Tamekia Flowers once opened a fortune cookie that read, “Your love of music will be an important part of your life.” She now has a company inspired by the music she loves.  After noticing a lack of opportunities preparing children for college, she started Hip Hop 4 Life.  Her organization started in her Brooklyn apartment to now operating in a midtown Manhattan office that has serviced over 15,000 young people and their parents.  See how this entrepreneur took her entertainment industry experience to help her run a non-profit.

Name: Tamekia Flowers
Age: 39
Title: Founder and Executive Director of Hip Hop 4 Life
Location: New York, NY
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

The gig: I am the Founder and Executive Director of Hip Hop 4 Life, a not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to empower and develop youth in their academic and personal endeavors. We started in 2003 and now our work is done on a national level with programs in every major city. We have serviced over 15,000 young people and parents since starting.

The journey:  After I moved to Atlanta, I became the first employee of a small music entertainment company called GLUE, Inc. While working there, Sheri Riley showed me what it meant to be a business owner, how to work with clients and how to work with talent. As I continued working, I began receiving invitations to speak at schools about my career in the entertainment industry. I noticed young people lacked the fundamentals of a handshake or even looking me in the eye. That’s when I started to build my organization to work with school systems to provide support for students to be successful in their post-secondary endeavors all by encompassing a culture that they love. 

Finding her passion: When I started my organization, we did it for free.  After offering free programs to the Boys & Girls Club, people started to see the value of our work which helped us grow to the next level. I stepped out on faith and decided to focus on Hip Hop 4 Life full-time. Anyone who is an entrepreneur understands the blood, sweat and tears that come with running a company, yet you look at it as your life’s calling and not work.

Her biggest challenge: You have to have a business mind when you run a non-profit. I didn’t look at it that way when I started Hip Hop 4 Life. It took my accountant to sit me down to tell me that being a non-profit doesn’t mean you don’t make money. You need to make money to be successful or you’ll go broke, because I was coming out of pocket for our programming.

Her career advice on starting a non-profit: Decide whether this is a non-profit that you really need to start. If you really see the possibilities of getting funding from foundations or digital donors, then a non-profit is for you. You don’t have to have a non-profit to help people. It’s really about your funding source and making sure you are educated on what it means to have a non-profit. 

Her mantra: Success is less about what you do for yourself and more about what you do to help others.  

Her work/life balance strategy: I recently learned how to minimalize the work I do at home. I am more strategic on how I plan my work days so that I don’t have to bring work home and I can have the weekends to myself. 

Her boss accessory: My maroon and black Nanette Lepore bag that I can carry my world in.   It’s cute, fully-functional and has pockets for everything.

Her tech must-haves: I can’t live without my iPhone 6 and Evernote is my top app for productivity.

Her beauty must-haves: Trader Joe’s Coconut Oil Body Butter, ESOS lip balm and Chanel mascara.

Her theme song: “Run the World” by Beyoncé and “Brand New Me” by Alicia Keys.