These boys are living proof that you can do anything you put your mind to!
A group of teenage boys have expanded their squeegee business to now include a bottled water company, reports The Baltimore Sun.
Korner Boyz Enterprises is a business created by a group of Baltimore squeegee kids. The boys started out standing on corners cleaning windshields. They would flag down motorists at the corner of Mount Royal and North Avenues in Baltimore and invite them to a clean front windshield in exchange for a few bucks to help them buy food and pay their cell phone bill.
Last winter, Kai Crosby-Singleton, a community liaison for the Maryland Institute College of Art’s (MICA) Office of Strategic Initiatives ran across the group of boys. The teenagers were being hurled with insults and racial epithets as they tried to make a few dollars. That’s when Crosby-Singleton stepped in, getting to know the young men. The relationship he built with the boys, Taetae, Leroy, Khalil, Keyon and Deauntae would continue into the spring, with Crosby-Singleton trying to think of ways to help the boys find a better way to make money.
That eventually led him to invite the squeegee boys to the Baltimore Thinkathon, an annual initiative between MICA and the Baltimore Cultural Alliance that allows for a full day of brainstorming with some of the city’s leading creatives. Five of the boys came out and met Sheri Parks, a culture critic and the Vice President of MICA who helped to establish the Thinkathon seven years prior.
“The young men said they were businessmen, that squeegee and the occasional sale of water were their hustles. They agreed to teach us how to work with them in exchange for our time. They already trusted each other in a way that would have been difficult to construct [and] they spoke often of loyalty and empathy. We started applying their skills, strategies and patterns of work to another type of hustle,” Parks said.
While at the Thinkathon the boys also met Adrian Harpool, a communications and campaign strategist and his son Ian, Michael Scott, founder of the non-profit Equity Matters, and Unique Robinson, an artist and MICA faculty member. The group got together with Crosby-Singleton and began having conversations with the boys. That’s when their next hustle developed, bottled water.
The group connected the boys to Jerome Harris, a MICA teaching fellow who helped to design their logo, and Scot Spencer, the associate director of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, who donated $5,000 to the boy’s business. Crosby-Singleton then called on Dorcas Gilmore, a professor at the University of Maryland School of law, to draft up a business agreement that encapsulated the boys already established “code of conduct.”
The group meets weekly regarding Korner Boyz Enterprises and they are now selling their own brand of bottled water by the case. They recently had their official launch in West Baltimore and are looking to expand their sales.
Their motto, “Freedom to hustle,” is emblazoned on the back of each label of Korner Boyz water. Crosby-Singleton said he really just wanted to help the kids out. “What we said was, ‘We respect your hustle, we just want to show you some other options, how you can make money more efficiently,’” he said.
Scott said the boys, “are smart, creative kids and we helped them build a business model and made it a learning opportunity. Every meeting with them has some lessons about business.”
While the boys have no plans of leaving their squeegee days behind them just yet, they do hope to eventually go full time into selling water by selling their cases at the wholesale level at various events.
The group also hopes to eventually expand the business to include flavored waters and sparkling water. One of the members Khalil has already started discussing ways to recycle the plastic they produce. But they really just hope to inspire other young people.
“By us doing this we might help other [squeegee] kids,” Keyon said. “This will make them see they can do something different,” Khalil added.
You can purchase Korner Boyz water at www.kbzenterprises.com.
Keep up the great work guys!