Jason Aviles doesn't stop. From the Bronx, New York, he takes the word "entrepreneur" to an entire new level. From creating his own interdisciplinary Bachelors Degree in Youth Development & Social Change to running four businesses, he has some useful and touching advice for us all.
Learn more on how he went from a revamped Victorian push cart to revolutionizing healthy eating and nutrition in the City of Wilmington at 420 N Market Street at Wilmington Green Box.
Wilmington Green Box was made possible by funding from The Buccini/Pollin Group as well as funding and business development assistance from Main Street Wilmington. Inspired to start a business in Wilmington like Jason? There are a variety of complimentary services Downtown Visions has to get you started. Click here to learn more.
Q. Where did the idea for the green box stem from?
A. “Born out of a void that we saw in the central Wilmington community of there not being access to healthy goods and produce. While looking for creative ways to fill this void, we wanted to develop a model that was a win, win, win. We wanted to do more…a creative strategy to help other challenged areas, such as youth education and employment. We felt like the local youth needed positive outlets that gave them not only experience but also employed them so they could contribute to their household income. We targeted inner city kids who could really benefit from the program. So the concept is influential in four areas, food access, youth employment, education and purchasing local. We wanted to strengthen the local small business community economy.”
Q. How have you seen the box change the lives of individuals working for the company as well as customers?
A. “It has been transformational, Emmanuel is our poster child. He took Wilmington Green Box to a whole new level with his charisma, enthusiasm and willingness to learn. It has been a transformation for him to be with positive older male and female role models and interacting with customers on a daily basis helps build his social skills.
For our customers, we are not just selling a product. Our customers aren’t just buying a food, they are buying into a mission and an organization that really cares for the community and is giving directly back to the community. You feel good supporting youth, youth education and local food companies.”
Q. How has the Wilmington Green Box evolved since you just started out?
A. “We first started with a 1940’s ice box from a Victorian home. We put wheels on it, packed it with healthy goods and that’s how we started out. We didn’t have a storefront or space. We just brought the goods directly to people. It was a perfect introduction, we were able to get in front of so many individuals. Some didn’t know a carrot could make juice. We were educating people on how to be healthy. We also were able to educate our team on product knowledge. After a successful summer doing it that way;we saw we had a demand and we wanted to fulfill it in a consistent way. That’s how the location we are at now was born. The location on Market was designed to provide a place people could come to a consistent basis and activate a space that had not been utilized. We wanted to provide an additional green space and complimentary Wifi to the public. We looked at it as a solution for those we could serve and for us. We built the space and kiosk as an experience.”
Q. What do you see for the future of the green box?
A. “The future, I see us moving into an indoor location where we can have collaboration with a smoothie bar, café, and co-op style grocery store that can serve bulk health food that continues to serve local and bi-local markets. That is the direction we are going into.”
Q. What is your favorite food or drink served at the Green Box?
A. “It’s a tie…I would say, the fruit salads….they are really fresh and awesome from Sol Fruit, a great local organization. Alkaline state of mind from Juiced Libations is another favorite. It is a green juice that gets me going. I often end up eating a fruit salad and drinking one of those on busy days.”
Q. What are some of the challenges you have faced so far?
A. “A challenge is the education portion. Creating a culture and mindset of wellness. It hasn’t been on the forefront of initiatives. Locals aren’t aware of how to live a greater, quality life through nutrition. Exposing people on how to become healthy can be a challenge. We are motivated by it though, so it is not so much a challenge as it is an opportunity. This is the first concept of its kind here. We have seen incredible progress of people learning because of what we offer.”
Q. You wear a lot of hats, Project Director at Wilmington Green Box, Executive Director at Wilmington Placemakers Inc., Co-founder at Artist Ave Station and CEO at FLYOGI. How do you keep it all together and organized?
A. “At the foundation of everything I do is yoga. I was taught yoga is a lifestyle... how you treat others, yourself, nutrition. Everything I do is a part of my practice. The businesses I engage in are an extension of myself. Looking at the voids that exist and trying to fulfill them. I’m not doing it alone, it is a team of us. I have a wonderful team, John Naughton , James Thompson and Emmanuel are equally contributing. When I’m stressed out, I lean on them. We all lean on each other. Our team is on the same page.”
Q. How are you able to remain so Zen? Is it all that yoga?
A. “Yes. Everything really is a practice. It is a constant growing process.”
Q. What is your favorite aspect of the City of Wilmington?
A. “My favorite aspect is the growth that is happening. Wilmington is a growing place. It is in that threshold and it is exciting to be a part of. It is good to know not everything has happened yet. Those are our opportunities to fill those gaps. That is why I chose Wilmington. I wanted to contribute to that.”
Q. What advice would you give to entrepreneur wanting to start a business in downtown Wilmington?
A. “I would say, know what you want and know who wants it. Downtown Wilmington is a market that is used to doing what it is used to doing. You have to know the market and who you want to serve. You have to be consistent and offer high quality products and services. Make sure you know how to market. You are going to have to spend a lot of time marketing. Everyone here is a creature of habit. Introducing new things, you have to have creative ways to put it in front of them.”
Learn more about The Wilmington Green Box
Post by Julia Mason of Enthusiasm Lab