Brashen Gilbert

Brashen Gilbert

On April 11, Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood celebrated the opening of Co-llab, a small business incubator run by the Male Mogul Initiative.  The initiative was founded by former NFL player and high school teacher Walter Mendenhall to mentor young men on the South Side and train them for entrepreneurship. Brashen Gilbert is a graduate and now the head facilitator.

“What’s really held Englewood back as a community is there’s not a lot of male mentors. A lot of us grew up without fathers and we don’t really have a positive male role model to look up to. When you take that away, we end up on the street or in jail.”

“When I met Walt [Mendenhall], he showed me a Black man can be successful. Yeah, Walt played in the NFL, but he got most of his success through business and entrepreneurship. I wasn’t going to be in the NFL because I’m 5-foot-6, but business, that’s something I could do.”

“He encouraged me to get my grades up in high school and go to college. But I felt like college wasn’t enough for me. In my head, I could accomplish more just getting a job.”

“So, I came back and we started a little store in Boxville selling clothes and snacks. Then we moved up to a whole warehouse. And all that time, I was learning real estate, and I became a property owner at age 21. I’m a landlord.”

“A lot of things don’t get done without money. But I mainly believe a great community is built on the backs of great people. You bring the whole community together and the money will come.”

Brashen Gilbert
Head facilitator, Male Mogul Initiative
Chicago, Illinois

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