Jamar “J Haleem” Washington is an author, nationally-published and award-winning corporate and commercial photographer, serial entrepreneur, business coach, motivational speaker, and corporate trainer. J Haleem was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey where his interest in being an entrepreneur was birthed. While in college, J Haleem became a convicted felon. Because of his challenged background, he was never able to get the corporate job his degree warranted, even though he graduated with honors. It was at that moment that he chose entrepreneurship to be the platform on which he would establish himself. June 2021, almost 18 years to the date, J Haleem was pardoned by the state of South Carolina. Now, with more than 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur; his 501c3 organization, I Won’t Starve Academy provides education and training for entrepreneurs and career development focused on creating successful intrapreneurs.
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Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
J Haleem Washington: I am J Haleem Washington, serial entrepreneur, author, business coach, and corporate trainer. I am a native of Newark, New Jersey where my interest in entrepreneurship was birthed. I came from very humble beginnings growing up in a household where seven of eight adults, were addicted to hard drugs. As a result, I became involved in street life. I graduated high school and traveled to South Carolina to attend college. It was there that I became a convicted felon. Even though I graduated college with honors, I would never be able to get the job my degree warranted. It was then that I chose entrepreneurship and I’ve been an entrepreneur ever since, for 20 years. I received my pardon for my felony from the State of South Carolina, June 2021 – 18 years to the date.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your viewpoint, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
J Haleem Washington: Entrepreneurs are made and not born. In my opinion, entrepreneurship is the most selfless act that you can engage in. This involves making a conscious decision that you want to create a business that is not only going to solve the problems of your fellow man, but also your community, in your state and your country, And then creating an opportunity for other individuals and putting yourself in situations where you are responsible for how they feed their family. No one is born with the thought of doing that, you have to live and go through some experiences to be able to make the conscious decision to take on that type of responsibility.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
J Haleem Washington: I would say that I was unconventional, unorthodox, and resilient.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
J Haleem Washington: J Haleem, LLC is a consulting firm. We specialize in business development, coaching, and training to help our clients secure their space in the marketplace, identify strategic alliances, and develop sales strategies. Nine years ago, I started as a photographer. As I continued to grow in my craft, I started placing myself in a position to “be the cheese,” a networking tactic I use. As “the cheese,” or the only photographer that would attend certain corporate events, I found myself in the room with companies who could utilize the services of my business, some of those organizations were government entities. This is when the niche market for J Haleem, LLC was identified and we moved into the area of government contracting. We became extremely successful in getting contracts and as a result, we saw the void or an area of opportunity for us to help get more minorities in that space, We pivoted and this solely became our focus. Now, as a certified professional coach and trainer, we offer these services on a more broad scale.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
J Haleem Washington: An entrepreneur must assume that success will not come overnight. You have to start your business prepared to put in a lot of work. Be prepared to learn, grow, and develop – not only the business but yourself also as time goes by.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
J Haleem Washington: No, I didn’t make any wrong assumptions. My problem was jumping in headfirst without a plan at all. As an entrepreneur, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned the importance of putting a plan in place before jumping into a new venture.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain.
J Haleem Washington: My advice would be to be patient. When I was first starting as an entrepreneur, I always thought that things would happen extremely fast. I wanted things to happen tomorrow. I grew up in the greater New York area, so the hustle and fast movement is nothing new to me. I have learned that it is all a process and it takes time to build a successful business.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
J Haleem Washington: The worst advice I received, was not to start a business at all.
When I first got started entrepreneurship, it wasn’t so popular. It wasn’t the thing to do as we see it now in today’s times. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, the energy to hustle, and great ideas. However, I was told that I shouldn’t start a business and I shouldn’t follow my dreams. The lesson I would like others to learn is to do what’s best for you. To do what makes you happy, as long as you’re not hurting anyone or preventing anyone from doing what they want to do – go for it.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
J Haleem Washington: Nowadays, a lot of new entrepreneurs are coming in with a false sense of security going into starting their business. COVID-19 has shown us there is no security at all. What hasn’t changed is that seasoned entrepreneurs know there isn’t any security for the most part. Crises are always looming over your business from day one. It doesn’t take a global Pandemic. It could be a household. You could get ill or someone else significant in your business could and your entire company could turn upside down. It could have been a natural disaster. Or it could be companies such as UBER or LYFT entering the taxi industry. Seasoned entrepreneurs know that these things could happen almost daily, and as a result, they don’t get comfortable and rest on their laurels while running a business.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
J Haleem Washington: One common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs believe is that self-employment is the same as entrepreneurship. My biggest piece of advice is to know and understand the difference between the two, and then understand that being self-employed you’re responsible for yourself, and being an entrepreneur makes you responsible to others.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
J Haleem Washington: You have to have basic money management skills, common sense, and flexibility.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
J Haleem Washington: One of the greatest ways they can prepare themselves is through personal development. The books I recommend are The E-Myth Revisited, The Richest Man in Babylon, and I would be remiss to not mention my book, #UWon’tStarve: Key Principles for Entrepreneur Development.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
J Haleem Washington: If I could choose any other job, I would be a teacher. I don’t think you could ever get enough education on the subject of entrepreneurship. There is a lot of misinformation out there and I would love to do my part to continue providing valuable education.
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
J Haleem Washington: Martin Luther King, Jr.,
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank J Haleem Washington for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with J Haleem Washington or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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