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April 19, 2024

MAN UP Mentees Discover Opportunities and Inspiration at THE GATHERING SPOT Atlanta

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By:  Samantha Wallace

This three-part series will chronicle MAN UP Male Mentees 3-day trip to Atlanta, GA to attend an Entrepreneurship Forum hosted exclusively for them by Ryan Willson, Co-founder and CEO of The Gathering Spot. 

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Have you ever walked into a room and felt the inspiration flowing through the air? Surrounded by go-getters all around you taking calls, making moves and closing deals. That’s just a small glimpse into what it was like for the young men of MAN UP Mentoring, Inc.(MAN UP) on their Atlanta trip to The Gathering Spot (TGS), Morris Brown College, Brain Rain Solutions and the Atlanta Evergreen Resort in Stone Mountain, Georgia last Fall.

 

On Day 1, the mentees were hosted by Ryan Wilson, the CEO and co-founder of TGS, and members of his team. Headquartered in Atlanta’s central business district, TGS is a 24/7 innovative, private, members-only business and social club, that caters to highly-motivated professionals, entrepreneurs and creatives that seek a work and socializing alternative to traditional city or country clubs, startup incubators and co-working spaces.

 

Wilson along with his senior executive administrative assistant, Kelli Daniels planned for the mentees to get the most out of their experience in Atlanta and get a bird’s eye view of what they could achieve if they worked hard, persevered, and opened their minds to the possibilities of their talents.

 

With an almost piercing gaze and firm handshake, Wilson went around the room and introduced himself to each mentee individually asking them about their career aspirations. Yet, what most intrigued them about his story was his relentless determination to succeed. He shared with them that entrepreneurship was not for the faint at heart and that before he received his first substantial investor into his $3 million dream, he was denied investment “97” times before his vision became a reality. Everyone in the room gasped, including the adults in attendance. But today at 33 years old, the Georgetown Alumnus, along with his co-founder T.K. Peterson, have since opened TGS Los Angeles, TGS Washington D.C. and continue to expand their brand.

 

The level of detail displayed in planning this Entrepreneurship Forum was evident. Based upon the interests of MAN UP mentee’s,  Daniels invited six TGS entrepreneurship members to participate in the panel discussion, including Bilal Shareef, community leader, international real estate broker and owner of Advanced Realty Concepts, LLC; Latoya Franklyn, entertainment attorney and founder of Franklyn Law Firm, P.C; Rashida Gayle, founder of Twenty Six Sports Marketing Agency, co-founder of Bloom; Archie Clay III, founder and CEO of Brain Love Luxury Clothing Line; Chris Peay, co-founder of Cxmmunity Media; and Brandi Shelton, co-founder of Just Add Honey Tea Co.

 

Thinking back to that day, Wilson shared how one panelist touched quite a few of the mentees with his triumphant story. “A lot of them were really in tune with one of our panelists, fashion designer, Archie Clay,” he shared. In hearing Archie’s background, as he spoke about mental health and how to deal with that as a man being raised by women and dealing with unhealthy emotions. He assured them there is strength in getting help, if needed, or just having a village around you where you can share your thoughts. “So, you don't feel like you have to bottle it all up and act unbothered when it’s eating at your core. I think they came out with clearer perspectives,” Wilson recalled.

 

One of the most captivating and surprising speakers that day was Chase DeVaughn, Morehouse College scholar and NIL Athlete, commonly referred to as “The Ticket”. He was there to hear, Shareef, his mentor speak but as he heard the boys mention wanting to play football repetitively, he couldn’t contain himself. He told them bluntly, “Use football or whatever sport or skills as your ticket out the hood but invest in your education because the body can only withstand so many hits and a football career is short-lived but invest in you, invest in your mind, so you won’t be limited to pursue your dreams.”

 

Daniels said, “Hearing the panelists’ stories allowed them to view their interests in a new way. It’s all about putting your all and passion into your work and whatever you do,” she added. “Hearing each of the panelist’s pathways to their success also gave them insight into how career choices can change and lead to different places.”

 

That evening over dinner the mentees reflected on their day, and there was one quote shared by “techie” and gamer Peay, that rang loud in their minds that really hit home. When one of the mentees presented the panelists with the question, “How did you overcome obstacles and stay motivated when home and life is tough and hopeless?”

He told them, “Some people will not evolve, but they are placed in your life to remind you what it looks like if you don’t.” This was a chilling reality for many of them as they thought about those closest to them—-their loved ones.

 

At about 11p.m. the 7- bedroom home began to quiet down, and the mentee’s excitement was finally met with exhaustion as Day 1 came to an end.

 

 

ABOUT MAN UP Mentoring, Inc:

 

MANUP Mentoring, Inc. is community-based non-profit 501c (3) charity organization primarily serving at-risk youth ages 11 through completion of high school or the equivalent across Metro Orlando, with a focus on delinquency prevention and intervention by providing social, educational, and mentoring services. Established in 2014 by Orlando natives, brother and sister duo Christopher and Samantha Wallace. Currently, it is managed by an Executive Director, contractors and a full-time staff of volunteers. It is overseen by a Board of Directors with more than 150 years of law enforcement and civilian experience, as well as advisors from the Orange County Public School System and social services.

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