Hope is alive in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, and where hope prospers, fear dares not tread.
On a bright and sunny morning in August, the Flikshop School of Business traveled to the City of Brotherly Love to host two course sessions with a local non-profit, Why Not Prosper? (WNP) It was a trek from Prince George's County, MD to Philly, but the full day of travel, teaching, guiding, and conversation did not deter our instructors. Nor did the full day of coaching impede the energy and enthusiasm of scholars who attended workshops that day.
WNP was started by the Rev. Dr. Michelle Simmons to help individuals returning from the prison systems to discover their own strength. Under Rev Simmons’ leadership, Why Not Prosper? advocates for women and provides programs and resources that support and empower women in their reentry efforts from prison to community.
When Marcus & Jess entered the room, scholars were already seated and ready. Prepared with pen and paper in hand, we could tell this group was going to be engaged and interactive. The men and women were eager and excited to absorb our lesson plan, which is crafted specifically for entrepreneurs that have a history involving the legal system.
As Marcus led our course Building Your Own Professional Brand, he instilled that each soul in that room had talent, skills, and superpowers that were God-given. He encouraged the group that they had superpowers unique to each of them and that those inherent gifts and expertise were needed and made them distinctive in their professional networks.
Participants asked thoughtful questions around brand, and what it meant to re-create brand after time in prison and while starting a new chapter in life. Marcus’ encouragement and guidance was received reflectively and generated a time of sharing amongst the scholars. Personal stories were shared and tears were shed as each considered how creating and living out a personal and professional brand can offer new possibilities for careers and within communities.
Rev. Simmons also led thoughtful discussion as she prompted attendees to consider that building a personal brand cannot occur without visualizing goals and dreams for the future. This led to a moment of personal reflection as scholars crafted and created their own brand statements. With an encouraging and affirming audience, each scholar shared (or was coaxed to share) their brand statements with the class, and Marcus prodded each of them to explore confidence in their delivery and convey passion around their “why” for each statement.
One of the many programs Why Not Prosper? offers is a reentry workforce readiness program. These educational programs include digital literacy, employment workshops, graphic arts, and career certificate courses. This is all in addition to self-care and financial literacy academies WNP sponsors inside Philadelphia facilities. It was a special moment for FSB instructor, Jessica Snow, who had previously facilitated virtual FSB courses with WNP in the Philadelphia Institutional Corrections Center to be able to welcome home several women she had met virtually while still housed inside corrections.
Segueing into the afternoon, participants were eager
to learn about crafting a pitch andpitch delivery, especially
those present from WNP’s SWAG group (Sisters With a Goal). Everyone at the table was interested in learning how to integrate their brand into pitch presentations, and as usual, Marcus Bullock did not disappoint. As attendees presented their pitches one by one, it was inspiring to instructors to see how their classmates supported and encouraged one another. When they stumbled or paused, many at the table offered solutions or rallied to motivate each person until they reached their pitch conclusion.
With full hearts and sweaty brows, our FSB instructors returned to Maryland. Each FSB workshop we host only further fuels our passion to offer additional educational opportunities to the community we support and cherish. Thank you, Rev. Simmons and WNP for hosting and learning with us. We are excited to watch and support you as you continue to prosper.