Tyren was a good kid who needed a break. But breaks are few and far between in communities that are 40 percent under the poverty level. Think back to your first job. How did you get it? A family friend, perhaps. Your dad’s golf buddy, most likely.
Not in Tyren’s community. Yet, Tyren grew into a local role model and future leader of Greenville by age 16. And he’s not alone.
This is the power of responsibility—taught daily at Mill Village Farms in Greenville. To be precise, there are three farms. One is on Sullivan Street, another on Saluda Dam Road and to find the third, you have to travel downtown, walk to the corner of East Washington and Main Street and look straight up. (It’s the first urban rooftop farm in South Carolina.)
This is where Tyren learned teamwork and leadership skills, specifically tending to vegetables he’d never heard of before. Rutabaga. Cauliflower. Bell peppers. “I feel ownership over what I do,” Tyren says. “I know it’s my responsibility to get things done and be a role model for the newer youth.”
Mill Village Farms participants (30 teens this year, 56 next year) learn more than the skills necessary to grow vegetables. Tyren learned the skills needed for future employment, along with the confidence to pursue entrepreneurship. The farms offer local-grown produce for communities that have limited access to fresh and local foods, and they sell their foods to Greenville’s backyard through their Mobile Market. Since June, the Mobile Market has enjoyed over 2,800 customer visits and counting.
Mill Village Farms is one of three community-based endeavors created by a collection of entrepreneurs at Mill Community Ministries. They’re called “social entrepreneurs.” They don’t push for IPOs or dream of owning their own island. What they do believe in is empowering individuals to transform their communities through hard work and big ideas.
Mill Community Ministries’ most public endeavor is the Mobile Market, yet their most ambitious endeavor may be Nasha Lending. This is where Tyren learned how to invest, how to run a business for profit and how to solve problems.
When Nasha Lending isn’t equipping under-resourced entrepreneurs with training and no-interest loans—helping open a cafe, beauty salon business, and print shop—they teach entrepreneurial classes to students such as Tyren. It was in one of those classes where Tyren and his team brainstormed a bike repair station idea through a third Mill Community Ministries program, Village Wrench.
Village Wrench supports under-resourced communities through bicycle repair, bike earning and cycling educational opportunities. Tyren’s Nasha Lending team wanted to offer a bike repair station (for free) in the city, and they brought it to life. “I became friends with people I didn’t even know,” he says. “I enjoyed helping people, especially if it involved me building something.”
This is happening right now. Right here in Greenville. Let Silicon Valley have their venture capitalists and seed funding. Mill Community Ministries is transforming our local communities with empowerment and hope.