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Have you ever felt like God (or the universe) was trying to send you a message? Or felt that you could be doing more to those less fortunate than you achieve their goals? That’s exactly what happened to Sammy Ortiz and his wife a few years ago, when a wrong turn led to a life-altering experience, leading him to begin teaching entrepreneurship to underprivileged youth in their local area.

In this episode, Sammy Ortiz joins Jimmy to discuss how you can change the life of those in your community by teaching skills that might be second-nature to you, the best way to start an organization that enriches your community, and the essential skills and mindset for starting a business.

Show Highlights:

  • How a wrong turn can completely change the direction of your life (4:30)
  • No matter what business you’re in, this is one of the most important things you can do to separate yourself from the competition (6:40)
  • Don’t try to help anyone before you’ve taken this crucial first step, or you may do more harm than good (10:16)
  • If you underestimate how important these specific things are, you may alienate your audience from the start (13:55)
  • This is the most important ecosystem to consider for a thriving business (16:54)
  • Learning this critical lesson can free you from a life that you hate (20:33)

If you want to recession-proof your business and thrive in any area of life, go to www.uncommonlifepodcast.com and grab your free report today. I share with you the 5 key principles that have transformed and elevated my life – and they can do the same for you too if consistently applied.

Read Full Transcript

You're listening to the Uncommon Life Podcast. Whether you're a startup or you've been in business for 10 years, this show is for you. Each week, you'll get mentored by business leaders who deliver valuable strategies, tactics and tips on how you can pursue your passion without compromise. We’ll show you how to achieve balance while sticking to your core values, so you can have an uncommon life.

Now, here's your host, Jimmy Fullerton.

Jimmy: Yes, yes, welcome to Episode No. 17 of the Uncommon Life podcast of which the mission is to seek out uncommon people to help you build a better business and a better life.

Today, I have the pleasure of speaking with Sammy Ortiz. Sammy has a very unusual story and a very inspiring story. He is actually a minister, a full-time minister, but he's also the founder of Y.E.S.

Y.E.S. stands for Young Entrepreneurial Students, and the goal of Y.E.S., and this is right off the website and it really accurately depicts what they do—they take the youth in economically distressed areas and show them how to turn an idea or concept and teach them how to start their own business, organization or cause. Through a collaborative effort with CO.STARTERS, they use what’s called the Generator curriculum, which includes something called Canvas which is basically a visual diagram that helps people to visualize a business plan.
What a novel concept. I love that idea.

Now, there are several things I love about this. One, though, in particular, is they're teaching people in the age range of 12 to 23 years, right as they're starting out teaching them how not to play the victim, but how to take ownership of their lives and understand that there are choices.

I also like the fact that they are teaching entrepreneurism, if that's a word—I think it is—but that's something you just don't get in the public schools today, with no offense to any teachers out there. I know there are a lot of great teachers. I know many. But, frankly, in the public schools, what you're taught is how to be a good employee, not how to be an entrepreneur, and I think that's critical in this society, especially in this environment today.

And the third thing I like about what they're doing is they teach these people, not just kids, you can also be older and learn from what they're doing, but they're teaching people how to build a business the right way.

Anyway, this is Part 1. There’s a lot of good content in here and Sammy shares a really good story about how he was led and how he was inspired to start Y.E.S. Anyway, it's good stuff, so sit back and enjoy Part 1 one. [03:00.0]

Sammy, it’s a pleasure to talk to you today. I really do appreciate you taking time out. I know, just like everybody else in ministry right now and also what you're doing with the Young Entrepreneurial Students, you're very, very busy right now. So, thank you again for taking time out and talking with me today. I appreciate it very much.

Sammy: It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Jimmy: You're welcome. Let's start off by just I would like for you to talk about Y.E.S., Young Entrepreneurial Students, what that is and what gave you the idea, what inspired you to start that.

Sammy: Sure. Y.E.S. will be three years old technically on June 10 of this year. It came about because my wife and I, after living here for 13 years, ventured out to Dade City. I live in Wesley Chapel, which is about 22 minutes from where my office is now.
Jimmy: In Florida.

Sammy: In Florida, correct. Wesley Chapel, Florida. We went to the Kumquat Festival. We were talking …

Jimmy: Never heard of a Kumquat Festival. I know what a kumquat is.

Sammy: Right, so a kumquat is a little citrus fruit and every year, at the end of January, they have a kumquat festival in Dade City downtown. And my wife and I were engrossed in conversation, and there's one road into downtown, yeah, specifically to downtown. It’s called Meridian Avenue. We were so engrossed in conversation that I missed a turn, and so I drive one mile exactly and end up on Locke Street. If you take a left, you go to Blanton. That's what the road is called. You take a ride. It's Locke Street.

As soon as I turned right onto Locke Street, it felt like I stepped into a third-world country. And, I mean, the roads were not like the road that I had just taken right off … I mean, the sidewalks, everything. It looked like I had stepped into an urban area, although it's a rural community, but it felt like I stepped into a rural, an urban area that had not been cared for. The funds, the beautification funds that hit the downtown area, somehow we're missing this specific quadrant in Dade City.

And so, immediately I was burdened. I was like, Wow, why, why is this? I did not enjoy the Kumquat Festival that day. We ended up getting downtown. But, yeah, Locke Street stayed in my mind and my concern was why the disparity between downtown and Locke Street. That was my burning question that whole day.

That happened in January. By April 1, I had wrestled. Came back, told my church. I pastor a church called Restoration Church. We're a micro church. Told my church that I [06:00.0] went to Dade City, took a right on Locke Street and I feel like God is telling me that I'm supposed to do something. I didn't know what I was going to do, to be honest with you. I've been in vocational ministry, this year it will be 29 years, and my wife and I have planted five churches. But, God, what do you want me to do? So, I'm like, Do you want me to plant a church here? Because that's my wheelhouse.

And so, from January, the end of January, I don't know, I can't remember if it was 27th, 28th, what day it was that specific year, from January to April 1, I just prayed, God, what do you want me to do? And little by little, as I could feel the impressions that God was giving me was, don’t go into Dade City as a savior. Sometimes we think that we're helping people and we get to save your complex.

I rented an office, a little, I want to say it was a 10-by-10 office. It cost me, like, a hundred bucks a month. I rented an office and, for one year, I canvased Locke Street. For one year, just asking people. What is the greatest need in the community? And after doing that kind of assessment for a year, it came to the fact that young people were the most underserved on Locke Street.
And, at that time, I was already going to the juvenile detention center in San Antonio, Florida, the opposite direction of Dade city. And at the juvenile detention center, most of the young people that were incarcerated at the JDC were from Dade City and specifically Locke Street. And so, I'm like, Okay, I'm starting to see a pattern here.

And so, because of that, I still didn't have a name. I knew. I’d been canvassing the community. That was April 1, 2016, that I rented the office space. On May 20, 2017, we hold an intro to what would be Y.E.S., and at that intro, I'm like, God, you've got to bring kids.

Somebody let us use their church building to host that intro, which was on Locke Street, and that day YE.S. was birthed, in the sense that we did an intro. We had 12 students show up at that intro and we called it Y.E.S. Or, we, I called it Y.E.S., Young Entrepreneurial Students. I had to trick that out, by the way, because for the most part, a lot of times young people, especially in brown and black communities are underestimated and they hear no a lot, and I wanted them to hear yes. So, it took me months to figure out an acronym for yes. I wanted that. I love it, yeah.

So, here, I don't get to share this a lot, but I'm going to share it here. The Bible says that all the promises of God are yes and amen in Christ Jesus. Now, obviously, we're not very bombastic in our preaching to these young people, [09:00.0] but that is why Y.E.S. is called Y.E.S. But at the same time, for when I'm speaking to somebody that does not believe in Jesus and/or his promises, Y.E.S. exist because hearing no sucks, especially the underestimated young people.

Jimmy: I love the simplicity of that and anybody can relate to that word. I mean, it's a positive response to somebody that's used to getting a negative response all the time. One thing that stood out to me, I want to kind of go back for a second, you said that once you felt like you got confirmation that you needed to serve that community in some way, you weren't sure exactly how, right?

So, the first thing you did was I like the fact that so many people, when they get a calling to do something, specifically your situation, a lot of people I can see would have rushed in there with a savior complex like, I'm going to get in and I'm going to help these people, which is good. It's a good intention. But what you did was a little bit different. You went in there and started to listen first and get feedback from that community. You were patient and want to really find out what the needs were before you just rushed in there.

So, you kind of ease your way in with your ears up to hear what they needed, what some of the issues were, and I liked the fact that that's how you started instead of just rushing in there and being like a bull in a china house. Some people don't respond well to that. That was the first thing that impressed me about your story, the way you approached it.
Anyway, you had 12 at your first meeting.

Sammy: Twelve at the intro. Yeah, at the intro, we had 12 students show up. Now, not all of them join the first cohort. We call them cohorts. Our first cohort was on June 10, 2017. That's when we officially launched the cohort.

Jimmy: So, 12 people. What were you expecting initially? Did you have any idea?

Sammy: Do you know what? To be honest, I had no expectations in the sense that it's a community that is predominantly Latino, African-American. A lot of them are migrant workers as far as the Latino community is concerned. It's like on the … let me see, on the east side it's a predominantly African American. On the west side it's predominantly Latino from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico. And Locke Street is the dividing line, Locke Street, that road. And there is some kind of … it's like there's this invisible line and it's hard sometimes for the Latino and African-American community to mesh.

And so, I didn't know what to expect. I'm an outsider. I live in bougie in Wesley Chapel. I literally live next to the seven-acre lagoon, [12:00.0] the first lagoon in the Southeast. It's just a big swimming pool. And so, I live next to that community. I'm not rolling in the dough, but I live in a community that's very up and coming.

And so, coming from Wesley Chapel to Dade City and the reason I wanted to listen to people is I was not living their reality. I was coming to a nice community with CDD and I'm saying it's a different world. So, who am I to go in there and tell them what I think would help them?

I wanted to hear from them how I could help them. Even though I had in my heart that I wanted the young people in those communities and that community too have an opportunity to become entrepreneurial, I wanted them to have an opportunity to learn innovative thinking, because for whatever reason, young people today lack critical thinking.

And I wanted to teach them life skills, which are the three legs of Y.E.S. We want to make sure that we're building entrepreneurial ecosystems in underestimated communities. We want to teach innovative thinking. The power of yet is huge because you may not be good at something yet, but with time and dedicating yourself and with the help of others, you can grow in your proficiency and anything that you set your mind to.

And then, life skills. They don't teach that in school these days. Most young people today, unfortunately, don't know how to change a tire. They don't know how to balance. They don't know how to make a budget. They don't know. What do you mean I have to have first month, last month and a security deposit to rent an apartment? How do I buy a car? And these are how do I sew a button on a shirt? Most people in communities that are underestimated will not go to an interview because a button is missing on their shirt. And so, for us it seems like, wow, that's pretty petty, but that could be something that really hinder somebody's world from advancing because of something simple that could have been taught.

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Jimmy: Yeah, something I've noticed is both from [15:00.6] me and my wife on Launch Trampoline Park in Columbus, Georgia, which is a family entertainment center, we hire the majority of our people that work for us or in the age range between 16 and 25. It's amazing and I've seen this there, but I also have a small group that I lead at our church of people that the guys, they start off at 14. We follow them up through their senior year of high school.

And one thing I've noticed in that age group is a lot of them don't have some basic conversational skills when they're talking to adults. They look away or they mumble. They won't articulate. And just some basic communication skills when you're that age could really elevate them to a different level beyond their peers because so few people do that.

I think that follows him into adulthood as well. They're so used to the texting, social media and communicating in that form. They forget how to communicate one-on-one eye to eye. And let's face it, that's always going to be a huge part of this society. If you can't do that, you won’t go further.

Yeah, that's a good example. Some basic skills that you need that whether you're going to work for somebody or whether you're going to start your own business, because if you start your own business, you still have to sell that business in some capacity.

Sammy: Right.

Jimmy: I did want to ask you just to define, if you don't mind, what is an entrepreneurial ecosystem?

Sammy: Sure. An entrepreneurial ecosystem is a conglomerate of different agencies that encompass, they surround entrepreneurials or entrepreneurial people. So, entrepreneurs have to be the lead in an entrepreneurial ecosystem. A lot of times we think that, like right now we are living in a time where the federal government is pumping a lot of money back into businesses to keep businesses afloat.

And so, the government really is a feeder into the business community, like universities are feeders into an entrepreneurial ecosystem, local government, anything that can help that entrepreneurial ecosystem develop and grow. But the leadership has to come from the entrepreneurs because the entrepreneurs are the ones that are taking a step of faith, if you will, to start something.

And so, in the context of what Y.E.S. is doing, we are dealing with young people who I am encouraging to start an enterprise. A lot of times when you think about building an enterprise, it's somebody in their thirties on up. Very rarely do we think of a 12-year-old starting some type of an enterprise, [18:00.0] and so we are really trying to push young people to not think that because they are so young that they have to wait until they're old. As a matter of fact, that's our tagline.

We have two taglines. One of them is eradicating poverty through education because we have to change the way that people think and we have to educate them. The other one is you don't have to be old to start something new.

Jimmy: Something new. I do love that one.

Sammy: Right. And so, the entrepreneurial ecosystem is, again, different agencies or different communities that come around the entrepreneurial system to help bolster it, so that it creates an ecosystem. In communities of color, the dollar doesn't move around in those communities as much as it would in a predominantly white community, and so we want to bolster that in underestimated communities, but you have to build an ecosystem in order to do that.

Jimmy: I love the fact that the whole concept of starting, teaching kids as they're starting out in life, that's one reason why … kind of what motivated me to do the podcast. Now, my target audience was not necessarily the same, but really it is.
My daughter, for instance, I want her to learn about entrepreneurship because I want her to understand that she has choices, because my target when I first started, what inspired me to do it was me and my wife and our story, and how we came out of …
There's very little in life to me that can be as bad as being in a job or career where you feel like you're locked into it, but you don't like it anymore. You're burned out. You're uninspired. But you feel like you're locked into it because it's all you've ever done or you're making a certain amount of money and you don't want to take a pay decrease to start something new, which is a lot of times what you have to do. As a result, you end up feeling trapped, and that's a horrible, horrible feeling that makes you feel hopeless.

And so, my wife and I both have been through that and it's bad when you feel like you don't have choices. So, I think teaching people and letting them understand that they do have choices is huge for me. And like I said, having my daughter, I understand that she has choices is important for me. I don't want her to go through the same thing how I went through or that my wife went through. I mean, you're going to come across challenges in life and different obstacles you're going to face, but I think if you develop an entrepreneurial mindset, then it'll help you to be able to pivot and be able to react to those challenges in a different way and not just feel powerless.

Sammy: I’m from Puerto Rico. I was born there, moved to the States or mainland U.S. when I was four. [21:00.0] When I went to kindergarten, I didn't speak a lick of English and I had a traumatic experience. My kindergarten teacher actually struck me and threw me on my sleeping mat, and I was five years old.

Jimmy: Were you not wanting to go to sleep?

Sammy: No, bro. She gave us an assignment and I didn't understand what she was saying, so I looked at my table mate’s paper and she thought I was copying. She knew I didn't speak any English. And so, that traumatic exposure, I remember crying on my sleeping mat going, Sammy, in my internal voice, you’d better learn English or if not you're going to get beat for the rest of your life.

And, lo and behold, unfortunately, all my teachers were predominantly white females. I only had three male teachers my whole career, high school or middle, or primary and secondary education career, and the rest of them were white females. And so, I had a fear of white female teachers, and so I didn't do well in school.

I graduated from high school with a 1.6 GPA. Not because I was dumb. I was just like, man, to me, school was traumatic. It was just, I mean, I experienced trauma as a kindergartener, and every time I walked into a classroom and saw a white teacher, I'm like, Oh man, I'm about to get corporally punished here. It was just something that stayed in the back of my head. And so, didn't do well in school but I wasn't dumb. I was very entrepreneurial from a young age, but I didn't feel like I could venture out and do something for my own fears that held me back.

And so, now I want to be an encourager. I want to be a cheerleader for young people that are … Maybe they're bored with school. Maybe they see that they could have opportunities in doing things that other people tell them they can't. Again, yes, you can if you put your mind to it. But for me it was because of that traumatic experience and feeling like I didn't have any advantages.

And, listen, I went to DoD schools. I'm an army brat. That school in Louisiana was not a DoD school. They would have not done that in the Department of Defense school. But it was traumatic nonetheless.

Now, here's the humor in all of this, though. There is humor in this. I got traumatized in kindergarten by a white teacher. I am married to a white kindergarten teacher, so God has humor. That which hurt me and traumatized me, God is using to heal me, and I'm healed now. I love teachers. I have no problem. I love education. I encourage education. But sometimes we experience things and it really hinders us from moving forward.

Now, I can't imagine what would have happened had I not been traumatized and I would've had the opportunity to excel in education because I wasn't scared of teachers or the education system traumatizing, [24:00.4] and that could be the story for somebody else.

Jimmy: Yeah, so would you say that that scar that you had from that experience sort of helped motivate you to do what you're doing now to a certain extent, if you trace it back?

Sammy: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Jimmy: See, that was something that I talked about with the last … not the last one. A few weeks ago, I had an interview with Jason McKenzie at Ride on Bikes and we talked about having impact through sharing your scars, and some of those events in our lives that scar us, we can use those, kind of turn those around and use those to help have impact on other people.

And that really is what you did through what happened with you and you use that. It kind of spurred your desire to learn about entrepreneurism and something alternative to just the traditional school system.

Sammy: Sometimes those scars can either be stumbling blocks or stepping stones.

Jimmy: That'll be a quote. That’ll be a quote that I use.

Sammy: But I will tell you this, though, Jimmy, that for a long time it was a stumbling block, because I let it become an excuse, and so I had to let go of the excuses. There's a saying out there and I don't know who developed it, but I've been saying it for a long time, that excuses are the babysitter of unproductivity. And so, I don't want to be unproductive because I'm making excuses.

Jimmy: That's absolutely correct. I could not agree more.

Okay, so that is the end of Part 1. If you enjoyed that and found that content valuable and you can use it, then please leave me a rating or review. Go to Uncommon Life Podcast and subscribe. You can get these emailed directly to your inbox. Stay tuned for Part 2.

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