We had the good fortune of connecting with Justin Bertrand-Pitts and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Justin, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I often talk about me moving to Houston as one of the biggest risks that I have taken in my life. I moved some 800 miles away from family and friends, away from the safety net that seemed to have always been in place to follow my heart. Moving to a new city for a semi-new relationship that I did not know much about. The saying is true “You don’t really know someone until you live with them”. But That risk over 12 years ago turned out to be one of the best risks and choices that I have ever made for myself. That risk enabled me to continue to build a solid and strong friendship and relationship with my (now) husband – Desmond- and pushed me to learn ways to care and support myself and him. Another huge risk that I made was leaving my full time “secure” career in mental health 2 years ago, to turn a passion project into a full-time career and fully functioning community service organization. After working for an agency for 10 years my husband and I made the tough choice to step out on faith. This was a very scary choice because we were used to having a full 2 income household and living within the means of those incomes. But again, God prevailed, and we can see now that it was a risk worth taking. Since transitioning to full time in this new path we have been able to increase the organizations capacity to serve young men from all over Harris County. Our volunteer mentors have increased, and we are officially working with over 10 schools throughout the Houston area. The small shift in comfortability was almost unnoticeable. With the help of a great Board of Directors, supportive partner and a vast number of people who believe in the mission of the organization, this risk was again another one that I am immensely proud to have taken. I challenge people to fully see what risk they can take in their lives and evaluate the pros and cons of not taking those risk. We get extremely comfortable in our lives and the security of a job and not a career. I believe if I would not have taken the risk that I did in life I would not be in one of the happiest places, emotionally, that I am in today. Life is for the living, so live it. Start out with small changes and small risk that will build you up for the great risk of starting a business or even a family.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
MEN Incorporated is a youth services organization that focuses on young men from all background between the ages of 8 and 25. Our program provides indiviual and group based mentoring services, case management, anger/behavoir interventions and coaching. The thing that sets us apart from other mentoring organizations, in my opinion, is that we have a desire to ensure the whole young man is taken care of. This includes the families and siblings of the members in our program. We strive to build relationships with their entire household so that we can provide case mangement services when the guardian feels it neccessary. We follow our young men from the time they register with our program to the time they turn 25 with the expectation being that they return to the program as a mentor for the next generation of members. The main lesson I have learned from being in this position is to listen and ask questions. Non-Profit management is not my area, and I do not claim to know the ins and out of what it takes to run an organization. But I ask alot of questions. Sometimes sitting in a room where you are the only black male and some times the youngest person in a room can be intemidating, but I remind myself “You have earned this seat at the table”. I listen to the conversations and take note of what others may say that can benefit the growth of the organization. I want the world to know that MEN Incorporated is here. We provide some great services but we can not do it alone. We need others to join us on this journey to #saveourboys.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I would most certainly go to the Buffalo Soldier National Museum. It is one of those hidden gems that has so much history and spirit. I am a little bias but I love this place. The other places would be the Turkey Leg Hut, the waffle bus and it goes without saying Frenchy’s. I am a huge foodie, as you can tell.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are ALOT of people I certainly would give shout outs to because of the hand they played in my success so far. Most of all God, I am a firm believer that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord. I have no shame in saying how much I trust God and love being in the presence of God. That is why I must ultimately say thank you to God! My mother taught her sons to be strong and very independent, working long hours and pushing us to be involved in the arts, community service, church, and sports. It was not always easy, but she rarely let us give up, especially if she already paid money for it. She deserved a large portion of the credit for the man I am today! Mr. Mark Douglas is reason I every came to Houston in the first place, long story. But He showed me how to be a leader with integrity. That was the first black male boss that I ever had, and I am forever grateful for him. As I mentioned previously, the board of directors and the volunteers, members of MEN Incorporated who believe in the mission and vision of this organization that I strive to build each day. I am certainly grateful for all their trust and faith. The Parents who have confidence in our program and continue to bring their sons back, you all rock! And My husband, He pushes me and pushes me to be the best example of a man while giving me the space to make mistakes and be myself. 12 years has not been easy, but he has made it fun. He is the visionary behind MEN Incorporated and other businesses that we have, that I am often left to build out and run. But that is why we are a great team. I would do it all over again if he were my partner in the next life.