April 15, 2020

Khalif El-Amin: Cofounder of YES (Young Enterprising Society)

For the record, "Ian has never scored more than four points off me {in basketball}."

Ayla: What do you do?

Khalif: I am the cofounder of YES, the Young Enterprising Society. We started in 2012 and do a number of different things. We run our STEAM Program (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) and teach students the latest and greatest of STEAM and how to be entrepreneurs in those areas. We then started in the Fall of 2018 Blueprint. Our Blueprint program is a business accelerator for adults for tech, e-commerce and manufacturing startups. So far we’ve ran four cohorts through this 12 week long process with access to our coworking spaces, and had 34 companies go through.

A: What was your first job?

K: I worked at my father’s social service agency in high school. It was mostly maintenance but I ultimately turned into an errand boy for my dad. I thought that working in the family business is something that I might want to take over, which was my original goal after college. But after I started working in it, I realized that it wasn’t a passion of mine as it was my dads. However, all of those lessons educated and humbled me of being an entrepreneur.

A: Favorite teacher that impacted you?

K: My eighth grade history teacher, Mr. Duncan. He was a fairly young African American man. I just remember coming to school everyday and seeing him dress in super nice suits. He dressed well, but he was also super smart and very nice. He was a very positive African American male role model and teacher for me.

A: Where did you go to school?

K: I went to UW-Stevens Point studying sociology and psychology. I also played basketball there as point-guard.

A: What's your favorite part about your job?

K: My favorite part about my job is being able to interact with others. I get to help and assist so many people. I’m an extrovert so being able to interact and talk with people to see those “a-ha” or light-bulb moments is really rewarding. For example, two young men started our program as juniors in high school. Fast forward four years, they’re now sophomores in college and just graduated from our blueprint program.

A: What's your least favorite part about your job?

K: My least favorite part is right now in the midst of COVID. Not being able to physically interact with a lot of people. Usually, we have a little under 10 people everyday coming into our coworking space to ask for help or assistance, so not having that consistent interaction has been the toughest part.

A: What's the best way to start your day?

K: I try to start everyday with a workout.

A: What's something you had to unlearn?

K: I’ve had to learn to become more humble and selfless. Everything is not always about me.

A: Favorite podcast or podcast you're listening to right now?

K: Locally I listen to the Gogedders podcast by Richie Burke and I just listened to Teacher’s Ed by my friend Ed. I also listen to Earn Your Leisure, Knuckleheads and All the Smoke.

A: What can you give a 40 minute presentation on with no prep?

K: Entrepreneurship or basketball.

A: Dana Guthrie said the same thing!

K: Dana can BALL.

A: Hardest lesson you had to learn?

K: “Life is not a layup, better get your j up.”

A: Favorite Hoan event?

K: Last year’s Christmas party. It was just a good time, a ton of people and great interaction. The Palmer venue is dope, one of the best spots to host an event. All around good vibes.

A: Where do you want to see Milwaukee in five years?

K: Milwaukee is budding. It has good, fresh blood. Younger more innovative leaders are getting into positions of power making change in the way it should be happening. Milwaukee is an amazing city and a lot of people talk about the bad stuff but it’s like, “what are you going to do about it?” Are you going to lace up and get to work to change it? I see Milwaukee being a hot spot for millennials to work and play.

A: Best piece of advice you've ever received?

K: "Whatever you seek to endeavor, seek to perfect it."

A: Worst piece of advice you've ever received?

K: YOLO. Nothing smart or safe ever came out of that.

A: Last but what song would you sing at Karaoke?

K: 40 Under 40 asked me the same question. . . I'll give the same answer. "Come and Talk to Me" by Jodeci.

To learn more about how awesome Khalif is, email him at: Khalif@followtheyes.com

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