We live in a world where it’s touted that knowledge is power. However, the truth is, applied knowledge is power.
This is one of the missions of serial entrepreneur, philanthropist, and community activist, Sunshine Smith-Williams. As a financial instructor, the pandemic caused her to postpone implementing her wealth education curriculums for NYC school districts. The attempt to resume with Zoom sessions didn’t work due to constant connectivity issues. The students were given the opportunity to learn at their own pace and upon completion of the course was awarded a certificate. We recently caught up with Sunshine to talk about financial literary, advocacy, and how we can continue to equip our communities for wealth empowerment.
Talk to us about your new youth academy that was recently launched?
Yes, we launched on August 1, 2021. I couldn’t believe that over 1,500 people enrolled. I didn’t want the academy to only offer courses to the youth, so we expanded the courses to everyone seeking to learn financial literacy.
We have courses such as understanding cryptocurrency, commodities and trading. I created that course because after making millions from real estate before the 2008 recession, I never assumed investing in bitcoin would be so lucrative. From digital investments, my wallet has a value of over 4 million dollars. How could I hoard this life-changing information? I grew up in the hardcore projects, and although my physical body resided there, my mind wanted so much more. Therefore, I refuse to keep any information that can change a person’s income and outcome. Statistically, with more resources, there is less crime.
Furthermore, business owners mainly struggle in their first year due to the lack of capital as I have on a few occasions. Prior to SBA loans, my financial firm offered services on how to establish business credit. Through my online academy it is now a self-paced course. Other courses include learning the process of protecting your private information from dark webs, and websites that share your information. In the height of identity theft, I felt that course was justified. Also for many seeking additional trades, we added how to start your own credit repair business.
You invest a lot of time, energy and resources in our youth generation. Can you share more about what drives this passion?
I often tell people “Be the person you wish you had when you were younger.” The person I needed as a teen was a financial educator, educating me on how money worked, how to invest, manage and save it. How to utilize credit and how to balance checkbooks. I always had ambition but often asked myself what the use was of making money aside from squandering it if I didn’t know how to manage or invest it. My passion has always been my purpose. My drive comes from wanting others to feel financial freedom, having the independence to feel in charge of their own life and owning the opportunity to improve, grow and become more capable.
As a successful boss lady, you inspire people of all ages but especially our young girls—what ways do you use your influence to send them positive messages?
I often tell them (and women in general), I went through it so you didn’t have to. My life went from rags to riches but I endured a lot of pain during the process. Even lost my freedom. Unhealed pain turns into trauma but with healing it becomes wisdom. Don’t let your past define you. Establish a set of values. Be humble. Read. Think before you act. What doesn’t respect you, doesn’t deserve you, and lastly, your dreams and goals are connected to your purpose and your passion is connected to what makes you happy.
You also work diligently with bringing our culture financial literacy, awareness, education—what is you and your husband’s philosophy and strategy on wealth building?
Our philosophy and strategy on wealth building is invest, manage, borrow, and protect. The strategy in my community of South Jamaica, Queens, NY, however, is a different approach. A major key in our communities is that if you are not a Black-owned business it is important to employ children from the community. I have seen many times that other races will not employ kids from the community. Not on my watch! If they don’t employ a kid from the community then their business will fail because no one will support them. By employing the youth from the neighborhood, you are giving back. The business owners are held accountable. Withdrawing from our community with no return is unfair and not tolerable for community leaders like myself.
You are purchasing land for your son—that’s quite remarkable. Talk about training our children now so that they can have the proper mindset and experience to receive the legacies that will be left to them for management and stewardship.
Yes! Buy land, they’re not making any more. The Trust purchased land for my son. It is important when diversifying your children’s portfolio you make these decisions and protect all assets under a trust fund.
By being taught about financial risks, children will be better versed to avoid financial debt and bankruptcy in the future. They may be more inclined to plan for events in the future, such as saving for rainy day funds, investing in home ownership, land, or putting aside money for retirement.
How can others help with joining some of your advocacy initiatives?
For the homeless shelters, visit www.slrllc.org
For youth advocacy, visit www.sunshinesmithwilliams.com