About this episode

Taylor Toynes is the co-founder and executive director of For Oak Cliff, a community-based nonprofit that seeks to liberate the Oak Cliff community from systemic oppression. Oak Cliff is a community within the city of Dallas that boasts one of the highest crime rates in the area. In fact, the zip code for For Oak Cliff leads the state of Texas with the most people in prison. It has a median household income of just $21,000 a year. As a resident population where 40% of those over the age of 25 don't even have a GED, the same zip code had an entire population of high school students walk out of school due to the poor conditions of the school. And in fact, the middle school that feeds that same high school was shut down due to poor air quality.

The mission of For Oak Cliff is personal to Taylor because Oak Cliff is where he grew up and where he calls home today. But more importantly, it's personal because he believes the residents of Oak Cliff have potential far greater than is being realized. His mission is grand, but his passion is even greater.

In this episode, you'll hear.

  • Taylor’s early days and how being surrounded by entrepreneurs encouraged him to start his own nonprofit.
  • The life lessons Taylor learned from his family on what it means to serve others.
  • The four pillars For Oak Cliff uses to help liberate Oak Cliff from systemic oppression.
  • How Taylor measures success.
  • Changes he has seen in the community in the last five years.
  • Taylor’s greatest challenges.
  • His advice to any entrepreneur who is not seeing success.

Resources from this episode

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ExpressVPN: Get 3 Months Free → ExpressVPN.com/StartupStory
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The Startup Story Inner Circle: https://www.thestartupstory.co/vip

Taylor Toynes on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/taylor-toynes-500a8555/
For Oak Cliff Website: https://www.foroakcliff.org/

The Startup Story on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/thestartupstory
The Startup Story is now on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/jamesmckinney
The Startup Story on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thestartupstory

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EPISODE CREDITS

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Episode transcript

The Startup Story - Taylor Toynes

Taylor Toynes: What's up, y'all? This is Taylor Toynes, cofounder and executive director of For Oak Cliff, and this is MY startup story.

Every wildfire began with a spark. Every superhero has an origin story. And every single startup has a moment that they point to as their beginning. And every founder has a purpose that drove them in the midst of all obstacles. THAT is The Startup Story.

[00:31]
James McKinney: Welcome to another episode of The Startup Story. If you're new to The Startup Story podcast there are two key things I want you to know about before we jump into this week's episode. First, would you like to advertise your business within The Startup Story podcast for absolutely free? I'm serious, would you like to put your brand, your product, your service, or even just your website address in front of the 70,000 plus listeners? Well, if that sounds like something you would want then all you have to do is leave a five star rating and a written review in Apple Podcast. That's it. If you do that I will read your review in an upcoming episode for my entire audience to hear. Every time there's a new review I include it in an episode. Now, that said, make sure to plug your brand, URL, or social media account in the review. We have so many reviews that are incredibly complimentary to The Startup Story but they don't seize the branding opportunity by including a brand name or URL within the review. These episodes live on forever and so will your ad. Again, I'm giving you a free advertisement for just writing a review on Apple Podcast. It's my way of saying thank you for taking the time to write a review.

The second action item for you is to visit Grindology.com to become one of our founding partners in a brand new entrepreneurial offering. After 90 plus episodes and close to 1 million downloads, The Startup Story is extending our reach into the subscription box space. You heard that correctly. We are bringing all the tools, resources, discovery tactics, founder access, and coffee to you via subscription brand called Grindology. Everything we do is about understanding what it takes to endure the many challenges that entrepreneurship will throw at you. And in essence, The Startup Story has always been about the study of the grind. That is why we thought now is the right time to launch Grindology.

Every single week The Startup Story podcast unpacks the entrepreneurial journey of a successful founder so that you can learn from them and bring some of those tactics into your business. Well, if you become a Grindology member every quarter you'll receive a shipment carefully crafted to help support and fuel your entrepreneurial journey. Every shipment will include two bags of some amazing coffee specifically crafted for you, the founder, hustler, entrepreneur, maker, and creator. In addition to the uniquely crafted coffee, each shipment will also include an exclusive mug that speaks to the unique nature that is you, the entrepreneur. You know as well as we do that we are just wired differently and most people simply don't understand why we're willing to take the risks we do, but we do because we're just like you. That is also why every single Grindology shipment will be packed full of content from key brand partners offering you additional resources to help you in your entrepreneurial journey.

Not all entrepreneurial journeys are the same and we fully understand that your journey is unique to you. Grindology was simply created to help fuel your journey. You can visit grindology.com today to learn more and pre-order your Q4 box. We'll also include a link to grindology.com in our show notes for easy access. Our very first shipment will be an exclusive run so secure your box today at Grindology.com. Now let's jump into this week's episode.

Our guest this week is Taylor Toynes, cofounder and executive director of For Oak Cliff, a community based nonprofit that seeks to liberate the Oak Cliff community from systemic oppression. Taylor's story and the founding of For Oak Cliff is one that has actually been in the process since his childhood while growing up in Oak Cliff. For those that are not aware, Oak Cliff is a community within the city of Dallas that boasts one of the highest crime rates in the area. In fact, the zip code for For Oak Cliff it leads the state of Texas with the most people in prison. It has a median household income of just $21,000 a year. It has a resident population where 40% of those over the age of 25 don't even have a GED. The same zip code had an entire population of high school students walk out of school due to the poor conditions of the school. In fact, the middle school that feeds that same high school was shut down due to poor air quality.

The mission of For Oak Cliff is personal to Taylor because Oak Cliff is where he grew up and where he calls home today. But more importantly, it's personal because he believes the residents of Oak Cliff have potential far greater than is being realized. His mission is grand, but his passion is even greater. For that reason, thanks to my partnership with Think Branded Media we've extended Taylor's story to The Startup Story Presents platform. You can experience a video feature on Taylor Toynes and For Oak Cliff by visiting thestartupstory.co/theactivist. This episode of The Startup Story is incredibly rich and I know after hearing Taylor's passion for the mission you're going to want to contribute to help those he serves. For that reason, we've included a link to foroakcliff.org in our show notes so you can donate directly. You're going to love hearing from the heart of a founder who will not allow himself to quit because, well, the reality is that lives truly do depend on it. But just like all superhero stories, the origin is where we need to begin.

[05:38]
Taylor Toynes: Both of my grandfathers were entrepreneurs. At the shopping center we're in right now that our community center is located in, For Oak Cliff, is the same shopping center that my grandfather owned a convenience store over here called Ben & Sons, so you know I'd go to work with him every day, my grandmother, it was a family business. My uncle worked in there, my grandfather, my mother would come in from time to time, my granny would be on the register. My grandfather employed some of his high school classmates to be in the kitchen so I got to see a business every day. That was like the first real job that I saw somebody had, you know, and he had his own business. My mother, she was a police officer actually so I remember her going through the police academy, but during that time I was working. I mean I'd be with my grandfather and my grandmother while my mom was out working. Yeah, I saw entrepreneurial spirit on that side. Then my father's father, he had started his own pharmacy. He was a pharmacist.

[06:39]
James McKinney: Oh wow, okay.

[06:41]
Taylor Toynes: Yeah, so it's been instilled in me from both sides of my family.

[06:45]
James McKinney: Do you remember as a childlike, again you're surrounded by entrepreneurs, small business owners, do you remember as a child any early side gigs because you just wanted to kind of create your own money, create your own way of life? What are some of those stories?

[06:59]
Taylor Toynes: Man, I had a lot of side gigs at an early age. I began cutting yards so that was like my first business. I had a lawnmower and my granny let me cut her yard. She paid me. I had some other clients in the neighborhood that paid me to cut their yards as well. While I was doing that, in elementary school at the time it was a thing to have the big gaudy bracelets and watches, the bling bling generation. The song actually had came out like '99 or '98 so I would go to the mall and I found a store in the mall that had these big watches, and they sold them for $20. So I'd take my money that I made from cutting yards, I'd buy those watches, a couple of them because I wouldn't spend all my money, I learned my lesson. Take those and then go to school and sell them for $5 more.

[07:51]
James McKinney: There you go.

[07:52]
Taylor Toynes: Yeah.

[07:53]
James McKinney: But coming to the end of high school, what did you think you wanted to do?

[07:56]
Taylor Toynes: At the end of high school, man it was a traumatizing time for me.

[07:59]
James McKinney: How so?

[08:00]
Taylor Toynes: Basketball was my thing. I played ball like that was like my dad started teaching me basketball on a Fisher Price goal in the den when I was two or three years old, so basketball was always something that was a part of my life forever up to that time. I was decent. I was decent at the game. I put a lot of time into it. I was diligent at the craft. But there was a game that changed my life. It was one of the biggest games in the district and it was a fight that broke out, and I jumped in it and you know that changed the trajectory of my basketball career.

[08:39]
James McKinney: How so?

[08:40]
Taylor Toynes: Schools weren't as interested any more. I got suspended from the team. I was possibly about to be put out of school because this is at a game. You know, it was a lot.

[08:50]
James McKinney: So colleges looked at it as a character issues.

[08:52]
Taylor Toynes: For sure.

[08:53]
James McKinney: Yeah.

[08:54]
Taylor Toynes: For sure. I mean and then the coach had to… it was a lot. It was a lot taking place at that time, but I went to Dallas Skyline high school which is the first magnet in the United States of America. My home school was Dallas Carter. Both of my parents went to Dallas Carter and you've probably seen the movies and documentaries about Carter, but I went to Skyline and I was fortunate to be selected to a magnet program that was called Man and His Environment. Man and His Environment was a cluster that had psychology, sociology, and law. I went to Atwell Middle School too. Had a teacher there named Joe Wicker that was my US history teacher in eighth grade, and you had to apply for Skyline and get in. I told Mr. Wicker that I had applied and he was like, "I think you'll get in." I did. First day of school, I see Mr. Wicker standing in the hallway and I was like, and he was my favorite teacher in eighth grade too. I was like, "Mr. Wicker, what are you doing here?" And he was like, "I'm a teacher in Man and His Environment cluster." So he was my teacher the next four years.

[09:53]
James McKinney: That's awesome.

[09:54]
Taylor Toynes: Because the cluster, we had to go to that class every day, that we start our morning in that cluster, we learn environmental issues, law, psychology, it was a lot. I was blessed to have Mr. Wicker and he was an attorney that left being an attorney to teach. I was blessed to have him as an educator, amongst all other educators that I had. By to answer your initial question, I wanted to be an attorney. That was my goal. I thought that was the best way for me to serve my community, to be a leader in my community so I was studying the encyclopedia, SAT words, like I was really into the law. That's what I really wanted to do.

[10:34]
James McKinney: Let me ask a question about that though. Attorney is a broad career and I think sometimes we have an idea of what a career path looks like. I'm going to test your memory a bit but do you remember what you thought being an attorney meant? Did you at the time… like what year are we talking about? What year did you graduate high school?

[10:54]
Taylor Toynes: 2007.

[10:55]
James McKinney: So 2007 so obviously the TV is riddled with attorney shows, Law & Order and what have you, and A Few Good Men came out a decade before. We all had this idea of what it meant to be. For you, what did you picture that career choice to look like?

[11:09]
Taylor Toynes: So I was pretty aware of all the different types of attorneys that it was because of my cluster, always exposed to it. We had something called Youth and Government. But my ultimate, when I decided to go to Skyline, when I made my decision to go to Skyline I was in the sixth grade. I remember vividly because Ron Kirk was the mayor, and I wanted to be like Ron Kirk. I was like man, that's a black mayor, I want to be the mayor of Dallas because I see him and I want to be like him. At that moment, I was like I'm going to Skyline because if I go to Skyline I'll meet the most people, and that's what you've got to do to win an election.

[11:47]
James McKinney: You're in sixth grade, you're thinking those things. That's incredible.

[11:49]
Taylor Toynes: Yeah, I'm thinking this because it was actually one of my teachers, she went to Skyline, she played basketball there. And my teacher, her name is Miss Garner, she'd show up and volunteer with us every Wednesday. I remember her telling us Skyline is the biggest school in Dallas, it's got the most people, and her daughter came and told us there's 5,000 people at the school, and I was like yeah that's where I need to go. So I decided at that time that I wanted to go to Skyline. I stayed the course, ended up going to Skyline, got exposed. But I had saw Johnny Cochran, I saw the Law & Order. My aunt is a tax attorney so I saw that it was different types of attorneys, and I understood in high school being in my cluster I knew about the DA's office, I knew about defense lawyers, I knew about civil rights attorneys. Thurgood Marshall was the recreation center I grew up in, so I knew about Thurgood Marshall, but I wanted to be like him. That was what I wanted to do. I wanted to make change for my community. I wanted to be somebody that could be a servant leader through law.

[12:52]
James McKinney: What did you see in your community? Again, I'm going to keep poking at this because there's certain things that most 16, 17, 18 year olds aren't thinking. This is one of them, right? Who exposed you to this idea of contributing to a community, bettering your community? Because most teenagers are worried about self and that is a very different perspective you had at such a young age, to have a pursuit to better others around you. What happened in your life that that became a passion point for you?

[13:26]
Taylor Toynes: I think it was the people around me. My grandfather had a grocery store where he was serving people. I'd see him giving free food. My granny is with him, just the way that they talk to individuals. My mother always had a caring heart. But my father as well. My father was working at a psychiatric hospital when I was a kid. I saw how he served and how he helped the younger people that were dealing with things and then my father went on and was in Fort Worth ISD as well, and I saw how he was engaging with young people. I'm like in middle school at this time and he's working with at risk youth, so I'm watching my father do that and I'm thinking man, this is important. I was blessed that I had him in my house with me.

But one thing I say too, as a black man in America, something that I've found to be true is you can't go that deep into our families without finding someone that's really in need of help. That's something that I saw and just instilled in my family is helping one another, because that's important. So for me, I don't know, it was just like God I guess. It was in my spirit. I was aware of what was happening, I was conscious. When I was 16 years old I saw a friend get sentenced to 35 years in prison that was 17. I was aware.

I was conscious of these things, even from the arts, it was movies that stuck with me. I remember the first time watching Menace to Society as a little kid and realizing that what I'm watching here isn't too much different than my reality, or really watching Menace to Society and thinking that is reality, which it was. It was very authentic. But being aware of that but also having the guidance of individuals to tell me one of the most important things that I always was brought up on was don't be a follower, be a leader. I learned from others mistakes and successes. I paid close attention so I could maneuver my way to success.

[15:31]
James McKinney: I love that, I love it. So you have this ambition to be an attorney coming into your high school years. In order to do so, college has to be part of that formula.

[15:38]
Taylor Toynes: For sure.

[15:39]
James McKinney: So what was your next step? As that one chapter of high school closes, that important chapter of life, what was that next chapter for you?

[15:46]
Taylor Toynes: Every time you transition to somewhere else, you take something with you from there. One of the most special things that I took with me from high school was my girlfriend. Her name was Ariel Joyner. She was a true blessing.

[15:59]
James McKinney: That's awesome.

[16:00]
Taylor Toynes: Yeah, a true blessing. I want to Abilene Christian my first year at college in pursuit of ball, and I was out there with some of my friends, man, I say my friends. You know my girlfriend, my close friends, we all kept each other in a very good place. I went to college with two friends that I went to elementary school w.

[16:19]
James McKinney: That's incredible.

[16:20]
Taylor Toynes: Yeah. We lived on the same hallway in college and you know, at the time it was important for us to be there together. One of my friends lost his father that year. I'll never forget the morning when he came, knocked on my door, and told me that his father passed away. We also experienced one of our middle school classmates getting murdered that year, which really shook a lot of people in our generation. Rest in power to Sergio and Rest in power to Mitchell Watts. You know, it was a time that it was just like life is real.

I remember, honestly remember, looking at myself and saying like what are you going to do? Because college was hard for me. I'm not going to lie to you. College algebra, I was in Abilene, it wasn't nothing but a lot of just rural land around my high school, probably had more people than were on campus at Abilene Christian, but it was a blessing to be there with a unit of people, and also to have a girlfriend that's at University of North Texas thriving, and I can't be like her boyfriend is at home, you know? I've got to keep going.

While I was in college, I didn't get… I didn't see the success in sports that I always had envisioned due to injuries, due to a lot of things. I believe that was one of the most powerful transitions for me, one of the most powerful switches. So for my life I had dedicated, like I said I was diligent in my training. I'd wake up early in the morning, work out, and then work out in the evening. I was trying to be the strongest. I was really prudent in my efforts, and it was all taken away. Sports as an organized entity was gone for me. I accepted it, I had to accept that.

[18:06]
James McKinney: When you say it was taken away from you, what do you mean by taken away?

[18:11]
Taylor Toynes: It wasn't taken away necessarily. I knew that I was not about to play sports the way that I wanted to-

[18:17]
James McKinney: Got it, okay.

[18:18]
Taylor Toynes: … at the school I was at, at Abilene Christian. The opportunity wasn't there for the way that I thought it would be. And I made a decision I want to enjoy college, I don't want to be out here in Abilene. So that year I transferred. I left Abilene and went to the University of North Texas. I thought that was the best move for me. It was between U of H and UNT, and I chose UNT. My girlfriend was there.

[18:43]
James McKinney: Makes sense.

[18:44]
Taylor Toynes: So that helped out a lot, and just to clear everything, that girlfriend is my wife now.

[18:50]
James McKinney: I figured as much because I was like this is going to be a painful conversation if the wife here's a different female's name in the episode.

[18:57]
Taylor Toynes: Nah, nah, nah this is my wife, now the mother of my child.

[19:01]
James McKinney: Love it, love it.

[19:02]
Taylor Toynes: But yeah man, I went to University of North Texas and when I got to UNT I didn't have practice anymore. That structure of my life was gone for the first time ever. I didn't have to go to basketball practice, I didn't have to wake up and work out and do all these things. So I had to figure out what am I going to do with this energy? What am I going to do with this time? It allowed me to become more dedicated to my studies than I had ever been.

I'm a very competitive person and I was competing with college. I was competing with 8:00 am classes. I remember my first year at University of North Texas was 2008. My first class that I had at UNT was Campaigns and Elections at 8:00 am. I was a political science major and it was the year that Obama was running for president, so it was also a year for me where it was like either this is going to be a make or break, and that was so inspiring. I had a class that I could just dedicate to studying this election, this campaign, so it was encouraging and it was all at the right time.

[20:07]
James McKinney: I love it. You know, I want to ask this question because there's something that you said earlier in your high school years where you had things modeled for you. You had a teacher that was an attorney, so you saw what the potential was. You had a mayor who was black so you saw I want to be a mayor. You saw someone like you in a spot that you saw as a potential aspirational goal for yourself. Now we're freshman year of college, political science major, Obama's running for president, ultimately becomes elected president, did that have an impact on you back to the idea of how can you be it if you can't see it?

[20:48]
Taylor Toynes: Man, it definitely did because it let me know that the ceiling didn't exist. I got to UNT and it exposed me to a lot of different people from different places. The education side of it I was able to absorb a lot, but also life as well with everything that was taking place in life for me and President Obama, man that was huge. I was actually a custodian during that time.

[21:13]
James McKinney: At UNT?

[21:14]
Taylor Toynes: I was cleaning the probation office in Denton and I remember a young Jeezy made an album called The Recession, and I remember mopping floors and listening to "My President is Black" and that's what really pushed me through. Because I'd be talking to the people who worked in the office, some of them I'd tell them my aspirations in life and they're just looking at me as a custodian or the janitor that's cleaning the building, but I'm doing this at night and going to class in the morning. And shout out to my basketball coach, Darrel James, who also was an entrepreneur. Owned his own business, his own custodial business, and gave me a job.

[21:55]
James McKinney: Okay, there you go.

[21:56]
Taylor Toynes: So I appreciate that. He's one of the best entrepreneurs I know as well. But it was inspiring. It let me know a lot that could be. And also it was my first time voting.

[22:07]
James McKinney: There you go.

[22:08]
Taylor Toynes: It was the first time I was able to vote and I saw man, this power, there's real power in this.

[22:13]
James McKinney: So a lot of things are shifting mentally for you and culturally around in general. You're at UNT, you're seeing for the first time a black president in the White House. You're a political science major. Athletics is out of your life, you're now focused completely on academics. How did college wrap up for you? What ended up being your major and then what was your initial step outside of college? Because again, if I'm dating things correctly you probably finished college around 2012 or 2013.

[22:43]
Taylor Toynes: 2012.

[22:44]
James McKinney: So we're talking eight years ago. We're here because you founded For Oak Cliff. Did you go from college to For Oak Cliff?

[22:53]
Taylor Toynes: No.

[22:54]
James McKinney: Okay. What's that journey?

[22:55]
Taylor Toynes: So my journey man, what really helped for this I pledged Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity in college. I was the treasurer of our fraternity. I think that we were the best fraternity there was. We through an event, man it was a party. We made like $25,000 at the party and I was the treasurer. Everything that we did, I was the person handling the money and we would have to create events. We'd have to create socially impactful events as well because our fraternity is, we're servants. "First of all, service of all, we shall transcend all." Martin Luther King was an Alpha, Thurgood Marshall was an Alpha, so these are the people that we were looking at as models again.

So Alpha was a powerful time for me that helped to refine me, because it's one thing that I learned you can't just go to school, you've got to be involved. I was in Alpha, I was in NAACP, and this is also leading up to around the Trayvon Martin time as well, so we're starting to see things play out. Also during this time was the 1% movement, you know Anonymous and all that stuff was coming up. So I was interested, I was curious. That opened an eye for me. I was like hold on, 1% of the wealth is with 1% of people essentially, and looking at all these billionaires, and it opened up the doors. I also was taking a political theory class and learning Nietzsche and Kant, and Plato's Republic so I was putting this together with being from a marginalized community, and then just matching all this up. Being enlightened of a lot of things. From UNT it was really like, you know in Lion King when Simba goes out and meets Timon and Pumbaa, that was like college for me, you know?

[24:51]
James McKinney: That's awesome.

[24:52]
Taylor Toynes: That was like, because you know like I'm from the Pridelands which is Oak Cliff to me, and I'm looking at it and I'm like okay, I'm in this imaginary world. Because college was not real to me. That wasn't reality. I remember going to Wayne Stop in college, walking in and then coming home, going to the Wayne Stop on Ledbetter and it's a bulletproof glass and they put your food in a box and pass it out to you. Those were the things that I was conscious of at the time, so college was that shift to where it made me a lot more aware. At my graduation, my father always tells me that the graduation is your beginning, that's the beginning of everything. I proposed to my girlfriend at my graduation.

[25:36]
James McKinney: That's awesome.

[25:37]
Taylor Toynes: Yeah, so life started. That was the next step after college, I got engaged. With that, I had to have some income. I still had my aspirations of being an attorney as well so I was studying for the LSAT and I was blessed to get a job in family violence at the District Attorney's office in Dallas.

[25:57]
James McKinney: So you have a job because now you're about to be married so you need to have some income in order to support and provide and contribute, and so how do we get to For Oak Cliff?

[26:08]
Taylor Toynes: Yeah. So while working at the District Attorney's office, I read an article that was titled Cradle to Prison Pipeline, and had the zip codes in Dallas broken down by the amount of people in prison compared to college ready graduates, and my zip code 75216 was the top of the list. And I read that and it shook me to my core, because I started naming off all the people that I knew that had been incarcerated from when I was a kid to then, my peers. And it just didn't sit well with me. And I'm in the DA's office, I can see the county jail behind me. Every morning I come to work, I see the county jail. I'm in the courts, but I'm serving as a victim's advocate. I'm the person preparing the case for the attorney of a victim.

While I was there and I saw what all took place, I knew that my trajectory of being an attorney would have probably landed me as a DA. I'm assuming that. I didn't want to be a DA and I immediately shifted. I had taken my LSAT, applied for schools, and everything. And I had met a guy named McGill Solis that I did an event with and Stacy Hodge with Stanford Children behind that data that I had gotten, and we did an event and I called it The Enlightenment. Jay Z had dropped The Magna Carta, so it was this whole artsy thing in my mind. We called it The Enlightenment, and we were talking about that.

From there I talked to McGill more and I was like, "Man, how'd you get to Stanford Children?" He was the ED of the org at the time, and he said that he had a background in teaching. I was like man, teaching, I can go teach a kid before they get to the point they need me for an attorney. So I asked him what he did. He was like, "I did Teach for America." I didn't know what it was, I applied, used him as a reference, and I got into TFA not knowing how difficult of an organization it is to get into. I got in and accepted and they placed me in Dallas, and they placed me in Oak Cliff.

I could have ended up anywhere in the United States of America, but I got placed at WW Bushman elementary school on Bonnie View, and that is where, when we really think about what exists now, that's when everything started to come together. It was like I was blessed to be able to see things from the systemic level. I got to work at the DA's office so I saw that. When I talk, my minor was criminal justice so I got to see how that played out. I got to see the inequities that exist and I got to see if you don't have money you're not beating the legal system.

[28:48]
James McKinney: Can you, so I want to talk about some of those things real quick. As you were telling your story, I was thinking to myself well he saw firsthand working in the DA's office yet he wanted to leave that career path that you were pursuing for something different. What was the case or maybe multiple cases, what was the circumstance while at the DA's office that forced you to think differently about what your future looked like? Was there a singular moment?

[29:17]
Taylor Toynes: Yeah, it was reading that data point honestly. That data point made me have flashbacks. I never wanted to be on the side of someone that was about to put somebody in a cage. I never wanted to do that because I was aware. Don't get me wrong, yeah there are people who have done things that were not right, they may be guilty of the crime and are sent to prison, and prisons are made their purpose is to rehabilitate. But I also understood that a lot of the people who were caught up in the system had never been habilitated to begin with. So for me, it was how do I do that? How am I a part of the solution? That's when I thought our youth, if we can talk to a kid… because I had even started volunteering. I wanted to start a mentor program in my middle school that I went to, and I knew that our youth is where I needed to be at. I knew that I had a voice that they needed to hear that was in their favor.

[30:18]
James McKinney: Yeah. You made a comment about the inequities in the justice system. There might be some listeners that kind of got hung up on that statement. What do you mean inequities and injustice? Again, I think in today's current climate it would be naive to think that there isn't, but not everyone does research. Most people read headlines and so they don't know exactly what that means. Can you unpack a little bit about some of the systemic inequities you see within the justice system, to your point that if you don't have money you don't stand a chance?

[30:52]
Taylor Toynes: We look at things even like cash bail and bond, if you don't have cash you're going to sit in jail for however long until your trial. That's just one thing when we look at resources and capital. But my zip code, 75216 still to this day it leads the state of Texas with the most people in prison.

[31:13]
James McKinney: Wow.

[31:14]
Taylor Toynes: It leads the state. Matching correlation of data, right? When we look at impoverishment, median household income at roughly $21,000 a year. We look at 40% of individuals in the neighborhood over the age of 25 don't have a GED. Then we look at just to even go deeper, the high school that was in the neighborhood had been neglected for decades to the point - which is South Oak Cliff high school - to the point where the students walked out because of the dilapidated condition of the building. They walked out to force the district to give them the bond dollars necessary to renovate the school. The middle school that feeds into that high school was shut down because of poor quality air in the school, hazardous air quality so they had to close the school. So just think if you're in the sixth grade and you started school there, your school shuts down. Then you get ready to go to high school. You go to high school, that school shuts down too because they have to rebuild it. Those are breaks in the system.

And then also understanding the demographics, you know like my neighborhood is majority African American. As a black person in a black community, we came to this country enslaved from the beginning. So whenever people talk about the Bill of Rights, the inalienable rights that Thomas Jefferson and those other slave drivers and owners had, you've got to understand that those rights were not made with the thought of black people ever having them. There's a whole criminal justice system that is built off of those rights, that were written with black people excluded from them. So it's a natural fact that this system is inequitable to black people, people of color. In a capitalistic society it's all about making money, so prison is a business.

[33:11]
James McKinney: Oh, privatized prisons I think is the worst idea that ever came to be. That is unbelievable.

[33:17]
Taylor Toynes: So just know, just going into it more root, my people were killed for learning how to read, right, at a point in time you would lose a limb first. You keep doing it you might lose another limb, and the third time you might be killed or you may be killed at the front end for learning how to read. So think of the culture of trauma that's put into a community. So now you've got generations of people that are like don't even try and if you do try, know you're putting your life on the line. So I'm extremely grateful for my ancestors who had the courage to continue to learn how to read so that I can be where I am today.

And as we keep going in time, the emancipation of slaves happened but right after that the police departments were created. There were so many Black Codes and the Jim Crow South and just the industry of prisons and how it was driven off the backs of black people because they still needed that slave labor to push products. It hasn't stopped to this day. It's even gotten worse. As long as people can get paid off of the bodies of individuals, and crimes as we know are going to come from areas that lack resources that's a proven fact, until something is done, until the right resources are put into those communities in a radical way, and I'm not just saying give a couple… no, we need it in a radical way. Then it won't ever be a fair shake.

[34:49]
James McKinney: You know, and I'm glad we're having this conversation when we're having it, and when this episode will be released as well because I think it's going to be incredibly relevant. It's probably going to be some new thought to the way people are approaching some of the social justice conversations taking place. I think people get hung up on the headlines versus what the intent and purpose of all of it is. I think people need to do your own research on some of these laws that started in the twenties and thirties to the detriment of the black population.

I mean look at the FHA program. I can speak to California, I can't speak nationally, but in California suburban communities would pop up and FHA loans were to incentivize taking people from the Metropolitan area into the suburban area, but the FHA process said you can't sell to a black person. We're talking something less than 100 years ago, and I think people you have to understand some of those laws are still there because our politicians don't go back and rewrite. There are still things, and again whether or not the FHA still operates that way the laws were still there less than 100 years ago. I'm sure, and I don't have the knowledge to know is there anything in the eighties that popped up that was still to the detriment of the black person.

[36:05]
Taylor Toynes: Of course.

[36:06]
James McKinney: I'm sure there was. I don't have it off the top of my head though but-

[36:09]
Taylor Toynes: The biggest thing, in view from California, I don't know what part you're from-

[36:11]
James McKinney: Southern California, outside of LA.

[36:13]
Taylor Toynes: Southern California, okay you've seen this then, the biggest detriment that I believe to black people in modern day society was the crack epidemic. We still haven't healed from that, and that was in the eighties. I was born in '88 so the culture completely changed. Wasn't the same anymore, became a lot more violent, more aggressive. People were made rich and it did a lot. It did a lot and I think that's a part in history, like you just said in the eighties it's like the economy was kind of booming. Mass incarceration was still happening. The nineties, the crime bills and all that came but man, the eighties what crack did to my community that's the timeline. To me it's like before crack, after crack and they are two separate worlds. Both of them still dealing with some of the same oppressive things, but the way in which the community looks, man it took a lot out.

[37:12]
James McKinney: I think most people don't look at those thing s from a scheme and systemic level. I think people look at those things like the crack epidemic. They look at it at an individual level, but it doesn't take a whole lot of thought to kind of peel back the layers a bit to see how that was a systemic issue. The way the drugs came into the United States, really the way-

[37:32]
Taylor Toynes: Right, just study the Iran Contra deals.

[37:35]
James McKinney: I'm telling you. It doesn't take much to see how that stuff unfolds. So here we are in your story. So you're with Teach for America, you're in the neighborhood you grew up in. you decided to pivot in your career. But what is your career at this point? What is your income stream? We haven't, to my knowledge we don't have For Oak Cliff yet.

[37:56]
Taylor Toynes: No, we don't.

[37:57]
James McKinney: How are you providing for yourself in this moment?

[38:00]
Taylor Toynes: Man, I was teaching. You know though I had a teacher's salary. My wife became a teacher that year as well so we went into the classroom at the same time in 2014. It was a huge blessing for us. We got a huge bump in our salaries. We bought our first house that year as well so it was-

[38:17]
James McKinney: In Oak Cliff?

[38:18]
Taylor Toynes: In Oak Cliff, yeah. So we purchased our first home because I truly believe in building generational wealth, that's one of the first things that you need to do, you need to own some property that you can pass down, own some dirt. So we bought our home and that was a powerful point in our life. I was teaching. That was my income. I did, I was working with some people, helping with campaigns here and there to make some extra dollars. I was a concierge at an apartment complex downtown Dallas, probably some folks that remember me from being the guy downstairs. I was doing that to make some extra dollars as well, but yeah teaching was my main stream of revenue for me and my wife both.

[39:00]
James McKinney: You mentioned earlier the median income in Oak Cliff was $21,000. In general, teachers don't make a ton.

[39:07]
Taylor Toynes: We started at $49,000 that first year.

[39:09]
James McKinney: So you and your wife were doing okay, especially the two of you together.

[39:12]
Taylor Toynes: Right. No child then.

[39:15]
James McKinney: Yeah, no child so you guys were doing all right. A lot of the narrative we hear when it comes to the challenging communities, the challenging upbringing is progress means to get up and get out. But you chose to stay put. You had the means to get property outside of Oak Cliff. You had the means to be out of Oak Cliff but still contribute and teach in Oak Cliff. Why did you remain so deep in Oak Cliff?

[39:41]
Taylor Toynes: It's the demonstration of my parents and my grandparents. My whole family was in Oak Cliff, to this day. I live on the street over from my parents now. I really commend my parents because they came in through the nineties when the suburbs, Desoto, Cedar Hill, Duncanville, they were booming but my parents chose to stay in Oak Cliff and I appreciate them for that. Because that mean a lot in making who I am, so it was my parents and my family. Just building you know pride in being from my neighborhood. It's a beautiful place. It's a great piece of real estate. I'd recommend anybody. I'm a fan. I'm going to tell you all the great things that you can get in your property and I feel safe here more than anything. That's one of the most important things, I feel safe. I have a unit. Everything that I need and I do is within five miles of me, so I wanted to keep that.

[40:40]
James McKinney: Let's just jump straight ahead to Oak Cliff. And for my listeners, why don't you unpack what For Oak Cliff is.

[40:46]
Taylor Toynes: For Oak Cliff is a place based nonprofit movement that exists in south Oak Cliff in the area that we call the super block. I mention the 75216 zip code, that's what represents us, but our mission is we aim to liberate Oak Cliff from systemic oppression through a culture of education while increasing social mobility and social capital. And we do that through four pillars of work: education, advocacy, community building, and the arts. We currently have a team of four fulltime individuals and three independent contractors that work with us through different projects and programs. We are the backbone entity for our community. We're connected for our community. I like to say that we are a movement. When I use the term "backbone" it's a body, so everybody plays a different function in the body. We're trying to move forward into freedom as much as we can.

[41:42]
James McKinney: You mentioned nonprofit, so let's talk about some of the startup challenges because I think a lot of people, when they think of entrepreneurship they immediately think of for profit, and part of that is the media. Part of that is the way that they've portrayed entrepreneurship and what it means to be an entrepreneur. But as a nonprofit, starting a nonprofit with a big mission what were the early funding processes for For Oak Cliff?

[42:03]
Taylor Toynes: I had no idea what nonprofit work was. I started the first project of For Oak Cliff was the For Oak Cliff back to school festival, which was us giving away school supplies to students. The reasoning for that was my class kept showing up without school supplies and I was buying them, so I wanted to get people to come together to help. And we looked at Glendale Park was the first place that… I grew up in Glendale Park which is down the street from here. I got with some people that I knew and we started planning this event. Got some traction on social media, people were excited, they were donating.

I had a big sponsor to come in that was saying they were going to bring $10,000 and it was cool. We had thousands of people sharing it on the front end so I'm like man, a lot of people are probably going to show up to this, I need some support because I don't want people to come and not get much. And that sponsor ended up pulling out because they wanted me to provide a tent that I couldn't afford. I'm still in the classroom, I don't have an entity or none of the… it was wild man. They pulled out and I was like, one of the things that they said was we can have it at this indoor facility which wasn't necessarily in the section of Oak Cliff that we wanted to have the festival. That was it. They were like we're going to move it here, and to me when that was presented to me I've always been somebody that stayed true to what I believe, and I had already told people it was going to be at Glendale, so I said, "No, y'all can still have your event. I wish you the best, but we're going to move forward with what we're doing here." So like that, $10,000 gone.

At the time I had gotten a $3,000 check from a donor named Tai Williams, and the $3,000 you know we were using it for marketing and I was like that's all we got there from that $3,000 check. And man, maybe like a week later someone from the United Way reached out to me and said, "Hey, we heard about-" Her name was Aisha Lusk. She reached out to me and said, "We heard about the event that you all are doing. We see everybody on social media. We'd like to partner with you," and I was like okay, cool. And I didn't know what all United Way could do. They said, "I want to meet you at the park." They walked the park, told me, and I was like, "Yeah, so we want to give out backpacks," because everybody was like the mayor has this big event at Fair Park but that isn't proximal to our community. We needed something here.

And the people at the United Way, Aisha, she said, "What do you envision this looking like?" A couple of tents, some tables. She said, "No, what in your real, vision how do you see this playing out?" So I was like oh. First thing I told her was we need this tent that can hold up to X amount of people with AC in it because that's why the other group pulled out, and they said, "Okay. What else do you need?" And that was a $10,000 tent basically in itself. I was like oh okay, well we just went through the list of all the things we wanted to do. United Way ended up funding that first festival at $60,000.

[45:10]
James McKinney: That's awesome.

[45:11]
Taylor Toynes: Yeah. It was awesome. Not only did they do it for that year, they did it for the next two years as well so they funded you're festival for three years in a row. That's again just sticking to what's right.

[45:25]
James McKinney: Let me pause you there for a second. There's certain moments in the entrepreneurial journey that are moments that the founder, the creator, never forgets. It's obvious that moment is that. That is that moment for you.

[45:38]
Taylor Toynes: I'll never forget it.

[45:39]
James McKinney: When you think back to that moment, and again for my entrepreneurial audience they may have a for profit, a product or service. They may be technology founders, maybe developers, I don't know every single persona but I know all of that is probably part of my listeners. They're probably thinking about their process, how do we test the market, how do we see if there's a need for this product or service. And they get these little small points of validation. In your story, there isn't really much of a need to test. The need is very evident, but what hasn't been proven is whether or not you are able to pull it off until that moment. So when united Way came in, it really was your first bit of validation.

[46:25]
Taylor Toynes: It was.

[46:26]
James McKinney: What was that moment like for you personally when United Way said we believe in you, we want to back you?

[46:33]
Taylor Toynes: Yeah, it was encouraging and it let me know that we were on the right path and we were doing the right thing to bring somebody in like that. I also understood that I had access to that through being in Teach for America. If I would have just been Taylor from South Oak Cliff, I probably wouldn't have had that connection so I started understanding the value of relationships and maximizing those relationships. The other side of it was now I've got to execute. We had this big partner that's coming in for an event we've never done before. I'm still getting ready for my school year because I'm going back to teach, I've got to teach in the fall. So I'm like it's a lot to get done, so that prudence and diligence that I learned from basketball I applied it again and just got to grinding man.

August 15th, we had roughly about 2,000 people to come to Glendale Park. Willliams Chicken came in as a sponsor. We gave, everybody got free two piece darks, a back pack, school supplies, people got registered to vote, we had a tent, nothing like that had ever happened in the park and I know because I grew up in the park, my parents grew up in the park, and everybody was saying, "We've never seen nothing like this. All these nice white tents lined, beautiful organized structure." People were not expecting for what it was to happen.

At that moment, once it was over or once we were in it, I was trying my best to be as present as possible. I had a friend named Nahome. He came to me during the festival and said, "You realize what you did today, what's happening out here?" And I was like, "Yeah, it's nice right?" He was like, "Nah, this is bigger than this festival. You've got to get your website ready. You've got to have a nonprofit." And Nahome is an attorney. We played basketball together and he spoke into me in that moment, you know what I'm saying?

[48:25]
James McKinney: I love it, I love it.

[48:26]
Taylor Toynes: He spoke that into me. He made sure that I saw it right then and I really appreciate Nahome for doing that, and also connecting me to other individuals to help us build a really good website. We had built a brand already that people were buying into. People were triggered by the name For Oak Cliff anyway. That day, man it was a lot. I didn't know how much it was going to change my life and change my community's life, but it was the catalyst.

[48:54]
James McKinney: What year was that?

[48:55]
Taylor Toynes: That was 2015.

[48:56]
James McKinney: 2015 so we're five years in now.

[48:58]
Taylor Toynes: Five years.

[48:59]
James McKinney: Are you still a teacher?

[49:00]
Taylor Toynes: No.

[49:01]
James McKinney: So at what point, what was the progression of For Oak Cliff that got to a point where you realized I can't do this as a side gig anymore?

[49:11]
Taylor Toynes: I was blessed with the opportunity from an organization called The Commit Partnership. They had got funded by the Kellogg Foundation to do work in south Oak Cliff, and they were looking for somebody to do it.

[49:23]
James McKinney: Well that's awesome.

[49:24]
Taylor Toynes: Yeah. But I was still in the classroom. I was at the middle school at the time. I was excited because my fourth graders were about to be in middle school, so I was going to get to see the, and they offered me this job. And I'm in grad school as well, I'm at SMU getting my master's.

[49:39]
James McKinney: Master's in what?

[49:39]
Taylor Toynes: Education. And I'm researching a guy named Jeffery Canada who had started The Harlem Children's Zone in New York City. I said, "I want to build something like that." The Commit Partnership, they knew about the festival. They saw it had happened, they saw the relationships and trust I had in the community. They reached out to me for the job. I didn't even apply, refer to other people. There was a woman named Usama Rogers who was the ED for the feeder pattern in the school district I worked in and she nudged me to apply for that job. At an event that Jeffery Canada was the keynote speaker at, from that organization Commit, whose CEO was the guy who wrote the first check for For Oak Cliff.

[50:24]
James McKinney: That's awesome.

[50:25]
Taylor Toynes: Yeah. So I ended up taking the job at Commit and while there, that's when I left the classroom and entered the nonprofit world. While there, I had metrics and things that I was supposed to build out. I was supposed to identify organization, build out this program that dealt with these different things in education or early childhood, and I said man we've already got it, it's For Oak Cliff. So I started inputting these things in, and I had the time to research. That year, that was 2016, I was able to do a lot of research to really understand the nonprofit spectrum. Also I was at the Commit partnership. It was in a startup mode but it was very respected in the nonprofit world. There's a database, and the database entity that serves the county it wasn't just areas, so I got to learn a lot being in that environment with those individuals as well.

[51:18]
James McKinney: The mission that you have, it's huge. It's probably more important than any for profit entity that's out there. We all have gidgets and widgets we want to sell, you're talking about changing lives. But how do you measure your success? Because I have to think with as ambitious of a mission that you have, if that's the only way you measure success is that end goal you're going to have just years of discouragement.

[51:47]
James McKinney: Oh for sure.

[51:49]
James McKinney: So how do you measure success in a way that just keeps you going?

[51:52]
Taylor Toynes: Well I look at it as individuals. Each person is success. I don't think there's anything more powerful than to build a movement with your people. I can look at it from the mindset of I want to be a mile long and an inch deep. I want to serve millions of people and just go surface level with them. But I really like going a mile deep with individuals. One thing in the nonprofit world that's got to be understood is these data points, they don't just come. It's people that we've been working with for four years and it's a lifelong thing. So for me, success is another day. That's how I say it, another chance to be able to come back and do more. So each day that I'm able to wake up is the start of the success.

[52:44]
James McKinney: What change have you seen in the community in the five years since the first event?

[52:49]
Taylor Toynes: Man, I've seen the event become a staple in the community. I've seen more organizations have their eye on the community, more partners have their eyes on the community to lend a hand. I've seen us serve as a vessel for other individuals. We've had Jay Cole come to our festival, Mark Zuckerberg help us build a garden, Nipsey Hussle come tour our space. We've done mental health events with Charlemagne. I've seen people that generally wouldn't be in these spaces come. I don't know how much that's impacting people. There are people that are being impacted by For Oak Cliff that I don't even know. The year that Jay Cole came to a festival, it was a young man that picked the photography from the neighborhood, he asked me, "Hey, you think Jay Cole would give me a backstage pass to do pictures?" And I said, "No, don't ask Jay Cole, ask his manager that's right there." Didn't see the kid, Jay Cole gave us tickets. Didn't see Lendo the rest of the day Jay Cole was there. Get to the concert, he's in the pit with Jay Cole's photographers, just him and Jay Cole's photographer, taking pictures at American Airlines in the photographer's pit.

[53:59]
James McKinney: That's awesome.

[54:00]
Taylor Toynes: So it's that kind of stuff that like if I didn't know him like that, I wouldn't have even recognized it. But there's just been you know a lot of spaces where people are able to get things here and there, there's people that have gotten welding licenses here, people that have gotten their GED's. We've even had a marriage come out of For Oak Cliff. It's been a lot, you know, so it's been a lot that has taken place here.

[54:22]
James McKinney: That's incredible. The legacy impact of all these lives, like that kid you're talking about that was in the pit for Jay Cole, that is something that individual is never going to forget.

[54:35]
Taylor Toynes: Ever.

[54:36]
James McKinney: And what I think about most when I think of that type of story is I just think about the opportunity, that individual had in that moment in time to sit among professionals, to see what this type of life might be like, to see that this is actually possible as a career choice, as a craft. Who knows what conversations were taking place with that individual and the professional photographer if any. I can go back to a phrase that I wish I could remember which of my founders said it but it's just the phrase being that if you can't see it how can you be it. It's just the amount of people that are able to see, you talk about Mark Zuckerberg providing for a garden out here. I mean people are seeing the impact of Silicon Valley here in Oak Cliff.

[55:21]
Taylor Toynes: He came. I sat on my great grandmother's porch with Mark Zuckerberg.

[55:26]
James McKinney: The amount of opportunity that can come because kids now see that there's a chance, there's something for them, and to have a model like you, someone who cares about the community and wants to give back, what are your greatest challenges though?

[55:40]
Taylor Toynes: The greatest for me man, honestly, I was thinking about it this morning, being a servant and an executive. And talking about entrepreneurship, you know a lot of times yes entrepreneurs have to do that. I'm in an area where people have known me since I was a kid and I'm also, I'm having to move in that room of my community like dealing with God knows what. There's been shootings that take place, like all these good things yes but there's been shootings that have taken place. We've seen people get arrested, it's been people that we work with that have gotten evicted. They're calling me. Even man I've lost young people that I know, 17 year old got murdered inside the basketball game, a 15 year old murdered within three weeks of each other. Like these things all happen and people call me directly, calling me like someone literally called me one time at 6 o'clock in the morning and said, "Our babies are dying. What the fuck is For Oak Cliff doing?"

[56:40]
James McKinney: Wow.

[56:41]
Taylor Toynes: That was a call that I got at 6 a.m. but at the same time I have to be able to receive that and understand that, but also be an executive and be at the tables with other CEOs of large corporations, do interviews and carry all that trauma sometimes, and it's a hard… and also be a father and husband. It's a tough balance all the time because I feel that the two worlds that I live in and have to operate in, they don't communicate. They don't understand each other really. When I look at other executive directors of nonprofits, I've literally had to clean up feces off of my back step. If a toilet overflows here, it's us doing that. And the magnitude which people hold For Oak Cliff at in the community, it's tough.

Yesterday was North Texas giving day and we did very well on North Texas giving day. We've received a lot of funding, but I also have it in my mind like sometimes man I don't want to share that because I know I'm in a community with people are hopeless, and some people don't have things, and I don't want them to think yeah there's a $50,000 check. They got $50,000 on them right now in that building. And that's the duality of my world. Like I'm not your typical nonprofit. We are very proximate to the problem. You see where you at, you know what I'm saying? Like you walk outside and you in it immediately. Just trying to walk that balance man and stay sane. That's one of the most difficult things for me.

[58:17]
James McKinney: You know one of the things that again going way back in my story I used to be a youth pastor. I saw time and time again that you can do a ton for the kids but ultimately they go home. And what you taught them either gets validated or unwound from the family. Continue to play that up outside of the youth ministry world in your world, the same is truly in the family dynamic, but then even more so in the government dynamic. So how can you, and I'm not saying it's your job to solve this, but how do you solve something where you know you can pour into these kids, give opportunities to excel academically, to seize opportunities they wouldn't have otherwise, but yet the generation before, their parents, that's not what they grew up in so they don't have that mental framework for it. Even more so in a government system that isn't set up to help those kids who succeed. How do you combat all the things that really push against what it is you're trying to accomplish?

[59:23]
Taylor Toynes: For me it starts on the individual level. If we look at the system as a whole and really know what we're up against, you'd be discouraged before you even start. So for me it's really trying to help individuals to see their genius, helping individuals to see themselves through this movement in For Oak Cliff and make everyone feel a part of it. I say that I'm a cofounder of For Oak Cliff because it's the truth. I co-founded this with the community. This isn't just me, this is the people's organization. Through this time that I've had in serving, it's been powerful for other individuals to take it and make it their own as well, and change their lives. I've had people tell me if it wasn't for For Oak Cliff I wouldn't be alive right now and that's all the validation that I need to keep going.

I had a phone call with my close friend Eric Charles Heard Jr. that I consider a brother, that's been in prison since he was 17 years old, and he's 32 now. I had a call with him this week and for him to see articles of For Oak Cliff in the paper that small piece is big for me. And then to be able to be on the phone with him and let him know, because he just graduated, he just got a bachelor's degree while in the penitentiary, but also be able to talk to him on the phone and really let him know I really listen to what you're saying, let him pour into me. It's inspiring for myself to know that he knows that he still has a voice.

And that's the thing for me is that you said you was a youth pastor, man my favorite… I consider myself a community organizer and my favorite community organizer of all time is Jesus Christ. This is Jesus' work to me that we're doing. This is God's work. Jesus told the Pharisees, "I came to set the oppressed free. I came to heal the blind." These are the things that we carry with us in this movement that we're doing at For Oak Cliff. Again, Jesus did it in a very radical way. When I need to find some real encouragement I go and open up Luke and look what Jesus Christ did, because people forget that was a real person that now has one of the biggest movements the world has ever seen.

[61:52]
James McKinney: Oh man, I love it. I want to honor your time. There are some questions I ask every founder.

[61:56]
Taylor Toynes: Okay.

[61:57]
James McKinney: And that first one is just about the general idea of entrepreneurship. Not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur, not everyone can carry the burden that comes with it sometimes. But do you believe anyone can be an entrepreneur? Not want, but do you believe anyone can be? Or is there a genetic makeup to it?

[62:16]
Taylor Toynes: Nah, I believe anyone can be an entrepreneur. I believe anyone can think and I believe anyone can have an idea. And I think with the right spirit you can do it. But I think that everyone has the ability within themselves if they're willing to go through everything it takes. They can do it. I think people can do all things.

[62:36]
James McKinney: That's awesome. The next question is about gratitude. And if I had to trim the episode down to 20 minutes this is the question that would never get cut. Because I believe that if we forget all the people that poured into us to get to where we are today, we begin to isolate ourselves because we think we did it ourselves, and ultimately that isolation will lead to our failure. We are where we are today because of the shoulders that we're standing upon from people before us, so when you think back to your life's journey, and you've mentioned a few of the names within the context of this episode, when you look back through your life's journey who are the people that you look back to with such immense gratitude for their contribution to your journey?

[63:12]
Taylor Toynes: My parents, I'm extremely grateful for the foundation that they provided for me. I'm extremely grateful for the demonstrations which they showed me as a family, and as a God fearing family, and the stability that was provided because raisin g a young black man in Oak Cliff, there's a lot that can happen. I'm extremely grateful for my parents. I'm extremely grateful for my family, my sisters, my grandparents. I'm grateful for my ancestors. I'm grateful for my bloodline to make it through all of the trauma from enslavement and capturing Africa to where sit right now. So I'm honored. And for looking back at what everything that they've done, and I'm grateful for my wife being who she is, being a foundation in my life, being all things. And I'm grateful for my daughter, Wednesday Jewel Toynes, because she's the purpose for right now. She's the encouragement, she's my hope.

[64:20]
James McKinney: I love it, I love it. We've been talking to tens of thousands of people at a high level, just kind of hearing your journey, how you got to For Oak Cliff and what you're doing inside of For Oak Cliff, and what success looks like in that. But I'd like to bring this conversation down to the one. So as opposed to just speaking at a high level this is what I call like a mentoring minute, where you get to sit with one of my listeners. My listeners are made up of entrepreneurs of varying levels. There's the entrepreneur who has been doing their own thing for some time. Maybe they're frustrated with lack of cash flow, they're not seeing success, they don't know how to measure success. The cultural narrative of what a successful business looks like doesn't match what they're going through.

Maybe COVID is just absolutely wrecking their business and they're not sure how to recover from it. Or maybe it's the wantrepreneur that I call, the one who's sitting at a desk with a 9 to 5, book full of dreams and ideas, and some narrative as to why they can't do it. Or maybe that wantrepreneur is someone who grew up in a community like For Oak Cliff where they just didn't have that model of you can do anything. It's going to take some work, but you can do anything. And maybe that's the person you want to talk to. But whoever it is, I'd like you to take a few moments to just speak to that one individual. What would you say to them?

[65:34]
Taylor Toynes: You are powerful and hear me clearly when I say you are powerful. Be encouraged in everything that you're doing because if you're standing, you're walking, you're running, you've got life in your body. Find power in that breath and sit in it. Be grateful for it because gratitude is the strongest energy that you can have and that you can give off. Continue to give gratitude because every time you take a breath you have something to be grateful for. Erase all the doubts and fears that you possibly have, the stressors that are coming up. That's part of the road. But stay persistent. Keep getting up, keep moving forward. Don't worry about the impact of the hit, worry about moving forward after it and just know that you aren't alone in these moments. Don't get stuck in your sorrows, don't get stuck in your success. Always stay diligent to your mission and remember your why, how you got here. Remember those who stood for you to be here and it's okay to quit sometimes. But it's never okay to stop. I've quit being the executive director of For Oak Cliff so many times in my mind, but I never stopped showing up. So just know that's all part of it. You are a human being, these are real feelings, these are real emotions.

[67:06]
James McKinney: Once you've had a few moments to process all the value Taylor Toynes brought us in this week's episode, please hit me up on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram and share with me your thoughts on this episode. And lastly if you've been around The Startup Story for any length of time then you know how much emphasis I put on the idea that entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs. There are two key ways to support Taylor and the mission of For Oak Cliff. The first is to visit foroakcliff.org and make a donation. The second is while you're on their site, foroakcliff.org, buy some merch to help spread the word about what they're doing. Make sure to also connect with them on Instagram at @fouroakcliff. Awareness is everything, and remember entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs so let's show up for Taylor Toynes, the organization of For Oak Cliff, and for the entire community of Oak Cliff in a very big way. And now for my personal ask.

The Startup Story community has been so incredible about sharing our podcast with others, but we have more stories to tell and more people to reach. We too are a startup and word of mouth is everything, so please follow us on Facebook and Instagram @TheStartupStory or on Twitter @StartupStory_. If you're on LinkedIn, please search for The Startup Story and follow our company page. LinkedIn is a really powerful way to raise awareness of the show. But the most impactful way you can help us grow our audience is to leave a review on Apple Podcast. Or if you listen to the show via Spotify, then please simply share the podcast directly from your Spotify app or wherever you listen to the show.

These simple actions can make a huge impact in getting these amazing founder stories out to the masses. And please make sure to tag or mention The Startup Story when you do share so that we can connect with you and say thank you directly. I'm so incredibly appreciative of the fact that you listen to the show each and every week, and I look forward to sharing these amazing stories with you every Tuesday with hopes of encouraging and inspiring you to start your story.

If you like this podcast and are thinking of creating your own, consider talking to my producer Danny Ozment. He helps thought leaders, influencers, executives, and authors create, launch, and produce podcasts that grow their business and make a real impact in this world. You can contact him today at emeraldcitypro.com/startupstory.

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October 06 2020
Taylor Toynes, co-founder of For Oak Cliff

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