Run by the Tate family, Inspire BBQ located along the H Street NE corridor in Washington, D.C., is a community-based business that began over a decade ago with a top goal of training young people for the job market.
The small eatery is known for its soul food platters customized to your liking, but it is the business’s youth program that provides its overall mission: To inspire local teens to evaluate their purpose and to equip them with the skills necessary to make that purpose a reality.
“We knew 10-years-ago that the job market was not going to be able to consume the opportunities at a level for everybody, so we had to get back to training young people to develop the lifestyle that they want to have through work because no one owes you anything,” explained Chef Tate.
The Inner City Youth Development Work-Force Exchange Initiative was inspired by the Tate brothers’ rough upbringing in Washington, D.C. The brothers, third generation Washingtonians, lost many of their childhood friends to ills of the street, like drug dealing and homicide. Once they decided not to partake in street life, the Tate brothers found it their duty to help others make the same decision. Instead of marching to stop the violence, Chef Tate realized that the answer was to train young people in the crafts that interested them most so that drugs, robbery and worse were no longer options.
“We all were raised to give back in whatever we do. . .it was quite natural that we’d end up having this type of business model where, you know, we’re building a brand as well as building a community program that could bring up others, especially young folk,” said Atif Tate, brother of Chef Tate.
The program begins with students finding and developing a purpose. Next, students do the necessary work to become proficient in things that will bring that purpose to reality. Then, parents become involved so that their goals for the student and the student’s personal goals can become more cohesive.
Hundreds of students apply for the program each year, and all of them are given an equal opportunity to rise up in the ranks. Those who exemplify the most ambition and dedication are eventually hired to work at Inspire BBQ, 650 H St. NE.
Students employed at Inspire BBQ work five-hour shifts, five days a week, which leaves just enough time for study, prayer and rest. Their jobs include working the cash register, preparing dishes and maintaining a clean and healthy workspace. Through everyday work, students in the initiative program learn to be more responsible, professional and business savvy.
“When I come here I have to make sure everything is straight, everything is clean, everything tastes good,” said Daniel Gaskins, a student in the program. “But also if it comes down to making a decision and Mr. Tate’s not here I have the ability to make the decision.”
The Inner City Youth Development Work-Force Exchange Initiative is not limited to those seeking to build careers in the culinary industry. Students describe it as a place where they gain experience in the workforce while learning how to, eventually, run their own businesses. The program is creating a platform for students to become entrepreneurs.
“As you can see I put art all over this place from head to toe,” said Nevada Jackson, another student in the program. “Customers come down, they see the art, they get my number, and they call me for different art projects and stuff like that. So basically, I help the shop grow as well as it helping me to grow.”
Another student, Emmanuel Baskerville, plans to open his own plumbing business. To get closer to that goal, Baskerville helps his uncle, who owns a similar business. Working at Inspire BBQ has equipped him with the leadership skills he needs to open his own business, and he hopes to inspire his peers to do the same.
The Inner City Youth Development Work-Force Exchange Initiative is a non-profit, non-government funded organization. Through their generosity and help from sponsors and donors, the Tate brothers are able train D.C. teens to be the best they can be through hard work. They also to send their students on trips outside of the United States to countries like Germany and Ghana to broaden their experiences.
“I couldn’t go to my daddy and say, ‘Daddy give me a loan for $50,000 to start my business,’ but I always knew I had the determination to create something to help others,” Chef Tate said. “So pure purpose started this business and every day we crank that grill up on pure purpose.”
Students working at Inspire BBQ become well rounded through community service projects such as delivering food to a nearby shelter. They are encouraged daily to give back, not monetarily, but through their skills and knowledge. They are taught to motivate their peers to do the same and pay it forward.