Nassau County’s Belinda Watkins is making a profound impact on the lives of young entrepreneurs through her nonprofit corporation, Q.B. Generational Change. Officially established in 2020, Q.B.G.C. aims to equip youth with the financial literacy necessary to succeed in business and in life.
The nonprofit provides bimonthly workshops, such as Entrepreneurship 101, educating kids on financial literacy, customer service, time management, and social media marketing in preparation for expos. Expos, held twice a year, bring young entrepreneurs to an event space, where they set up pop-up shops: each member sets up a table and promotes their business, testing the skills learned in the workshops while selling their products.
Child vendors at the expos are required to have one parent to assist with selling. The strict one-parent rule ensures that children become comfortable handling customer service independently, but safely.
Potential Q.B.G.C. members must prove sole ownership of their business. Any parent-owned business results in the child’s removal. This requirement is intended for youth to grasp owning a business that is entirely theirs.
“Financial literacy sets you up to be independent,” said Watkins. “College isn’t for everyone. A regular job isn’t for everyone. Kids deserve to learn skills that will help them to survive financially. Seeing my sons struggle to find work, even after acquiring a work license, I knew other kids would need my help too.”
Since 2018, Q.B.G.C.’s roster increased from 15 to 20 active members. The most recent expo consisted of 35 entrepreneurs, ages 4 to 24, promoting their businesses.
Watkins said that relies on her network of contacts, fellow community board members and word-of-mouth referrals to acquire sponsors and begin implementing mentorship programs. Sponsors can donate supplies or raffle items, cover vendor fees, and host expos. Q.B.G.C.’s latest sponsor, Hofstra University, will be hosting the upcoming Dec. 9 expo on the Hofstra campus.
Q.B.G.C. presents humanitarian awards to members meeting business management requirements while consistently serving their community and maintaining academic excellence. This year’s six recipients included Shawn Fullerton, Janiah Sykes, Jordan Sykes, and Landon Daley.
Q.B.G.C volunteers receive certificates for community service that they can submit to high schools or colleges for credit. Watkins says volunteers, regardless of age, are crucial to her nonprofit’s success, contributing to tasks ranging from data entry to event preparation.
Watkins credits her motivation to empower youth to personal experiences and values, instilled by her grandmother, Pearl Fields, who raised Watkins in Freeport and was constantly uplifting her community.
“As a kid, I couldn’t understand why she was feeding the whole neighborhood,” Watkins said. “If you needed it, she provided it. Being so young, I didn't realize that seeing how her help made others feel would embed those values of service in me.”
Beyond her own projects, Watkins participates in toy drives, donates dinners, and, during the covid-19 pandemic, provided personal protective equipment for local businesses.
Watkins worked in the healthcare industry for 20 years, after obtaining certification as a medical assistant from Sanford Brown College, and from the Medical Careers Institute of ECPI University. She left healthcare in 2021 to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors. Her medical experience exposed her to the need for assistance in senior homes, inspiring her to launch her own business, Unique In-Home Care, in 2014. She also creates customized gift baskets through her business, Belinda’s Bins N Baskets.
All three of Watkins' children have their own businesses. The oldest, Shaun Fullerton, 22, co-owns a business alongside her nephew, Rah-shaun Bryant, called R&S Tasteful Drinks. Her second son, Jordan Sykes, 16, sells cupcakes and hot chocolate in the wintertime and icees in the summer through his enterprise,Y.B.K Delights. Her daughter, Janiah Syke, 14, calls her business Janiah’s Scents and Candles, providing an array of products from homemade candles to body oils.
Watkins has long been an active participant in local organizations. She is a board member of the Turtle Hook Middle School PTA, a director with the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce, and president of the Hempstead Chamber of Commerce.
In March 2021, Assemblywoman Taylor Darling conferred on Watkins the Women of Distinction award. In the same month, Mayor Don Ryan of Hempstead gave her a citation for her chamber work, and she received another citation in June 2021 from newly sworn-in Mayor Waylyn Hobbs, Jr.
Q.B.G.C. was created to provide youth with resources that Watkins struggled to find when navigating her business beginnings. Membership is not limited to New York residents, those from out of state are encouraged to join.
“Whatever business idea they [kids] have,” said Watkins, “if they’re scared, do it scared. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Take every failure as a learning experience.”
For more information, visit qbgenerationalchange.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org