To quote the FLOTUS, “Success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” Such a statement can be used to describe the philanthropic efforts of Jaiden Shepard, an Entrepreneur from Detroit, Michigan. He is not only the CEO of Vintage Ties by Jaiden, but he is also the Founder of Finding My Way Home a community initiative and pending 501(c) (3) that brings awareness to hunger within our communities and learning disabilities within our local school systems. Detroit CEO Magazine was a proud media sponsor for the Finding My Way Home event and fundraiser, which took place Friday, August 22, 2014 in the Harper Woods High School auditorium. Our Publisher and Editor in Chief, Lacretia Rogers, conducted the following interviews and was also a Panel Speaker for the event. The event was hosted by emerging R & B artist, Frank Fisher.
Pastor Ralph L. Godbee (Former Police Chief for the Detroit Police Department and Pastor of Inner Court Christian Center)
Tell me about your experience in participating as a speaker at the Finding My Way Home event.
First, it has been a tremendous experience meeting Jaiden (Shepard) as a young Entrepreneur and supporting him in his endeavor. I think it’s important for our spiritual community to get behind our Entrepreneurs, especially within the Detroit area, and more importantly in the communities of color. In some instances, it seems as if we’ve lost the spirit of Entrepreneurialism. I’m proud to see this young man step out on faith and do what he’s doing. It was a no-brainer for me to support him. The aspect of speaking on “Finding My Way Home” was a very spiritual aspect for me, specifically with telling my personal story and how to overcome. We all have things that we have been through. As far as being a business owner, Entrepreneurs see things that other people don’t see, which makes them a special breed of people. Having faith is a very important aspect of what they do. You pair that up with Christ and you’ve really got yourself a combination. Jaiden really seems to have that combination. As a more seasoned Detroit resident, I see it as a great opportunity and honor to sow into what he is doing.
What type of impact do you feel that events like these have on our community and our youth?
I think it’s important for people to realize that, as you climb the ladder of success, you have your spiritual and your personal life in order. It’s nothing worse than being a public success and a private failure. A lot of time, as Entrepreneurs, Public Figures and Leaders are so used to taking care of other people that they forget to take care of themselves (mind, body and soul). When we fail to do those things, no matter how successful we are, we can set ourselves up for failure. It’s important to advise young people on the things to avoid. We have to share with them what to do and what not to do. There’s a saying that Pastor Cheryl Brady says that I’ve adopted, which is “My mistakes have cost too much, so why should you have to pay the same price?”, so, philosophically, this is the reason I am so transparent when I talk about my life. I’ve had a very successful career, but I’ve made some mistakes along the way as well. I want to share those mistakes with those that decide they want to pursue becoming the chief of Police or a Mayor of Detroit or have their own publication like Detroit CEO Magazine. Whatever desire they have, it’s important to stay balanced and make sure you not only want success in that endeavor, but desire to keep it.
What is the most important characteristic to maintain as the leader of a community organization, in your opinion?
Humility and Sincerity. Out of all the plans that you have and all of the things that you organize, everything is really about relationships. People have a greater appreciation for you and your efforts when you’re sincere and humble. It’s also important to maintain the focus of why you do what you do, whatever that is. A lot of times you see people get caught up in the administration aspect of things and forget the core values of the goal. Like tonight’s event, Jaiden wants to focus on bringing funding and awareness to those that have learning disabilities, and in my opinion, that is a tremendous focus. Out of all of the great advice that the panel has given tonight and out of all of the talent that wad displayed, we cannot lose focus.
Jeremy D. Cornelius (Recording Artist and National Runway Coach)
How do you feel tonight’s event impacted the audience?
This is my second time being a panelist for this particular event and I am excited, particularly because you get to meet people who have similar testimonies such as yourself. This event is very impactful because a lot of people don’t have an outlet or the courage to share their personal life experiences or to hear about the life experience that impacts Public Figures, so this was very monumental in its own right.
How important was it for you to share your story here tonight?
It was very important because my story is pretty much my launching pad to everything I’ve done as a professional in the last few years. Granted, I was still doing many things in the professional realm of fashion prior to some of the things that occurred in my personal life, however, when things start to unravel and unfold it caused me to do even greater things and move further on in whatever endeavor that I had. I never wanted any of my personal circumstances to hold me back and they haven’t. These things allowed me to take stock of what was happening, learn from it and decide where I was going from there.
What positive impact do you think tonight’s event and events like these have on the community?
I think that events like these will help change some of the mindsets. Many of the people in the community want change. The want better and they want a way out. They see people like us in the lights and feel as though this is it! We are living the dream! While that may be true, it most likely has not always been the case. What the community doesn’t have is more people willing to share a very real and transparent visual into who they are as people and what they’ve endured on their journey into becoming who they are today. The community sees us in all of our glory and think that they cannot reach goals similar to ours for whatever reason. This was an event that gave us the opportunity to share our success, but also our journey to get to where we are and the fact that we are real people. Essentially, I’m no different than the person that has gone further than me or the person that has traveled less miles than I have. The only difference is that I started when I did, but I’m no different than anyone else. I just went through things and I made different decisions. The same mind I had to change my outlook on things is the same mind that other people have, the only difference is the road that you want to take and the effort that you want to make to change those things.
In your opinion, what is the most important attribute that a community leader can have?
It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’ve been, what you’ve been through, what has happened to you…none of that matters. The only thing that matters is how badly you want to win. As long as our leaders grasp that concept, alone, will take them to any level that they want to accomplish.
Completely aside from tonight’s event, tell me about the EP that you currently have out that I’ve been hearing so much about?
It is literally the epitome of everything that I have gone through in life put into a musical form. It is entitled Running Back to You, and it encompasses my personal challenges…such as dealing with health challenges like having Bell’s Palsy, dealing with family members dying and the mourning process, dealing with things that I’ve lost and dealing with being homeless. I literally got to a place where I didn’t want to live this saved, Christian life anymore. My thought was “if this is what you have to go through to be saved, then you can just keep it”. Because of the calling that is on my life and the destiny that I have, I could not give up. The album is about running back to a place where you feel secure. The 4 tracks included are ones that were originally written and composed by me and features lead saxophone with background vocals. The EP can be found on iTunes (search Running Back to You by Jeremy D. Cornelius).
Krystal Herron (Finding My Way Home model)
Tell me about your experience as a model for this event.
It was a wonderful experience. You don’t really get to participate in many events that are a fundraiser or special cause. I’m honored to be able to be part of something so inspirational.
Describe the designers that you walked for tonight.
I walked for Thrift on The Ave., Try God (t-shirt designer) and Fly Ty, who had some really edgy and fun designs. I really liked all of the clothes that I got to walk in.
How can people contact you for bookings?
Krystalherron15@gmail.com and Krystal Cookie Herron (Facebook and Instagram)
Sunny Couture Tookes (International Model, FMWH backstage fashion/model coordinator)
How was tonight’s experience for you?
Tonight’s experience was wonderful. I actually had the opportunity to be behind the scenes as the fashion/model coordinator for the fashion segment of the event. I was also a speaker at the flagship event of Finding My Way Home earlier this year. It was a smaller venue in Royal Oak, so to see the elevation and expansion of Jaiden’s vision is absolutely a blessing to my spirit. With tonight’s event, God just told me to serve…see what you can do behind the scenes. When he asked me to coordinate the fashion segment of the event, I felt honored because fashion is very close and dear to my heart and it gave me the opportunity to do what I love to do, which is model coaching and development.
What can the community expect from attending an event like this one?
Events like this show people that just because you see a person at a higher level than you right now, it’s not that they are better than you. It’s just that they’ve surpassed an area in their life that you may not have surpassed yet. I got to witness people who I’ve always admired or looked up to tell their stories of victory over things like molestation, child abuse, domestic violence, depression, homelessness and substance abuse. I would see these people at public and private events all the time and never would have thought that someone of that status of success and prosperity would have gone through things like that. Witnessing that also gave me the opportunity to reflect on who I am and how the public looks at me. I’ve been through my own trials also, so I think the impact shows us that we are all human, we all go through things, we all struggle and we all fall, but we all can get up and press on.
What characteristic, in your opinion, do you feel that community leaders should have?
They need to be humble. Whenever you get to an authoritative or leadership position and you are the governing body and you don’t have humility and you recognize that you weren’t always in this position, you’ll, in turn, have the “big head” and become arrogant. Going forward, along with humility, I would definitely like to see more drive and more people who roll their sleeves up and come out of their comfort zones. Just because you’re in a leadership role doesn’t mean you can’t roll up your sleeves and get out here and work like everyone else. It’s just like with volunteering at this event, I have no problem with showing that “International Model” Sunny Couture can get backstage and work, run and get water and everything else.
Tell me a little bit more about your Chainbreaker Project that we briefly discussed backstage.
I’m so glad you asked! The Finding My Way Home event has reflected and confirmed what I’ve done with my film. In June I shot a short film called the Chainbreaker Project. God gave me this vision about a year and a half ago. This year I really had a spirit of urgency to move and get it done. I also had a spirit of restlessness and could not move until the project was completed. The basis of the film shows how we, as a people, have become a master of disguise. We learn how to cover our pain instead of dealing with it, and because of that we learn how to ineffectively deal with our issues for many years. There are people who have mastered how to cover up depression, domestic abuse, etc. and seem like they’re on top of the entire world. We can be flawless at covering up our issues and this movie just shows the negative progression of that. You can only do that for so long. You can lie to the world, but when you look in the mirror, you cannot lie to yourself. You have to face all of your skeletons and demons and when that happens, you go through a terrible emotional downslide. When you get up the next day, though, these same people get up and put their face on, put on their clothes, drive their fancy cars, leave their mansions with their name brand handbags. They go out to laugh, smile and encourage, but can’t do any of that for themselves. The film reflects how well people do that and the situations that cause them to do that. It centers on spiritual chains that we carry throughout our lifetime. The film shows that it’s ok to ask for help. It’s not a bad thing to admit that you’re in trouble. Once you do that, you can unlock those chains to get to freedom. It’s time for people to get the help that they need. I’m going to start marketing the film, putting it on a DVD and handing it out to the community and hopefully by Summer 2015, expand it into a stage play.
Rozeta Rox (Esteemed International Model and CEO/Model Coach of Runway Rox)
How are you?
I’m doing absolutely wonderful and can’t complain.
Describe how you feel to be a participant as a panel speaker for tonight’s event.
Tonight’s event was outstanding, inspirational and motivational event. I think it’s very important that people are able to share openly whatever trials and tribulations that they have gone through with a very public audience, because you never know what someone else is enduring at the particular time that your struggles are being shared and who you’ll be able to help with navigating through that struggle. Being able to be open, authentic and genuine in your quest for self is something that I am proud to be a part of. It’s an amazing feeling to not only share my story of perseverance, but also to hear the inspiring stories of fellow panelists like yourself that were featured in the event. We definitely need more of this in the community and I sincerely feel that Jaiden Shepard will go extremely far in his efforts.
Why should this event be important to the community?
This event and these like it should be important to the community because people tend to wear a façade. When you are no longer concerned about doing so, you don’t feel so alone in the world. You feel that someone else is hearing you and understanding you.
Name three characteristics of a great community leader.
Determination, effort and a will to succeed. There also has to be resilience and there has to be integrity.
Moving forward, what would you like to see from Finding My Way Home?
I would like to see more of us come out to share our stories of trial and triumph. We never know whose lives we can help or positively contribute to by sharing the fact that people in the spotlight lead real lives, much of which is like the people that we encounter any day of the week.
Gene “Testimony” Hall (Event Sponsor and Panelist for FMWH) & Orlando Ruffin (CEO of STBM Global Entertainment and Event Planning)
Tell me about your experience with your experience as a Sponsor and Panelist for tonight’s event.
(Gene) It was personal for me, simple because I have family affected by learning disabilities, which is one of the purposes of why we are here tonight (to raise money for Learning Disability programs at Harper Woods High School). My brother has suffered from a learning disability for many years. Participating in Finding My Way Home was also personal because I had to get back to some of the roots of what my father taught me as a child when we were at our hardest point. I needed to share some of the things that my wife has done for our son in the area of learning disability and how she worked diligently with him to move him from the learning disability category to a normal childhood, which was a miracle, to me. Overall, I believe in Jaiden Shepard and love his vision. I also had an opportunity to work with Orlando Ruffin (CEO of STBM Global Entertainment/Event Planning).
Orlando, tell me about your experience as a Sponsor for Finding My Way Home your perspective of the event, overall.
(Orlando) Finding My Way Home is about adding value to people’s lives, which is why I found it a very easy decision to include my company as a Sponsor for the event. Being here tonight was extremely inspiring, not only for me, but for many people who I’ve heard speaking about tonight’s event.
As a producer of events like this, what quality should one possess?
(Gene) You have to be selfless. Events like this should never be about making the money, it should be about touching lives. If you only think about yourself, you would fail at an initiative like this. You need to truly care about people, have a vision and understand what your purpose is. I think Jaiden has that. I think he has a clear cut vision for his purpose. He is also aligning himself with people that have a clear vision for their purpose, which is equally important.
(Orlando) Self-motivation is number one. You have to believe in yourself without anyone telling you that you’re doing a good job. Jaiden believes in himself and he knows what he’s providing for the community. He knows that what matters is that he makes a positive impact with Finding My Way Home. Secondly, you have to have leadership skills. One has a huge role to fulfill in producing an event such as this one.
Jaiden Shepard (CEO of Vintage Ties by Jaiden and Founder of Finding My Way Home)
Tell me about this edition of Finding My Way Home.
This particular edition of Finding My Way Home was more about reaching out to the community through our partnership with Forgotten Harvest and the Harper Woods School District Learning Disability program. Tonight’s event was extremely impactful because we were able to reach the demographic found within the Harper Woods community. As the event is produced twice per year, I want to maximize the community awareness of this initiative, so I can get more of our Public Figures to participate by sharing their personal stories of life experience and success with overcoming their own obstacles. Finding My Way Home is a term that resonates with a lot of people. The audience that we had here tonight enjoyed live entertainment, our signature fashion segment and of course, the inspirational panel speakers.
Can you see the progression of the event from the first Finding My Way Home a few months prior?
I can definitely see the progression. For the first installment, we had fewer speakers a smaller fashion segment and we were just getting started. We were in a 500 sq. ft. room at the Royal Oak Public Library. The first event was actually a test run. A list of those speakers include Sunny “Couture” Tookes, Rondregus Underwood, Angela T. Jones, John Trimble, Clayton Zoosk and mself. Tonight was officially the first Finding My Way Home event. Producing this event actually reminds me of when I first started with creating ties for Vintage Ties by Jaiden, which also started out very small in stature, but has grown so much. I see much of the same progression here tonight.
ABOUT FINDING MY WAY HOME
Finding My Way Home was formulated in late 2013 and registered as a 501 (c) (3) in January 2014 as the philanthropic arm of Vintage Ties by Jaiden LLC, via founder Jaiden Shephard. This organization’s main vision is to serve Metropolitan Detroit through the good people through the good people of the local fashion and entertainment industries. FMWH also hosts an event of the same name that consists of gathering speakers with ties to Entrepreneurship, Fashion and Entertainment, who willingly share their personal ‘then and now’ stories. For inquiries/booking, email Jaiden Shephard at firstname.lastname@example.org.