In episode 141, Erik and Kerel have a conversation with Jeff Lindor, Founder and CEO at The Gentlemen’s Factory Inc. based out of Brooklyn, NY. Gentleman's Factory is a community and a movement bringing men, black men specifically, together for entrepreneurial programming, executive series’, and physical spaces to work together, build, and move the world. Jeff was born in Haiti and grew up in Brooklyn, NY from the age of three. Even after having a successful career and family at the age of 29, Jeff felt he was being called to create a bigger impact. This pushed him to leave his high-paying job and go full force into entrepreneurship.
Jeff shares the massive impact the Gentlemen’s Factory is having on the Brooklyn community through members investing in themselves and their surroundings by giving them a stake in their community’s real estate, working with black-owned businesses, developers and banks. He is also excited about the Gentlemen’s Factory podcast where he shares his experience as an entrepreneur in hopes to bring information to those who are entrepreneurs or aspiring, as well.
“I think everyone needs to ask themselves the question, what is the mission statement for their lives? And once you can answer that question and have a high level of conviction, when it comes to that, then I think that nothing can really stop you.”
We want to welcome all of our listeners to another episode of Minority Report Podcast with Erik and Kerel. Each episode, we talk with leaders in business, tech, and media. And today joining us is Jeff Lindor who is the Founder and CEO of the Gentleman's Factory. Welcome, Jeff, how are you?
Jeff Lindor 0:25
I'm doing well. I'm doing well. Thank you so much for having me.
We're thrilled you can hang out with us. And I see, you're in a pretty cool spot. I see Gentleman's Factory right behind you. That's pretty cool, man. That's awesome to see the graphics and see that you're in a laboratory, huh? You're literally there. That's awesome. Jeff, for our listeners and viewers who aren't familiar with the Gentleman's Factory, can you just tell us a little bit about what's going on at the Gentleman's Factory today and tell us what the Gentleman's Factory is?
Jeff Lindor 0:56
Yeah, well, so again, thank you for having me. I'm really looking forward to this conversation. Gentleman's Factory is a community and on our website, now, it says 'we're not a social club, we're a movement.' And essentially what we realized was that black men specifically grow in isolation and it's like, where do we go to spaces that's designed for us, right? And often times, you know, we have to fit in, but where are spaces that fit us? So with that premise, we wanted to really create this community of physical spaces, now digital spaces as a result of COVID and beyond. So we've grown astronomically. Like, you know, how do we create spaces for men and women to, you know, we're not exclusive just to one gender, but our theme is really focused on how do we build community in a brotherhood, right? So you know, with what we do, it's a membership institution where we have physical spaces. So during the day, you know, it's co working, you come you meet a client, you close a business deal, etc. And then we have real in depth programming, right. So in our space right now, it's called The Innovation Lab, and it's in downtown Brooklyn and everything that we do here is really gearing towards how do you build for the next 100 plus years? So like, on Tuesdays, we have an executive shot series where we have Wall Street Titans come in, you know, we have black billionaires come, right, you know, where we have tech founders, etc. So it's really again, like this institution where our main premise is how do we build for the future? Like securing to curing, right, so, we're moving and we're just looking to change the world.
That's great, Jeff. I want to ask you a little bit about what you just talked about, because I think it's important to sort of spend a moment on that. And, you know, can you talk about what's special when it comes to having a place that is a safe space for ideas and network to sort of work, right? And ideas to happen in that safe space? Can you talk a little bit about what makes that special?
Jeff Lindor 3:05
What makes it special is when you create a community of like minded individuals to come together with a certain premise, right? Like, I had a friend of mine who went to one of the top business schools on the planet, and he said, "What made our school special? It wasn't necessarily the curriculum. Yeah, you know, we had a really good curriculum, but you know, someone could just Google our curriculum and just take it and try to implement it there," right? But he said that "What made us special was that our theme was to change the world. And everybody who got into this business program, this business school, knew that they could do it." Right? See what I'm sayin'? So, it's a mindset, right? So what makes Gentleman's Factory special is that, like, we have such a culture, where it's geared towards reciprocity, so we want to make sure that no man is left behind. And it's intergenerational. So you know, our oldest member is in his 70s, and our youngest is 21. Right? And then we value everyone the same, right? So from our millionaire and multimillionaire members, they're not getting treated any special than the gentleman who's just starting out. Cool, you have different needs, so we have our Innovation Specialists in our team really get a deeper dive of what, like, the areas in their life that needs greater resistance in. But at the same time, though, you know, we approach everyone the same, right? So what's the gap analysis? Where are you now? Where are you trying to go? And how can we help you get there?
That's cool. That's great. I love hearing about that, that ability to sort of work and have folks of all different age groups, right? I mean, like, that's a very real thing. You also talked a little bit about that sort of idea exchange and creating that space. I have to imagine, Jeff, that, you know, at some point growing up and when I ask you a little bit about growing up, did somebody create that space for you? How did you sort of develop that mindset and I'm thinking early days, right, like family, tell us about your family. Tell us about kind of like how you grew up and where you're from, and where's your family from?
Jeff Lindor 5:07
Sure, thank you for that. And I was always around community. So I'm an immigrant and I was born in Haiti and I came to America at the age of three. And the Haitian community, particularly in New York City and Brooklyn are so connected. One, by default, I would say, because in the 80s, and 90s, where there was a huge influx of Haitians coming to America in the 70s and the 60s too, but primarily in the 80s and 90s, we didn't speak English, right? So now we built Haitian churches and Haitian restaurants and Haitian businesses, where we spoke the same language. And it was such a unity there, because we all understood where we came from, why we migrated to America, what some of the challenges and hurdles are, and then we built community that way. That's one. And the church community, so I'm a Christian and I was raised in the church. And I saw the power of a subset of believers of a same faith coming together in vulnerability, in prayer, and also in love, right? So I just saw when you have a unified front of individuals, you move mountains. Then in high school, I went to Grady High School in Brooklyn and Grady High School, it was about 90%, boys, right, because it was a technical school. And I was on the basketball team and I just saw the power of having young men together in a school, especially the cafeteria, we would, you know, debate who was better, Kobe or Tracy McGrady, right?
Jeff Lindor 6:53
You know what I mean? Or Ja Rule or 50 cent.
There we go. (laughs)
Jeff Lindor 6:59
That was my era, you know, I was class of 2004, right? But you know, like, I just saw the camaraderie of when you bring people together of like minded and like interests, you know, so many things happen. So there's so many things in my life that really led to how I see community and even on my Instagram. Follow me on Instagram, for the listeners. I'm @mrcommunitynyc, right? So I was known as the community guy for a really long time for over 20 years. That's really what led to me framing Gentleman's Factories, because I just saw that when you have a united front of individuals coming together with a common cause, you move the world.
Awesome. And Jeff, I see that you recently started your own podcast, too, as well. Where you're laying down some advice and career journey and talking about your own path. I want to take a minute to talk a little bit about the podcast you just launched.
Jeff Lindor 7:51
Yeah, totally. Thank you for that. Yeah, so what it was, was that and it's on YouTube, now, I'm six years into entrepreneurship full time, right? And it was a journey, it is a journey, obviously. And I've been through so much over these past six years. And mind you, you know, again, I'm married and I have two children, two young children, well they're young-ish at that, right, you know, they have old personalities, but they're, so my son is 11 and my daughter is 8. Right so, leaving a full time job making close to $200,000 a year, at that time, at the age of 29, right, it was a huge step. And so many things have happened from about this six year entrepreneurial journey full time. And I saw the market and I saw how people spoke of entrepreneurship. And it was just a bunch of [inaudible] where it was like, you follow these three steps and you'll be successful. I'm like, where they do that at? You know what I'm saying? Wow! Really?! It's that easy? So I wanted to really document my experience and share it to the world. My wife still looks at me side eyed because she says that I reveal too much information, right? But I think I really wanted to just lay out the reality of things because you know, I have a story to tell, right? So I definitely recommend folks check it out. And it's on YouTube, type in Gentlemen's Factory, Jeff Lindor and it's there, right? And it's really the vulnerability standpoint and where I just laid out my whole experience.
Jeff Lindor 9:10
What do you love about being a Founder and the CEO of your own business?
Jeff Lindor 9:34
It's the fact that you take an idea that is in your head and you make it tangible, right? That's the best feeling. For you to have something that's in your head where you're like, "Hmm, I envision this and now I have the discipline to execute it" right. So, so many people have visions, but it's the execution part, right? So I think that it's just so rewarding for me to just see things that's in my head. And then to facilitate that into the world. That's definitely, I'd say a very rewarding experience.
And I would say, so five plus years into the business now, looking out over the next couple of years, what excites you the most about where the Gentleman's Factory is going and what you're doing?
Jeff Lindor 10:28
What excites me is that it's opportunity for everyone, right. So with our growth strategy, you know, a couple of days ago, one black enterprise where we spoke about our model, and it was on Blackmans Enterprise and BK Reader, a local, amazing black owned paper in Brooklyn, New York City. Where our model is that we're going deeper into real estate. And we're buying all of our locations, all of our physical locations. All of our locations now, we call it Lab. So where I'm currently at now, we're at the Gentleman's Factory Innovation Lab in downtown Brooklyn, and our inaugural location, we call that the Creative Lab, which is being redesigned as we speak, where it's like content creation, etc. And we're building a social lab, a health and wellness lab and beyond. But all of our physical locations are geared towards the needs of men of color in that specific community. And with our financing model, is that we raise the initial capital from Gentleman's Factory members. So members now have a stake into the real estate in their local community.
Jeff Lindor 11:42
Yeah, right? So and then we also pair that with a black developer. So this is with the financing and the strategy. And we're now also in talks with a black owned bank to finance the deal. So we're really excited about this model because it is a model that shows how the community can work together. Going back to the premise of community, is that you have individuals of like minded interests coming together to address the needs in their community while everyone wins because they're getting a return, right? Real estate, depending on the communities that you purchase from, normally go up, right, so our goal and going back to your question, so it's like, there was a premise where it said that if you saw a Starbucks in a community, then you know that there's a shift. I say that when you see a Gentleman's Factory in your community, that means that the community is even more organized than it was prior to us getting there. And our metric is the fact that we raise the capital with the folks who live in our community to purchase in that community.
That's cool. And I want to stick with that for a second about community. And as I hear you describe what's working really, really well and a great model to keep building off of, I can't help but think about you and community and being Grady High School you, right, as you're walking around Brooklyn, I can't imagine you were thinking 'One day, we'll be scooping up real estate here.' So fast forward to Jeff Lindor now in Brooklyn, talk about what you would tell Jeff Lindor at Grady back then, how to think, what to think about, what to believe in, you know and what to avoid? What kind of advice would you pass on to Jeff Lindor and at a younger stage so that they can be Jeff Lindor now?
Jeff Lindor 13:43
Yeah, the advice would be that the world is yours, right? And I had to really understand that and believe that. I heard Dave Chappelle said something so deep and he said that he has the ability to do something that a lot of black men in America can't do. And the reason why he's able to do that is because he has the time, the space, and the money to do it. And he says that he has the ability to think. I said, dang, that's so deep. I'd say that one of the things about racism is that it causes you to be distracted because there's so many externalities that is hovering over you on your race alone, right? So think about it, like humanity, everyone [inaudible] white, black, yellow, green. But now if the main thing that's hovering over you is your skin tone, which is identifiable, right, then it causes another layer, right. So with that being said, if we're always thinking about things, how are you going to be thinking about the future when you are today's [inaudible] right? So I think that having the mental liberation and the freedom to think and explore and fail, to try again, that's me operating at a sense of privilege, right? So I think telling my 16 year old self, is just letting that self know that the world is mine, too, because I didn't believe that it was before.
In your life, did you have other folks help you to start to connect with that feeling? Did you have mentors or people in your family or anyone that sort of created a little bit of that spark for Jeff so that when he took that spark he could turn it into some sort of fire.
Jeff Lindor 15:40
So many people, right? And then that's where community is from. So I looked at my life and I said that one of the reasons why I'm able to do what I do and this was even prior to Gentleman's Factory, right, you know, I have a Master's degree, you know, again, like I was making a substantial amount of money from an income standpoint before I hit 30. And I'm married with two children and, you know, I had a nice fancy car at the time that I could actually afford, right. You know what I'm sayin'? Like, I was good, you know, we had a nice apartment with a doorman and a swimming pool, and all of that stuff, again, all before the age of 30. And I saw that there are so many people who invested in me and then that I learned from, so I then said, I avoided so much pitfalls, because I had a community around me and then not only that, and I even said this in the podcast that I create too, where before I resigned from my full time job, I went to a group of close friends and family and I said, "Listen, I don't ever want to go back to work again. So if I run into a financial hardship, would you back me?" They said, "Yes." And I said, "If I run into an opportunity, would you back me?" And they said, "Yes." So it was based upon that premise of community that led to the building grounds of Gentleman's Factory, and I was able to raise over $100,000 in initial seed round in a weekend from this particular community, specifically, right. I then said, I know the value of community in people and that's how I was able to persevere into where I am today, and even prior to Gentleman's Factory. So then I said, "How do I create a model, a systematic model that can be replicated all throughout Earth in under resourced communities and that's what we're doing now.
Jeff Lindor 17:28
Jeff, let's talk about that mindset that you had at the time, because I have to imagine even though you had friends and family that basically said, "Listen, go do your thing. We got your back, just in case." But even so in that, right, you've got a family, you've got a steady paycheck, you've got, you know, all the things that make up the American dream, if you will, right. But even deep down within you, that wasn't enough, right? It was something that was there that was like, "I gotta go do something different." But I feel like sometimes people have ideas, and they want to be entrepreneurs, but if they are sort of set in the lifestyle that you just described, they have a very difficult time leaving that, can you talk about, like, your mindset? And did you feel the same way? Like, you know, I'm sure you had to have some level of anxiety or nervousness, or whatever it may have been during that period of time.
Jeff Lindor 18:27
Totally, you know, and then I'm in therapy now and like, and I've been in therapy for the past five years unpacking all of these feelings and experiences. But what I would say, though, is it boils down to purpose, right? And I think everyone needs to ask themselves the question like, "What is the mission statement for their lives? And once you can answer that question and have a high level of conviction, when it comes to that, then I think that nothing can really stop you. Right, like, you know, throughout, and that's what I laid out in like the podcast and things of that sort, like I laid out my, like, five year journey, where it was extremely difficult, extremely. Cashflow issues, and I think my car got repossessed, remember that fancy car that I said that I had before. Yeah, you know what I mean? I couldn't keep up with those payments, right? So many things happened, but I never once said that I wanted to give up because of the mission. If I get into entrepreneurship for money - oh man, during COVID I was offered a senior level job without even interviewing at the beginning of COVID when like it was, you know, folks are getting laid off and it was just a really treacherous time - $350,000. I got offered a job $350,000 and I thought about it for five seconds and I said no, right. But it was like a genuine five seconds, like I actually thought about it. And I said no. Right? It's because it's not aligned with the mission for my life, right. So I think that, you know, and I didn't want to sound cliche, but I think that going back to the point of privilege that I have with my ability to actually think, right, I then now because I'm in deep thought, and I have the privilege of choice, right? Like Chris Rock says, "A rich man isn't someone with lots of money, but someone with lots of options," right? So it's like, wow, like I'm turning down a job that's paying me $350,000 and then best believe I did not have that money in my account. Best believe I wasn't making $350,000 that year. Absolutely not, right. You know what I mean, so this wasn't like, "Oh, yo! I got that money just sitting there. Let me go on a vacation. Nah, but it's the power of choice.
I want to ask you, Jeff, a lot of great things you're working on. We just covered a whole lot of that. But I want to ask you about EatOkra. I'm gonna ask you to talk a little bit about what EatOkra is, and what makes it unique and what its mission is.
Jeff Lindor 21:16
Yeah, oh my god, yeah, EatOkra. Oh, man. So the founders, Anthony and his lovely wife are part of the Gentleman's Factory and they're creating a restaurant directory app where you can go to any city on Earth and you can find a black owned restaurant. And that's powerful because that's an economic driver to small businesses. And it's like people who want to support black, just go to black owned restaurants, right. And it's black owned restaurants of quality. So when we say support, it's more so that restaurant is adding value to you because it's giving you a really great experience and some amazing food. And EatOkra is the engine to help steer economic activity in to the sector, right. So it's so powerful, and I'm super happy to be an advisor there. And they're closing out on a venture round where they're raising millions upon millions of dollars to scale. They're definitely going to, you know, IPO one day, God willing, right?
Wow that's great.
Jeff Lindor 22:42
Definitely. So if anyone doesn't have the EatOkra app like, I think they have, like close to a million downloads now, right? Like, if anyone hasn't downloaded the EatOkra app, shame on you, right? (laughs)
Well, they're, they're about to get a million and one (laughs)
Jeff Lindor 23:00
Totally, totally, totally, no, but yeah, super amazing.
Gotcha, gotcha. Jeff, if anyone wants to look into becoming a member of the Gentleman's Factory, what do they have to do? How do they go about that?
Jeff Lindor 23:11
Yeah, so they just go online to our website and fill out an application, a brief application online. And we are actually relaunching our, the digital component, because in COVID, we have a Digital Membership, where we, you know, we're privileged to have members all across the world. And we have hundreds of members in 18 states and in four countries. So now there's the digital component for which we're relaunching now that the world is in a different place. You know, we had to survey our members and really get a better understanding of what are their needs now, as opposed to how we were serving them during the pandemic. So there's a Digital Membership. We also have another tier that we're launching called the Commuter Membership, where it's all the programming that we're having on the digital standpoint in our physical spaces. And then lastly, it's the Lab Membership, where you have full access to all of our physical spaces in, again, our labs serve as specific functionalities for the population. So we're looking to build out more Gentleman's Factory labs across New York City and different states and cities across the world, right. So just fill out an application online. And we'll take it from there. And then follow us on social media to just stay in touch with all of the really cool developments.
Awesome, awesome. All right. Fun question that I love asking every guest that we have on the podcast is to give us the top three apps that you use on your phone on a regular basis, but you can't name email or calendar or text messaging because those are just way easy and too boring.
Jeff Lindor 24:48
Yeah, good question. I'd say, so I don't want to mention Instagram, right? So take out Instagram too. I would say, so I have the YouTube TV app, you know, because now that we're in the playoff season, so I'm just watching what Steven A. Smith is saying about my Golden State Warriors, right? So I'm watching like, First Take while I'm out and about. So it's the YouTube app. I would also say -
Hold on, I got to ask this question. How does a guy from Haiti who grows up in Brooklyn become a Warriors fan and not a Knicks or a Nets fan? I gotta ask this question. (laughs)
Jeff Lindor 25:30
What it is, is this, right, I was a Knicks fan and I'm a huge basketball guy. So then when Isaiah Thomas was like the GM for the Knicks, like many moons ago, there was like this big, like, statement where they were saying, "Oh, they have the eighth overall pick," I think it was, and then they're like, "Oh, they're gonna draft someone named Stephen Curry." Right, you know? So then, given the fact that that was the rhetoric, I then was following Stephen Curry's, like, journey since Davidson, for which I just got attached to this player. And then he clearly got drafted one pick before the Knicks. And I was like, no. So like, I was just so attached to Steph Curry. I've been a Steph Curry fan literally since he got into the Warriors. And then the rest is history.
Gotcha. I was the same way with Allen Iverson. I was gonna root for whatever team he got picked up.
Jeff Lindor 26:32
Yep, yep. (laughs)
Alright so, two more apps you owe us...
Jeff Lindor 26:36
So, be a little bit boring. These two apps are like productivity business apps. So it's monday.com that I use, like, for productivity. And then, you know, just know what the team is doing [inaudible] for like my amazing team and my colleagues to add more tasks upon me, right, so that's, like track everything that's going on and that they hold me accountable. And the last boring app I would say is HubSpot, which is a CRM that like also manages everything that's going on in the business end, right. So it's YouTube TV, for fun, monday.com for overall management, and CRM HubSpot to just ensure that things are running smoothly.
And the fourth one is EatOkra (laughs)
Jeff Lindor 27:19
(laughs) Yeah, yeah, yeah. EatOkra. Well, I was gonna say EatOkra number one, but then I subconsciously thought that maybe you guys would be like, really Jeff? Really, really?
Well, Jeff, thanks so much for hanging out with us. What are some great ways or some easy ways to sort of connect with you if folks are looking to reach out, learn more and also connect?
Jeff Lindor 27:50
Yeah, for sure. You know, like, I would definitely say to reach out to me on Instagram. So my direct page is @mrcommunitynyc. And follow Gentleman's Factory on Instagram. I don't manage the Gentleman's Factory page, I have a fantastic social media manager, social media team, but follow us, you know, so that we could get better acquainted, so primarily on Instagram. So it's @gentlemans.factorygf. And then back to me, hit me up on LinkedIn. It's just Jeff Lindor. Let's build, let's build, let's build and let's change the world together.
That's great. Thank you, Jeff, for hanging out with us and sharing a lot about what you're doing to actually do that. You know, we started off talking a lot about people of color sort of growing in isolation. We talked about community and the importance of even being face to face for that spark for things to happen. So thanks for sharing a lot about what you're doing to make an impact there and actually affect those things. And we're grateful you hung out with us. Thanks again, everyone for listening to another episode. If you want to find more episodes, you can find more where you find all of your audio and video, just search Minority Report Podcast and look for the logo. Thanks again everyone. Jeff Lindor, thanks.