Mel Brake – Executive Director of MPW Foundation

[quote style=”boxed”]To believe in yourself, your project, your organization, and your worth, your dreams and your hope because no one else will. I don’t know how many times I heard from both family, friends, government officials and banks that I am wasting my time. That there are too many non-profits helping children and that I should a real job. Believe in you! Have faith in what you do![/quote]

Mel Brake is the Executive Director of MPW Foundation based in Delaware.

MPW is a non-profit organization located in Kent County, Delaware. We offer workshops that focus on mentoring and supporting youth from disadvantaged economic and social backgrounds.

In addition, Mel Brake is an awarding-winning Philadelphia based poet, singer and song writer, whose poetry has appeared in several media outlets and journals, including Philadelphia Poets, Mad Poets Review, Fox Chase Review, The Philadelphia Bulletin, Westmoreland Times and The Swarthmorean. He was interviewed or appeared on several broadcasters such as CNN, AOL Black Voices, WURD-AM, WHAT-AM, WHYY-TV12, WCBD-TV 2, WLIU-FM, WPEB-FM, Nexus Radio, BSS Radio Network, Blog Talk Radio and to discuss his views and opinions on family, life and home.

What are you working on now?

We are working on funding our programs. We are developing relationships with local art organizations to partner with them and use their space to teach young people. For example, we have located a facility for rent in the Philadelphia area to present weekend poetry classes but we need to raise the funds.

Where did the idea for your organization come from?

Wow that’s a really good question. Children are in need, they need emotional and spiritual support. And it does take more than a village to raise a child, it takes the world. The idea for my organization started at home, my nephew was arrested at a very young age and sent to a juvenile facility. While this broke my heart, I suggested that he begin to write down his feelings –  to write poetry. His writing helped him to deal with personal issues and his emotions. I thought if the arts can help him, then, maybe the arts can help other children in the community.

What does your typical day look like?

I spend most of my time in marketing and networking mood, introducing the concept and ideas of my organizations to anyone who will listen. I attend networking events, and look for ingenious ways to market what we do.

How do you bring ideas to life?

As a natural born and gifted poet, I am always in a creative thinking mind set. Most of my ideas comes from meditation. I also set time aside to do strategic thinking. I share my ideas with others that I trust to get their feedback. Also, I believe in the relevance of partnering with others who may have the same ideas and have already set up a program based off of their ideas.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I love how artists and non-profits are forming online communities to network and help each other with their dreams and goals. One such example is crowd funding, I know many successful and new artists who are getting the word out about their passions and having access to funding at a grassroots level.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

How much time do I have? No, really the worst job I ever had was working in a factory. I really hated this job. I spent my lunch hour looking for another job. What did I learn from this job is that never settle for what makes one unhappy. Do what you love to do. I am doing what I love to do.

If I were to start again, what would I do differently?

I would be more patient. When I first incorporated my foundation, I was not prepared on how difficult the entire process would be. I wanted to give up. Because of the government regulations and paper work. No one was there to guide me. I was really lost in the process. But, I would not give up on living my dream of helping others through the arts, and people did help along the way, eventually.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

To believe in yourself, your project, your organization, and your worth, your dreams and your hope because no one else will. I don’t know how many times I heard from both family, friends, government officials and banks that I am wasting my time. That there are too many non-profits helping children and that I should a real job. Believe in you! Have faith in what you do!

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

This goes back to the previous question.  Sometimes I doubt my ability to have a successful and well- funded organization. One time when I was meeting with school officials to host a project for a after-school program, I undersold myself by not asking for enough money. I took a project where I worked for free. I thought my services had no monetary value because I doubted myself. But, I will not do that again.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

One marketing tool that I employ is to always reach for the top or connect with the person who makes the decisions and control the money. With the advent of the Internet and blogging, key people in whatever field, love to talk about themselves and their passions. Also, emailing is still one of the best methods when introducing your services to an audience who may not have ever heard of your organization.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I would give everyone a song. Music and songs are one of the keys to life. Yesterday, I took a walk with a friend and we began to sing Christmas songs in September. Now, someone would have thought we were nuts but we were engaging in activity that we both love to do. A woman in a nearby office heard us singing and stopped working to thank us for making her day. The world needs to get more in touch with the arts, everyone has a poem or song in them. I would recommend that everyone write them and post them on blogs or social network, and share who they really are. It would make the world a better and friendly place.

Tell us a secret.

Failure is a sign of success. I do my best not to take rejections too personal. I get inspired when an organization turns down my proposal or offer. Because I know there is another organization that wants and needs the services we are offering. So the rejection helps me to focus on the next opportunity. I have a famous saying after rejection “NEXT”.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

I love because I get to learn who is what, what they are in charge of, what organizations and interests are important to them. It’s a great tool for gathering information prior to making a sales/marketing pitch.

I love because people are more relaxed and open with their personality. They get to share the fun side of themselves. They let their guard down.

I love because its a wonderful mechanism to raise funds and awareness for projects and passions that are important to artists and non-profits.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I recommend that our community read the book I just read, One Day I’ll All Make Sense by Common. Because Common writes about how hard it is for black youth to be successful (not excluding success in the music world) without having a strong male influence or father in his life. Most of the community that I work with do not have fathers in their lives and the book is a good teaching tool that belief in oneself , and one ability is one of the keys to success. Also, it’s a good reminder to our community that one day what we do will make sense to us and that we are already successful because we are making a difference to someone.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

President Barack Obama, he is the leader of the free world and if you do not agree with what he says, we need to know what he thinks because he sets policies that will affect each and every one.

President Hu Jintao, he is the leader of China, and China is a growing world power which will have enormous effects on the world economy in near future.

National Council of the Arts because they develop policy to fund and seed organizations in the arts. They are the bellweather for the art communities.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

The last time I laughed out loud was yesterday, I love making fun of myself. Life can be too serious and I have to laugh to keep from crying.

Who is your hero?

My hero is my mother, Dorothy Brake. She taught me how to love and laugh, and cry. She raised six children on her own and she gave us this gift of allowing us to be who we are. She supports me in all my endeavors, she joins me in my poetry readings, although she does not understand what my poetry is about. She set a great example for us. My mother is known for saying, ‘it’s not what you say or do, it’s how you say or do it” She gave me the confidence to be in in the world. May God always bless her.

How challenging is raising funds in this present economy?

Governments and foundations are cutting back on planned giving but one needs to be creative. Such as partnering with other non-profits, using crowd funding websites and other traditional forms of fund raising like washing cars.

Why do you do what you do?

I do what I do because I love poetry, children and the arts. I recently met with a company about part-time work, and the interviewer asked me would I give up the work I am doing for a full-time job. I told him that would be like cutting out my heart, and if I gave up my passion for 9-5, then I would die. I need to this work, I must do this work. It’s life altering and it makes me very happy.


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