Tim: So I think the best place to start would be asking about what your favorite memory has been since you started working at UnBound?
Luke: Absolutely, let’s do it….it is difficult to narrow in on one favorite memory. There have been so many cool experiences, inspirational moments, and times where I’ve thought to myself “damn you’re a lucky dude”, you know? The one that stands out to me right now happened right before Thanksgiving last year. The rest of you guys were out of the office speaking at Longwood and it was just Royal and I chopping it up. Our conversation ended up lasting an hour and a half/two hours. We talked about everything: 1010, UnBound, my daughter’s impending arrival into the world, it was dope. While we were talking about his businesses, he told me about an experience that he had where he cut a check for a big job to one of his workers and how amazing it felt for Royal to be able to provide that income opportunity to this guys so close to the holidays. That hit me hard (in a good way). First, it shows Royal’s character and why he is doing what he’s doing with 1010. Second, it made me realize the ripple effect that these small business owners create in the community. It was profound-I will always remember that conversation and the impact that it had on my life.
Luke: So, what comes to mind for you, Tim?
Tim: Was hoping you wouldn’t ask the same question because I have no idea where to start! For the sake of keeping it short, I’m going to try to choose one specific one and not ramble on about a couple, because I could write pages and pages about all of the great experiences. The first one that jumps out is the brand reveal happy hour we had for Class 3 business owners. To me, that night was a perfect representation of the inner workings that go into making our model successful. First and foremost were the entrepreneurs who had worked tirelessly to get to that point of building their businesses and finally having the opportunity to see it come alive with a professional brand. The professional aspect was huge because it was the first year that each and every one of the business owners had the opportunity to work with a professional agency/individual which speaks not only to the growth of the program, but also the incredible volunteer network we have cultivated. It was also super rewarding for our team as well, essentially seeing nine months of hard work come to fruition…it didn’t hurt that we did it over drinks. Branding is always exciting because it’s the first time that the businesses begin to breathe as more than simply an idea, that night was extra special.
Luke: I completely agree the branding partnerships for Class Three were GAMECHANGERS, and the reveal was so special. Looking internally, how do you feel UnBound has made you grow?
Tim: Yeah, that’s an amazing question…I’m going to write about one area of growth and one takeaway. In regards to growth, one thing that I’ve perpetually struggled with is internalizing and accepting uncertainty. It’s one of the biggest reasons why I stayed in Richmond after I graduated college, despite the fact that UnBound was only a year into operations at the time. And uncertainty has been something I’ve had to wrestle with since day one, from building our programming to the shuffling of staff members. The entire experience has taught me a lot about myself and pushed me in areas that I never expected, specifically in regards to embracing the uncertain nature of life. For that I’ll always be grateful.
The biggest takeaway is something I hope I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life, and that is this: you truly can’t put a price on fulfilling work. I already recognize how spoiled I am to have experienced this as my first true professional opportunity out of college because it will be difficult to find work as fulfilling and satisfying as UnBound. But even if it doesn’t quite match it, I hope I will be able to listen to my head and heart and allow them to push me in directions that will not only force me to grow as a person, but have a true impact on other people’s lives.
Tim: Would love to hear how you feel like it’s helped you grow as well.
Luke: You got it my man. My time at UnBound has been transformational in so many ways. I feel incredibly humbled to have had an opportunity that has shaped me so significantly and made me truly proud of the person in the mirror. While we could be here for quite some time with all of the ways I have grown, I will focus on the most impactful to me. These two takeaways are in slight juxtaposition to each other, but are the two key tenants to my life moving forward. First is to seize every moment, and attack life with a palpable sense of urgency. Today is the best day to make something happen, and beautiful things happen when that urgency is keeping me pushing forward. The opposite side of that is to take a step back and appreciate life. I feel what I have gained the most from the entrepreneurs, volunteers, and team is the importance of appreciating all that is around us. When we appreciate what we are surrounded by-the people, blessings, relationships-we can shift our thinking and vision to focus on sharing those gifts with others. So I will push forward, urgently following through on what I want my life and the world to be……but I will always be sure to stop and appreciate the moments that make up the journey.
Luke: So much of our time is spent with the business owners, and they become an extension of our family….what have you learned from them?
Tim: One thing that still takes me aback is the amount of sheer courage and inner strength they possess. I know this sounds superficial and cliche, but after really getting to develop relationships with them and sharing mutual life experiences, I’ve realized time and time again just how brave they are and how much they’ve battled to get where they are. By no means am I trying to paint a generic and all-encompassing picture because all of our stories are uniquely special and challenging. But if I’m ever feeling short on inspiration or in the need of a pick-me-up, I look to them because it’s impossible to not want to be a better person after doing so.
Tim: There has been so much that we’ve accomplished over the past couple years since our inception. Could you highlight one specific factor that’s allowed us to be successful?
Luke: People….and lot’s of them. UnBound has been blessed with being in Richmond, VA. Richmond is full of PASSIONATE people focused on making positive change in our city, and that is UnBound’s strongest asset. From our entrepreneurs first and foremost to donors, to volunteers, to our Board of Directors and Emerging Leaders Board, and our amazing community partners to general supporters we have some of the coolest people in Richmond in our corner making this thing happen. The collective passion of a large group of people is a very powerful thing, and I have witnessed what that can accomplish through UnBound. Every person that has touched the organization has made a massive impact on UnBound, our entrepreneurs, and the city of Richmond.
Luke: Speaking of all of these people; why do you think they connect to the work we’re doing so passionately?
Tim: Yeah, I’ve thought alot about this exact question over the past two years. Before I started working here, I had no idea what was possible and what was not in regards to fighting and alleviating poverty. But one thing I’ve learned in the past two years is sometimes the only thing an individual needs is true unconditional support and that to me is why we’re doing the work. There’s so much underutilized human capital in our country, and I think one of the most beautiful things about UnBound is we’re starting to see how something as simple as committed and trusting partnerships can deliver profound results.
Luke: Beautifully said, Tim. We are proving that Opportunity Lives in Richmond and our business owners are prime examples of the impact this support can have. Where do you see UnBound going in the future?
Tim: I honestly believe the future of UnBound is as bright as it’s ever been. Despite the challenges we’ve encountered over the past couple years, the model has evolved and is stronger than it’s ever been, and the same could be said for our programming and curriculum. There obviously have been growing pains, but I frequently have to remind myself how young of an organization we still are. I have absolutely zero doubt that the third class of entrepreneurs will be the strongest collective group yet and will act as incredible ambassadors for what’s possible through our partnership. Despite you and I leaving, we still have an incredible team that is surrounded by an amazing and growing network of committed volunteers and supporters. Additionally, I hold a lot of hope for the future of the staff as we get ready to bring on some incredibly talented individuals. One of the most attractive things about UnBound to me was the prospect of joining an organization on the ground floor that had a strong vision for growth and the responsibility that came with that. This little project we’ve been working on has proven itself to work, and I feel more confident than ever that it will continue to work in RVA and has the potential to in other cities as well.
Luke: I completely agree with all of that! We have built an incredibly strong base, and from here I see UnBound impacting exponentially more people in the years to come….here and Richmond and beyond (we’ve already got an ardent supporter down in Savannah 😉
Luke: How do you say goodbye to Richmond?
Tim: I’d probably just pretend I wasn’t leaving so I didn’t have to say officially say goodbye. The first thing I would say is you are incredible! Six years ago when I left Northern Virginia and the only home that I had ever known, I never thought I would fall in love and embrace you as much as I have come to. When people ask me what Richmond is like, I tell them you are the coolest city in the world, and I don’t think I’m necessarily wrong in that appraisal. There are so many people/organizations/things that UnBound has to thank for helping us get to where we are today, and you are far and away holding it down at the top of that list. While there is still plenty of work left to do in making this a better place to live for everyone who calls RVA home, I find comfort in the fact that I’ve never been to or known a city where its citizens take as much pride and ownership over working towards exactly that. I will miss you in all of your beauty, from sunrises and sunsets on the James to your unbeatable restaurants and breweries. You are truly a special place, please don’t let me stay away for too long.
Tim: What about you? As someone who was born in the Richmond area, how do you say goodbye?
Luke: Richmond means so much to me. While I was born in the Richmond area, I didn’t consider myself a “Richmonder” until I moved into the city six years ago, and I fell massively in love with you. There is so much that makes you unique. You’re comfortable with who you are, and don’t try to be other cities. I like the confidence, and that has been a huge part of me finding myself and being solid with my own footing. On some sentimental stuff, I married my best friend and was blessed with my daughter…all within mile or two of the houses we’ve been lucky enough to call home in your beautiful neighborhoods. I have been proud to rep Richmond in everything I do for the last six years, and have been even more proud to have been a part of making you a better city. I will fondly remember how you stood behind the work we’re doing at UnBound, and how we did it as friends, as a community, for one another. No city will replace you, and I forever remain a true Richmonder at heart. Thank you, and I will be back to see you often!
Luke: Most importantly, and most difficultly….what are your “last” words to the team?
Tim: First to Richard and Sarah, thank you for providing me with this opportunity in the first place. I hope I’ve accurately expressed my gratitude to both of you individually, but the experience has been everything I’ve hoped for and so much more.
To Megan, Luke, Lauren, and Melody, words cannot begin to describe how much I appreciate all of you and the roles you’ve played in my life over the past two years. You’ve helped me grow as a working professional, but even more so as a person. You’ve challenged a lot of things that I thought I knew about the world and re-affirmed even more that I hold close to my heart. I’m sure I’ve driven you all crazy on multiple occasions, Megan especially, but I hope my laid-back personality and free spirited demeanor has rubbed off in some positive ways, and you’ve learned from me as much as I have from you. Megan, Lauren, and Melody, I have the utmost amount of confidence in all of you as you continue to grow and push the organization forward. Whoever the team brings on in the future will be incredibly fortunate to have you all to lean on and learn from. I know the future of UnBound is in the best hands, keep killing it!
Tim: On the last day as commander in chief, it’s only fitting for you to have the final word. What message would you like to send to the team?
Luke: Hands down, I want to thank each and everyone of you-Tim, Megan, Lauren, Melody, and Lindsay (and Itzel!) for everything you have done and continue to do for UnBound. It is your dedication, drive, and commitment to our entrepreneurs that is the motor that continues to propel UnBound forward at such a rapid rate. You all have constantly raised the bar for our organization, and challenged me to grow personally and professionally in ways that have made me a better person. You have made UnBound such an amazing and inspiring space to work over the last two years, and I will miss each of you very deeply. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, and keep.on.crushing.it. Lastly, a special thank you to Richard Luck and Sarah Mullens for giving me the wonderful honor of joining the team and the Board of Directors for allowing me the incredible opportunity to lead this organization for the past 14 months. Words cannot describe how I feel about everyone and I am so excited to see where you all take Unbound in the future!
Tim and Luke: Ernest Hemmingway once wrote, “the world is a fine place and worth fighting for.” We feel the same about Richmond.