit but lived in a friend’s attic just to live in the city. This desire to live in the city was rooted in the fact that he was from a small town and was obsessed with cities from a young age. At this stage of his life, he believes Detroit is the perfect place for him to live because it is combines kind, Midwestern people with a fast-paced city environment.
What excites you?
-He likes seeing anyone light up about stuff, like when anyone gets nerdy about something like flowers and they just tell you everything they know about it. The school system is surrounded by a mentality of “get stuff done” rather than being passion focused, in which he feels a lot of kids do not even have the slightest bit of passion anymore. He questions how anyone could have passion about anything if they believe that school sucks and it does not excite them. Thus, he argues schooling should support cultivation of passion.
What do you think makes you unique as a person?
-He is often referred to as “Jake of all trades, master of none” in which he possesses skill at a lot of different tasks. However, he feels as if this has some negative effects as well, as he spreads himself too thin.
If you could change anything in the world, what would it be?
-He would change our approach to health and health education. The entire K-8 education should incorporate so much more about health and the body, and then high-school should be when students should focus more on their career and traditional subjects. Everything should focus on how a kid is feeling, how they take care of themselves psychologically and physically.
If you could give any piece of advice, what would it be?
- “You should get rid of the ‘Woulda, shoulda, couldas’ of life and be patient with yourself and your ability. Most of the stuff that happens today is not going to matter even later that day, so learn how to move on.”