Jacari Harris, Author, Speaker and Influencer
Jacari Harris is an author, sought-after speaker, and social media influencer who uses his experience growing up in the foster care system to inspire hope and encourage transformation. As his tenure as Executive Director of the George Floyd Memorial Foundation closes, Jacari Harris is preparing for what’s next: increasing his influence at speaking engagements and growing his coaching business, Stimulating Success.
Episode 31 – Jacari Harris, Author, Speaker and Influencer
[00:01:00] Sanjay Parekh: Jacari Harris is an author, sought-after speaker, and social media influencer. His new memoir, Lost and Found, details his story of overcoming the challenges of the foster care system and pursuing a transformational future. Here today to share more about his work — on stage, online, and in print — is Jacari Harris.
Jacari, welcome to the show!
[00:01:21] Jacari Harris: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. It is a pleasure. Glad to be here. And happy, just happy day. Happy.
[00:01:28] Sanjay Parekh: Happy day. I, think you're the first guest to say happy day like that. That's great. I love that. I think that bodes well for the rest of our interview here. So, before we get into it why don't you share with us a little bit about you and who you are and, what you do?
[00:01:44] Jacari Harris: Definitely. Thank you so much. My name is Jacari and I'm just here excited, elated to be on this podcast and just continuing to impact the masses. I've had the honor of working and serving as the executive director at the George Floyd Warrior Foundation and now I'm transitioning out of that role and I'm helping others find success despite life's obstacles, through my coaching and transformational firm called Stimulating Success.
You can count on me to transform your life in some capacity or be a life coach or do some trainings to help you elevate your next dimension, because I truly believe that you can truly rise above anything that life's ways and just be successful.
[00:02:36] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, I love that. I think all of us have challenges and, issues that we stumble with and get held back by. So, let's talk about some of your challenges and, what led you to want to do this kind of work. So, what were they?
[00:02:50] Jacari Harris: Definitely, I was in foster care, and I was adopted, and I was just so upset, miserable, depressed. Just so much going on, not knowing exactly what happened to myself, what happened to my family, and I wanted to figure it out. I was that child that always asks hundreds of questions and not getting one answer. So, I felt without, I felt abandoned, and that's just what happened. I was abandoned by my biological mother, not only myself, but my siblings.
And from there I had to realize, growing up that I could not allow that abandonment. I could not allow my biological mom's addiction to drugs, addiction to alcohol, to overtake my life or to depress my future or my life. And I could not allow the fact that I met my father on my 13th birthday two weeks before he passed away, I could not allow that to overtake me.
And so many youths, so many teens, so many young adults will allow that to deter their future. But I chose the latter. I chose to allow those obstacles, a lot of those issues to push me beyond whatever I can believe or imagine, to become successful and to become an inspiration to others.
And I always tell people we are all imperfect, but we have a perfect story to tell. So, I decided to tell my story and now, I'm encouraging others to tell their story because the world needs to hear it.
[00:04:18] Sanjay Parekh: Wow. There's a lot to unpack in the things that you just said. Like meeting your dad and, I don't know how you view that now. Was it fortunate or unfortunate?
I'm like, if you'd missed by just a couple of weeks you wouldn't have had the opportunity. So, I don't know if you view that as s a fortunate thing or...
[00:04:37] Jacari Harris: I view it as fortunate because I almost told my adoptive mom when we got the call, I almost told her, I don't want to go see him. I remember his wife at the time, she called us, and they were at the hospital in the intensive care unit and they're like, we really want you to meet your dad.
We know you have not ever heard from him or us, but we at least want to give you that opportunity. Of course, I was mad and just angry. But I went ahead and pushed myself up there to go to the hospital to pray with him and hold his hand and tell him I love him. And two weeks later got the call that he had slipped away from this earth.
[00:05:11] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, it's interesting that you talk about the foster system and all of these things, and it seems like a lot of that has really shaped who you are and what you've become. How do you view that experience? Especially in the light of what you're doing now, if that if that experience, and I know it's hard to think about, but if that experience hadn't happened to you, do you think you'd be in this position now of wanting to be a life coach or anything else like that?
[00:05:44] Jacari Harris: I certainly do not think so because I had to use that experience to redefine and redesign my future because the reality is life doesn't spare its rod for any of us. And it's up to us to not allow those shameful moments, those hurting days and weeks to define us. But it's up to us to allow those moments to learn from them, to grow from them.
And more than anything, so that we can be an impact and live an unapologetic life and share our story. So, I do not allow those moments, that time, to deter me for long. I had to make up in my mind, I had to create and revision a possible future for myself. Even with my biological mom, even with my biological father, did not care enough for my future.
I had to care enough for me to keep moving the needle forward. And that's just what I did. I put one foot in front of the other.
[00:06:42] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So where do you think that comes from or you? Is this something that was just innate or did this get instilled with you once you were adopted and, you saw a better life outside of the foster system for yourself?
[00:06:58] Jacari Harris: Definitely. I think it came from really growing up in foster care, being adopted and learning so much about me. And when I reflected, I always said why, did I do that? What's wrong with me? Am I depressed? Am I on the verge of trying to commit suicide? I did not know what was wrong with me, so I had to truly like, define exactly, well, what, I know there's issues wrong with me.
What can I turn those issues into to create a better future for me? When I used to get kicked out of high school classes or when I got expelled from a middle school or when I ran away, or when I called the police on my adoptive mom, who was just trying to help me, who was just trying to love me, I had to sit down for a moment and just think, if I continue to go in this route of being kicked out of school or running from home to home, I won't have the best life ahead of me.
So, I had to make up in my mind that I have to change, I have to be the change agent for my life, for my future, so that I can be successful.
[00:07:06] Sanjay Parekh: So where in that then did this idea of being an entrepreneur come up? Because that's one of the ultimate change agents, right? You see something that's wrong in the world and you're like, Okay, I'm going to do something big to fix that problem in the world.
So, did you have that view because of your biological parents or because of your adoptive parents? Or like where did the first thing, where did you experience entrepreneurship first?
[00:08:34] Jacari Harris: I experienced entrepreneurship, honestly, when I was in 10th grade in high school, and I remember my guidance counselor, she came back to me.
She said, Jacari you keep getting kicked out of the class. You have a bad attitude. You know you're always doing something negative. She said, did you know that you were held back in the first grade? And I didn't know that. I did not know my adoptive mom did not tell me, so I was upset. And what I did was I made up in my mind that day that I would not allow anyone to determine my future.
So, I decided that day that I was going to graduate high school in three years instead of four, the traditional four. And that took accountability. That took a whole new, renewed mindset. I had to take 14 virtual courses. Within a year and a half and take in person courses, stay after school for tutoring, work at McDonald's 20, 30 hours a week, still be active in the church.
And I really got it done. And I remember walking on that graduation stage, going across the stage, so many people were cheering for me, standing up and applauding me because they could not believe that I really graduated high school in three years instead of four. So, I took that opportunity to realize, that if I can do that much in a shorter time, there is so much more I can give and I can do to this world with that same entrepreneur mindset. I was literally, I was on a whole new wave when I had a plan, I had a strategy, and I had an execution mindset. And that is what made me realize that I can be an entrepreneur and helping others to make money.
[00:10:15] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah. So, you got through high school in three years there, working in McDonald's. So obviously there was no entrepreneurial like side hustles during that. There was no time. No time to do anything else like that.
[00:10:29] Jacari Harris: But those skills are what allowed me to now create my own business.
[00:10:34] Sanjay Parekh: So, the skills of what? Of time management?
[00:10:36] Jacari Harris: The skills of time management, the skills of strategy, the skills of negotiation, because I had to negotiate my way and negotiate the teacher, hey, can you please help me with this? Because many of the teachers in high school, they were like, you’re trying to take all these classes just to graduate early? You don't need to do that. Just take your time. I had to negotiate my way through and prove a point. This is why I'm doing what I'm doing and I'm going to get it done. Just give me that one opportunity. Give me that one chance. Let me be in your class. Let me sit in, let me tutor. Let me do this and it will get done. So those skills of strategy, of negotiation, figuring out who to communicate and when to communicate with them is what really helped me be this determined. Be a go-getter.
[00:11:17] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. And I think right there you hit upon something that's a challenge for a lot of people is that there is a structure of leadership and organization, that when you're trying to do something that's outside of that structure, it becomes very hard. And that's true for, as a student that's trying to graduate in three years out of high school. Because that's not normal.
Or as an entrepreneur trying to do something new because that's not normal either. And that's not the way we do things. And it's interesting that you had this skill set early on or this determination because it's the exact thing that you need as an entrepreneur to break through and be successful as well.
[00:11:56] Jacari Harris: Definitely. Thank you.
[00:11:58] Sanjay Parekh: So, let's move forward from there. So, from high school, when was the first time then you started to do something entrepreneurial?
[00:12:05] Jacari Harris: So, after high school it was Attorney Ben Crump's office. So, Attorney Crump is world renowned attorney based in Tallahassee, Florida. He's taken on so many major cases, such as Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, and so many more. And I remember when I saw him on TV. I was at McDonald's, still like just graduated at McDonald's, and I said, I want to go work for him one day. And they were like, Boy, you just graduated high school. This man, a little lawyer, he got law school clerks. But I said I was determined. So, what did I do? I left McDonald's early; I went to go to the library. They print out a 10-page resume. I don't know why my resume was 10 pages and I just had one job. But nevertheless, that is what I did. And I went to his office, talked to the clerk, and they told me I had to leave because I had just graduated high school and then they only take L two or L three students, law school student students in the second or third year of law school.
So, I did feel defeated, but that did not stop me. I waited for a little while, did some research, came back two weeks later with a hand me down suit and a three-page resume. And then I heard Attorney Crump’s voice like further down in the office or in the building, and I just called out his name. I said, Attorney Crump, please come here. And he came up there and they and security asked me to leave, but he told security to stop. And I told him, I said, All I need is just one chance. Please give me an internship. It doesn't even have to be paid. I want to learn; I want to give back to the community. I want to invest, I want to teach, I want to help.
So, he gave me that one chance. So, I feel like that is what started my entrepreneurial journey. And from there, hey, I'm here today. I have a book, as you know, I moved out to LA to do an internship in Los Angeles. Then I started speaking at many organizations, to many groups, many universities, and during that time, I was speaking for free as long as they paid for my travels, I was so up and so out, and transformed lives and ignite the youth, and inspire the parents and the young adults to become better than they were yesterday.
[00:14:09] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So that's like a tough thing to do, right? Like you're traveling and speaking, as long as they pay for your travel expenses, it's hard to make ends meet. Your landlord or, going to McDonald's to buy food. They're not going to be like, oh, you did a speaking gig, We're going to give you some free food or let you stay for free. So how did you make ends meet while you're doing all that?
[00:14:31] Jacari Harris: So that was in high school, and the early undergrad years. But when I graduated undergrad in 2018 is when I began saying, you know what, many people said I should be charging to speak, you know, an honorarium, things of that nature, no matter if it's $300, $500, $1000, whatever it is.
So, then I changed it up. I was like, you know what? Let me put together a writer, let me put together a media kit, let me put together a contract so I could begin charging folks. I was traveling to California, to New York, to Miami, to DC, to Atlanta, to different areas speaking. And then when, I graduated high school is when I released my book in 2020.
And from there it just, everything was just increasing, people were paying for my travels and honorarium, and they asked me to come back. And I had some companies and organizations not only paying for the travels and honorarium, but they were paying, getting 50 or a hundred books to give out after I speak.
So, it all paid off. And those skills, those lessons, those tired moments, those days that I felt like just giving up because no one was showing up for me when I just felt without. In the past two, three years is when I realized that all of that has really paid off and it's still paying off today. And what I do know to be certain is that what's coming is better than what's been.
So, I don't know who's listening to this audio or watching this video, but what I want you to know is, don't give up. Don't settle when no one is showing up for you. Show up for yourself every single day because it's going to pay off.
[00:16:01] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. Let's talk a little bit about it, right? So right now, you're with the George Floyd Memorial Foundation. So, did you start what you're doing right now before that and how did that kind of all fit in with what you're doing at the foundation?
[00:16:18] Jacari Harris: So, I moved to Houston, Texas in 2019. And during that time, I was just broke and broken because I moved at the time that I was like, Okay, I don't know what to do right now.
I'm traveling, speaking, and I don't have anywhere to stay. I need to get my finances together. I need to get myself together. So, what is it that I really, truly want to do? How can I get back on a plan of just supernatural success? So that's when I got back into consulting and I was like, you know what? I'm going to launch my own coaching and transformational leadership firm so I can really get more structure, get a team behind me, and to help. And then in 2020, George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mind you, I did not even pay attention to the video that was going around social media.
I saw it, but I did not want to watch it, so I just kept scrolling. But I remember two days after he was murdered, Attorney Crump called me and said, hey, the family needs you and I need you. And I had never met George Floyd or his family until the first funeral because I just did not know them.
And so, I said what do you need help with? And he said, I need your help with planning the funerals. So that's what I did to help plant the Houston Funeral help plan the North Carolina and Minneapolis funeral. And then from there, the family said, we really need you to run this foundation. I said, Listen, it's not in my plan to run this foundation.
I'm about to launch my book. I'm about to go on a book tour. I'm working on like, this season's called Project Me. It's about me. My life, my goals, my aspirations. They were like, we really need you. I said, Okay, you know what? I'll help you all. I promised to stay on for a year.
That year has now turned into two years, but this year will be my last year, and I'm transitioning now to go back to my first love, which is transformational leadership and inspiring others to rise above life's obstacles and begin anew.
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[00:18:49] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, it's interesting that you were on this path and then you got diverted because you were needed.
Like looking back at it now, so you're on the path of leaving, what do you think about that diversion? Was it useful to you? Was it just a waste of time? Not that the work was a waste of time, but did it not help you progress in terms of what you wanted to do? Or how did it fit in?
[00:19:21] Jacari Harris: Right. That diversion is the best thing that has happened to me. Oh my, it has helped increase my visibility, has helped increase my effectiveness, my drive, my connections, my people. It has allowed me to really decide and define and design what's coming. And I am grateful for the work that we have done.
I'm grateful for the lives that we've impacted, and I'm even more grateful for the connections that I've been able to make and I still have to this date because people see me, for me, they see my work, they see my mission. And what I love the most is that many people that I have met and impacted and connected with, they've always said, there is something greater to you than this foundation.
This foundation is great, but there is something even greater. And that's why I'm working on what's greater, and it's called Stimulating Success.
[00:20:14] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah. So that's interesting. And I think that's, I think that's a challenge for a lot of people that are trying to launch side hustles is that, as entrepreneurs we're like the dog from Up, right?
You get distracted by the squirrel that's all over the place and it's hard to focus, but sometimes it's useful to get distracted for a little bit because it actually might help you build out some of the things that you're doing.
[00:20:46] Jacari Harris: Certainly.
[00:20:47] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah So, let's talk about where you're at right now and what you're thinking about in terms of building this thing.
So, you've talked about having a team. Do you have a team right now or is it still just you?
[00:20:55] Jacari Harris: My team is growing, yes. Right now, I do have a team. I'm about to hire two more individuals, so a social media assistant and a program coordinator. And we are launching January 2nd. But we are building the blueprint right now.
We're finalizing our strategy plan. We're finalizing our services, our programs, and we're just preparing for what's to come because it's going to be great. It's going to be great.
[00:21:24] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, in, in terms of all this effort that you've put into it so far what's the thing that's been the most different than what you were expecting it to be?
[00:21:36] Jacari Harris: The thing that has been most different than what I expect it to be is that I already have a lot of support. When I speak to many of the organizations that I've met over the past few years, and when I speak to individuals and key people that have assisted me at the foundation or external people that have assisted me, they're really going harder for me now that I have a consulting firm coming out, Stimulating Success. They're going harder for me. And what's different is I'm going even harder for myself.
There’s nothing like building a business from the ground up and being able to be very resourceful and be strategic and figure out, Okay, this is what I need to do. This is why I need to do it. This is where I need to do it at, and this is the deadline I have to do it by and actually getting it done. Because I've been very successful, at the foundation and with the work, with the programming, with the fundraising, with the connections, and now I'm just applying that to my consulting firm, but I'm taking it up not another level, but another dimension.
[00:22:43] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Do, you think that's, because these people, these connections, first of all, you got them because you were at the foundation. But is it because they saw your work at the foundation? And got to know you, or is it something else?
[00:22:56] Jacari Harris: So, it's between, they saw my work and then they heard my story.
And I remember I was on the phone with, not a phone with ,on the Zoom with some corporate senior officials, executives at Target. And they came on as a founding partner of the foundation. And I remember one of the sustainability coordinators, he said, we've done research on the foundation, but I happened to find your book.
And I ordered your book, and I am just in love with your story. Not the pain or the issues you faced, but the transformation that you have come about just these past couple years since your book released, or since you've been on this journey of healing, of restoration. And that wasn't just the first one.
There were so many others that said, I got your book when I first met them, or when I just did a, hey, I want to introduce the foundation to you. They already knew about my book. They knew about me before I could even assure them, hey, I have a book out there. So, in those defining moments, were only monumental in confirmation that where I'm about to go is just greater.
[00:24:03] Sanjay Parekh: So, that's interesting. And you said a word that kind of sparked a question for me. You said restoration. Let's dive into kind of that idea and how do you think about that in terms of dealing with work and life and self-care for yourself, because some of the things that you're talking about helping people with.
You get unloaded a lot of heavy issues like we all have our own issues and then when you hear other people's issues it gets to be you heavy burden to carry. So how do you think about that and how do you make sure that you can balance all of those things in terms of yourself and your mental abilities to deal with all of this?
[00:24:43] Jacari Harris: I definitely believe in self-care. I believe in traveling. I believe in taking time out for me, project me. I have coaches that empower me. I have a spiritual person that prays with me that keeps me grounded. I protect my peace. I don't allow negativity to come around me. And if it comes around me, I do away with it. So, it takes decompression, It takes me sometimes on a Wednesday or Thursday evening, just drinking a glass of wine and reading a book or listening to music and just, feeling anew.
[00:25:24] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah. Now how do you view travel? So, you've got a lot of travel and for some people travel can be very monotonous and exhausting, especially in the day and age that we are now.
Versus even a couple of decades ago travel, air travel was a lot easier. And it's tough now. So, like, how do you feel about travel?
[00:25:47] Jacari Harris: I think travel is a necessity. It is relieving. There is a whole world here. There is a whole world, and we might as well go see it. I've learned, made many connections just by traveling, meeting people in the airport, on the plane, in another country, at a diner, that have changed my life, that’s changed my perspective, that have given me some tools, resources, and knowledge I can't even think of.
[00:26:15] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah, I like that. Last question for you, like thinking back, now to how you were before you became an entrepreneur and also for anybody that's thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, what's that piece of advice or, something you would've told yourself before you started going down this journey? Or somebody that's about to start this journey? Or wanting to start this journey?
[00:26:41] Jacari Harris: A piece of advice. I have three things. Probably four, but a piece of advice is, of course you have to turn your dream into reality, but when you say that, or when you attempt to do it, or when you're doing it, because you're going to do it, you have to love yourself beyond your issues and beyond your obstacles. You have to wake up every day knowing that you're going to push yourself to the next dimension and beyond.
And lastly, you have to continue to love the highest and latest version of yourself, because you're going to be changing. There's going to be some changes in your life. You're going to be pruning, you're going to be changing, but you cannot not love yourself. You have to thank yourself; you have to celebrate yourself.
Those small micro wins that you think is nothing, it's something to somebody. So, celebrate those small micro wins. You don't have to celebrate those major wins every time. It's great. But celebrate those small micro wins because it's in the weeds that's going to help you.
[00:27:48] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah, I like that. And I don't think we do enough of that celebration of those small wins, especially as entrepreneurs. Sometimes just the hustle and the grind and there's that bigger thing that you're trying to accomplish. But it's important to hit those small wins. Jacari, thank you so much for coming on the podcast.
[00:27:31] Jacari Harris: Thank you. Such a joy.
[00:28:14] Sanjay Parekh: Thank you for listening to this week's episode of the Side Hustle to Small Business Podcast, powered by Hiscox. To learn more about how Hiscox can help protect your small business through intelligent insurance solutions, visit hiscox.com. And if you have a story you want to hear on this podcast, please visit hiscox.com/shareyourstory. I'm your host Sanjay Parekh. You can find me on Twitter @sanjay or on my website at sanjayparekh.com.