New initiative shows young entrepreneurs the fusion of hip-hop, business and education
Ernest Ruffin, Jr. and his organization Young Entrepreneurz Solutions are the perfect fusion of youth business, education and hip-hop!
ERNEST RUFFIN, JR.
Business, education, and hip-hop have been strange bedfellows almost since the dawn of culture. The company has helped propel art into an industry worth billions. Education, knowledge and understanding manifested in the songs, writings and speech of the urban griot. And hip-hop, as a culture, has become a perfect vehicle for teaching young people the truth. One man took his fondness for all of these disciplines and passed them on to young people in both traditional and unorthodox ways.
Ernest Ruffin, Jr. is the executive director and founder of Young Entrepreneurz Solutions Organization. He also taught entrepreneurship at Rutgers University from 2011-2020, until the pandemic decimated everything that was regular and normal in our lives. Ruff, like Hip-Hop, has a long history of working in and out of the system. His new organization has many layers, all of which point back to business, education, and hip-hop. Add in some ambitious young people and there is nothing but a positive overload that is spreading around the world.
AllHipHop: Tell people a bit about yourself.
Ernest Ruffin: I am the executive director and founder of Young Entrepreneurz Solutions Organization and I also taught entrepreneurship at Rutgers University from 2011 until the 2020 pandemic. The pandemic struck and reduced class sizes so that adjunct professors like me weren’t invited to teach, but while teaching at Rutgers one of my students sold his business to Mark Cuban, another sells tie pins and was featured in GQ magazine and they attributed some of their success to what they learned in my classes, so I decided to teach the younger ones (6-12 grades) the foundation of entrepreneurship and economic development and this is a success.
AllHipHop: In your opinion, how has hip-hop played a role in promoting entrepreneurship and training young entrepreneurs? Think Sugar Hill / Sylvia Robinson, EPMD / Strictly Business, Master Pâ¦ and so on.
Ernest Ruffin: I think hip-hop has played a very important role in making young people aware that they can start and grow businesses by witnessing the success that rappers and NBA players have had in transitioning to business, but our goal at YES is to let the everyday child know that he or she can start a business and change their economic situation, their neighborhood and make their friends work. I want them to walk down the street in their new Jordan or Jean outfit and have their friends say “what does Kason do every time I see him he has fresh gear” and their friends say “oh he opened the cafe around the corner. Their coffee and their smoothies are the bomb and it’s always crowded, Yo, he takes that bread âwhen that happens we really winâ¦
AllHipHop: Have you ever thought that hip-hop hurts things?
Ernest Ruffin: Not at all, Hip-Hop has created insane income streams. He took over the music industry which is directly related to fashion, movies, reality shows, streaming series, Hip-Hop has had more positive than negative effect on the community for sure.
AllHipHop: And from the point of view of innovation? Do you think about the innovation that Hip-Hop has shown over the years?
Ernest Ruffin: Hip-hop artists have been very innovative and creative in using the latest technology to deliver their videos to the general public. Streaming technology and social media allow the independent artist to get their music consumers, who can then buy directly from the artist, which is great. Streaming services like Tidal let music drop faster, videos look sharper than ever thanks to HD technologies. HipHop has been smart in its use of innovation.
AllHipHop: What kind of feedback do you have from the kids you work with?
Ernest Ruffin: A kid from Queens came to me and told me, teacher, that I wanted to be the CEO of my team. My response was that you have to convince your teammates to vote you as CEO. They didn’t vote for him and the team didn’t win the YES Business Plan Challenge and he was upset. The following year he came to see me and told me that I had my own team and that we had been preparing for it all year round. Their business was a hamburger truck. They made bacon and cheese stuffed burgers and wowed the judges and won the challenge.
We asked a kid from the YMCA also in Queens to create a solar powered car for his team. He and I were going through the team’s SWOT analysis and answering any questions he had etc. It was time to present and one of his colleagues asked “What happens to the solar car if it rains?” To which I told that Gabriel explains how to get around that, he made it clear how he created a solar storage compartment in the car and the YMCA staff, some of the ladies were crying and the kids gave him a standing ovation. I didn’t understand why they were standing because he answered a question. Well, Mr. Gabriel had been at this Y for over a year and had never spoken. They thought he couldn’t speak and were shocked at his response. It’s just a couple, we have a lot more.
AllHipHop: You work in the Virgin Islands with your Young Entreprenurz movement. Are there any differences or similarities with them and here, business and Hip-Hop?
Ernest Ruffin: Young people everywhere are looking for a role model to win. If you can provide a plan, they can understand and understand you, will captivate them no matter where they are. YES teaches youth entrepreneurship in 23 towns and villages across the country and the Virgin Islands.
AllHipHop: What advice would you give someone on how to become an entrepreneur? Are there any essential traits or qualities that one must possess or develop?
Ernest Ruffin: Yes, to be a successful entrepreneur you have to have a passion for a particular skill, for example they are good at building things or have very good presentation skills etc. They must be prepared to work tirelessly to implement and execute that competence in a product or service. They need to understand potential customers, develop a ârefuse to loseâ attitude, and become familiar with the word no. As a business owner, you won’t often be told that you need to find alternative solutions to the problem (s) you are trying to solve.
AllHipHop: The last words?
Ernest Ruffin: YES is fortunate to host two impressive programs in the US Virgin Islands. The YES National Business Plan Challenge in St Croix November 4-7 brings the winning teams from the local challenges to St. Croix to compete for a grand prize of $ 1,000 each member of the winning team and honor executives, faculty and community leaders like Chuck Creekmur CEO of AllHipHop.com for his support of youth entrepreneurship over the years.
The HBCU U.S. Virgin Islands YES Basketball Classic (December 29 – January 2) it’s gonna be a great weekend. We have a New Years party, a New Years Day beach party. Google volunteers teach the children of St Thomas to code rhythms. YES taught (they will be recognized this weekend) to the young people of St Thomas the basics of entrepreneurship, all this in one weekend, it’s going to be awesome. We are very excited.