HARTFORD – Anthony Griffin was looking for an answer: “What does a good relationship with a man’s father have to do with running a business?”
Five Hartford-area men pondered the question during a meeting of the Fathers’ Entrepreneurial Program, part of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Hartford’s Pathways to Responsible Fatherhood Program at the Asylum Hill Family Center at 60 Gillett St.
Mr. Griffin, coordinator of the eight-week entrepreneurship program, told the men at the meeting that his mother died when he was 6 months old and “Everything I learned I got from my father.” He now owns a retail clothing establishment.
The men in the program are all fathers who are seeking better relationships with their children, and some are trying to reconcile with their own fathers. All are trying to change their lives for the better through self-employment.
Mr. Griffin’s question stemmed from a video the men watched before the discussion, about former NFL linebacker Ray Lewis’s quest to restore his broken relationship with his father.
But, for the first few minutes of the discussion, the men seemed at a loss to make the connection.
“You were trying to point to having a relationship,” said George Hilson, who wants to start a greeting card business.
“What does that have to do with starting a business?” Mr. Griffin asked.
Mr. Hilson had no real answer. “My father wasn’t around when I was growing up,” he said.
Anthony Jackson, who is starting a home improvement business, said, “Ray Lewis wanted a relationship with his father. He wanted that. And when you run your own business, you’ve got to want it. You’ve got to really, really want it, you know? You’ve got to stay focused on what you’re doing.”
Another man who appeared to be focused was Elliott Campbell, who wants to start his own security business, maintaining order in concert halls and nightclubs. He has worked in security for other firms and now is seeking to obtain a license to operate his own business.
He said he had a “by-myself meeting” to analyze his strengths and weaknesses. “And it helped. I could push a little harder in certain areas, but just highlighting those and identifying those, it helps because you can see what you need to work on,” he said.
Delroy Kerr is trying to grow his landscaping business and already has a crew of helpers and a truck with a plow. He said he has lasted for five years in the business because he never took anything for granted, and he broke the cycle of poverty in his family.
“My father, you know, never had education. Mom never graduated high school. So being the first college graduate is such a great accomplishment,” the recent Lincoln Tech grad said. “This [entrepreneurship] program gives me a backbone. Positive stays with positive.”
He said business is all about looking ahead, knowing where you want to be in two years or so. “I have a dream,” he said. “I can do it.”
Edward Crouch – his nickname is Boo – wants to start a custom clothing business with iron-on patches that say “My Boo Tee Shirt” or “My Boo Jeans.” He admits he has some catching up to do because he was incarcerated for many years. He too has a dream, but he sometimes wonders if that’s all it is.
“Sometimes you can’t take advantage of an opportunity,” he said.
“What do you mean by that?” Mr. Griffin said.
“I mean you have opportunity and sometimes the opportunity don’t pan out to be what it’s supposed to be. Sometimes you can, you know, you can go directly at something and it’s just not there,” Mr. Crouch said.
Intent and effect
“Well, sometimes you have what you call intent and effect,” Mr. Griffin said. “I believe that when you pursue good, good will come back to you. When you were doing wrong, you knew you were going wrong. But when you were doing right, God always looked out for you. And when you slip, you can’t give that to God. That’s you slipping.”
Mr. Crouch said to the group, “I’m staying above water. I haven’t been back in trouble when everybody thought I was going to be back in trouble, and from there I’ve been, like, surviving. I haven’t been in trouble in 15 years now.”
He added, “Once you got something that’s positive in your life, you can move on to do positive things. And if you’re the type of person that comes from that type of life where you’ve been in the limelight and everything, you still want that, but you know the consequences.”
Moureen Bish, family center director, said that a $300 incentive awaited each man whose business plan is approved. In addition, there are several “barrier removal” cash incentives to help with special goals like obtaining vendors’ licenses when needed.
Morgan P. Sones, director of community investments at The Hartford, which manages the program’s funding, sat in on the meeting.
She told the Transcript, “I’ve been working with Catholic Charities for about a year now. In this capacity and with this program, it’s a great opportunity to help support a need that Catholic Charities, such an important organization here locally, helped identify.”
She added, “We work with other partners on economic development, but this is specifically the only program that we sponsor locally that addresses fatherhood.”
Mr. Griffin offered one last thought for the men to consider. “Why is happiness something we have to pursue?” he asked.
Mr. Hilson suggested, “If you’re not happy, you can’t pursue your goals.”
Mr. Griffin said, “You need to commit yourself to your goals. Nothing’s going to come to you easily, because if it was, you would have it already.”
For more information on Pathways to Responsible Fatherhood and its Fathers’ Entrepreneurial Program, call 860-244-9944 or go to www.ccaoh.org