Jeff Lindor believes the future of business lies in the strength of community. As the founder of two businesses, Lindor spent years working in brand marketing and urban policy, where he realized something was missing in the many powerful boardrooms he worked in: representation.
“I just realized that I was mainly the only Black person in the room. So then, I was really on this quest to help to solve this isolation problem amongst Black professionals,” says Lindor, who graduated with a Masters in Urban Policy from the New School in 2014.
Structuring a thriving community has been at the cornerstone of Lindor’s career. In 2015, the Haitian-born, Brooklyn-native served as a strategic advisor for The New York Department of Correction, where he led the city’s law enforcement executives on policy, operations and strategic planning. Prior to, he worked as a marketing manager, leading a major healthcare company during the first roll out of the Affordable Healthcare Act. Not seeing himself in corporate inspired him to create businesses helping other men who look like him feel more seen.
We sat down with Jeff to discuss his business, his purpose, and some advice he has for other entrepreneurs.
Here are some of our big takeaways. Read on to learn the top lessons he’s learned on growing a community that can help new entrepreneurs thrive:
When you are just starting out as a business owner, you may feel the need to do it all out of necessity. Asking for help where you need it can help you not only reach your goals faster Lindor asserts, but also help you connect more authentically with other people as you grow your network.
“If you do not ask, then you will not get. And that took me a while, because I wasn't conditioned to ask,” he says. “But I think now as an entrepreneur, vulnerability, you can argue it will be a strength if you acknowledge it ... because people love transparency and people love also to help those who are going places, but just need some assistance...You can't do this by yourself.”
As an active father and husband, Lindor says men, particularly men of color, are growing in isolation due to a lack of resources. His second business The Gentleman’s Factory doubles as a workspace giving resources and opportunities for men to connect with each other, currently mostly digitally due to the pandemic.
“The gentleman who went to Stanford or who went to Harvard Law is about to be a dad, so where's he going to learn about that? Does he need to only learn about fatherhood from someone who went to Stanford? Absolutely not. The gentleman that is a blue collar worker can teach them a whole lot about fatherhood, while the gentleman that went to Harvard Law can teach him about the legalities of cryptocurrency or something,” says Lindor. “Everyone has value.”
When Lindor began his entrepreneurial journey, he says he believed a successful entrepreneur always worked nonstop. After several sleepless nights, Lindor said he learned slowing down proved to be as powerful as being productive.
“I realized my best ideas come when I'm well rested and when I have the ability to think,” says Lindor. “There are times and instances where I still do sleepless nights, but not as much anymore, because I realized that the quality of the person that I become during that time isn't really that great.”
Lindor says he remembers the exact moment he wanted to work for himself.
“I went to a group of close friends and I said, ‘Listen, I never want to go back to work again,”’ he shares. “I said that I wanted to dedicate my life into finding innovative solutions that enhance the quality of life of people of color.” He recalls asking his friends for their financial support, if needed. Thankfully, they obliged. That gave him the confidence to start his first business, GroomedSuccess, a minority-owned business giving personal development to young men and boys of color.
He advises new entrepreneurs to take inventory of your circle, understanding who has the resources that can help you in the beginning.
“The fear of rejection is what limits a lot of people, but particularly entrepreneurs. So I feel comfortable now asking someone for $5,000, $10,000, $15,000, a million dollars or whatever, because that barrier of rejection is no longer hovering over me. So that's really how we're able to grow.”
Before starting his businesses, Lindor was clear on who he was serving - a particular set of personal and professional challenges men of color face as they navigate their lives and build their own communities.
“Niche markets (are) key,” he says. “It's important that you constantly ask what problem is it that you're solving, and is that problem big enough for your target audience or your target community?”
In the future, Lindor has a vision of creating a massive global presence for men to connect in areas with a large population of Black and brown men, so they can gather and support each other. “Gentlemen's Factory is going to be one of the largest real estate holders on planet earth...that's just one side of the business, the other side of the businesses is what is being done in these buildings. Innovation is happening, connections are happening.”
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Meet the author:
Lenora E. Houseworth is a writer, journalist and social media strategist with a passion for Black culture based in New York City by way of Chicago. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @LenoraSheWrote.
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