Tyler Jonas is not your average sophomore in high school. She is the literacy coordinator for her school’s community service team in the Bronx, the junior editor of her school’s business publication, a junior leader of the business club, a peer mentor, an avid photographer, and not to mention the co-founder of the nonprofit organization Bronx Built in New York City. This busy teen, along with the help of her brother, Ryan Jonas, created a unique and inspirational organization that aims to “empower, teach, and pay” under-resourced families and individuals in their neighborhood.
What Bronx Built Is All About
Bronx Built is a nonprofit organization that provides instructions and raw materials to participants in order to teach them how to knit/loom hats, scarves, and other similar products. The participants are then paid for their products, which are later sold by Bronx Built in order to acquire money to purchase raw materials for future looming classes. By teaching these families this useful skill, the participants, as well as the Bronx community as a whole, become empowered to end the cycle of poverty. According to Tyler, “Bronx Built has a sustainable business model that allows the company not to be fully dependent on donations. It teaches and provides useful skills for families that can be applied in all aspects of life. Lastly, the business empowers the participants, which ultimately empowers the overall community.”
Tyler’s Inspiration and Goals for the Future
A few years back, before Bronx Built was created, Tyler and her brother became interested in microfinance, particularly how it plays a role for small businesses owners. They also recognized a need to help their community with roughly 38% of residents in the Bronx living below the poverty level. In hopes that they could help the disadvantaged families in their neighborhood create better lives for themselves, they combined their passion for microfinance and their love for their community to create Bronx Built. Tyler has already been working hard in order to fulfill her 2017 goal for the company, which is “to add another location in order to run a second looming class.” Since its inception, Bronx Built has partnered with LIFT-New York, which is a national organization that has a similar mission to “empower families to break the cycle of poverty.” The two companies are currently working together to run looming classes in New York City for local residents. In Tyler’s opinion, “Our [Bronx Built and LIFT-New York] goals align perfectly! We both provide useful skills for our community in efforts to try to put an end to poverty.” Eventually Tyler and her brother would like to expand the company to even more locations and hope to create additional inventory to sell to consumers in the near future.
What Tyler loves most about Bronx Built
“I really love the strategic development part of what I do. It’s very exciting for me to plan with whom we should partner with and figure out how to expand the business. Knowing that I’m helping people is truly rewarding as well. I love attending the classes because it gives me a sense of accomplishment having created a business that provides social support to families in my local community. Watching the people enjoy themselves and smile while they’re creating the hats makes me smile”.
Take Home Message from Tyler
“As a young person it’s challenging to start and run a business while going to school at the same time. I have to juggle homework and extracurricular activities while running the company. Although balancing all of this has been difficult, it ultimately has made me more efficient and better at managing my time.” Tyler wants young girls to know that you can start a business at any age and that it teaches you valuable life lessons that you wouldn’t necessarily learn in the classroom.
Contributor: Ally Massimi