My Brother's Keeper of Greater Richmond

"Encouraging Brothers Through the Storms of Life"

March 2014

Journey to Manhood

Nigel Hines, Entrepreneur

by Monica Haynes

Unlike most youngsters, Nigel Hines knew what he wanted to do with his life and what he didn’t want to do. He knew he didn’t want a regular 9 to 5 job with an office. What he did want was the freedom to innovate, engage and connect. In fact, that is the name of the 24-year-old entrepreneur’s company, Innovate, Engage, Connect Group.

“It’s an idea-based company, we do everything from put programs into schools and recreation centers to anger management and life skills programs, all the way to creating actual products that you can physically hold, whether it be a garment or a product to help you maneuver in life,” Hines explained.  

At a time when many young people are still trying to determine a post-college path, Nigel has been on the road of entrepreneurship since high school. As a junior high student, he sold candy, made CDs. “In 11th grade, I rented out my first venue and conducted my first production,” Hines recalled. “It was a poetry showcase. From there, I never looked back.” While, he didn’t feel the need to go to college to fulfill his career destiny, Hines said, “My formal education never stopped.” Hines has collaborated with schools and various organizations to hold events, like sneaker conventions and classes such an anger management course he held at the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club.

Among his mentors, he counts Hugh B. Jones, executive director of the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club. The two met when Nigel began attending a men’s fellowship group headed up by Jones and another of Hines’ mentors, Dale Wallace. Initially, being allowed to play basketball was the lure, Hines said. “But as time went on you started to love the knowledge more than the basketball. You learned things about being a better man.”

Asked how his friendship with Jones developed, Hines explained, “Doing the men’s fellowship for the past three years and continuing now and him and Dale Wallace taking a personal interest in me, and continuing to check up with me, continuing to encourage me in every way shape and form; helping me with all my events and always giving me pick me ups. And continuing to be there, like a father figure.”

Jones’ admiration for Hinesl is mutual. “It is so refreshing to encounter a young man who is an original and not a carbon copy for his generation,” Jones said. “Nigel Hines is just that as he endeavors to make a difference by using his influence for the good of others. He has a drive that is infectious and inspires all that comes into contact work him. I'm always excited to see and experience the contributions that he has made and will make as he continues to use his God given talents.”

“Everything I do if for younger people to see that it’s possible. It’s possible to educate yourself. It’s possible with no college background to teach,” Hines said. In 2013, he taught a weekly elective class on expressive writing at Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School. “That came about from the show cases that I was doing.” He explained that Christina Walters had attended the showcase and liked it so much that she allowed him to come to the middle school to do special spoken word poetry segments. That was in 2012. The following year, the school contacted him to see if he’d be interested in teaching a class on spoken word and expressive writing.

A graduate of Henrico High School, he believes that students need a more practical curriculum to accompany classes like World History, “which is cool,” he said. “[But] you need the real, you need finances, you need math classes that are tailored toward real life situations, balancing checkbooks and keeping tabs on your bank accounts, investing in real estate.” 

Growing up an only child in the Whitcomb Court housing project of Richmond’s Northside, Hines, whose parents are divorced, said he learned a lot. “I had a lot of cousins in that area. I probably had a lot of influences that would be deemed as negative. There were a lot of guys that were into the street life,” Hines said. “You learn to be quick-witted. You learn to have a sense of urgency, to have a sense of awareness. You get to see first hand the consequences of mistakes. . . I was the kind of person that saw what is going on and said, ‘I want to do something different.’”

He points to a cousin whom he called “a big time street guy, if you will.” Hines would always ask his cousin what he planned to do with his money. “He would never answer. Sure enough the well dried up and he had to do a good bit in prison.” Hinesl said he’d like to help provide jobs for guys like his cousin by having them speak youngsters about the path they don’t want to take. “It’s about innovative ideas and new ideas, but it’s also about utilizing the resources that are already in front of us.”

For the first time ever, Hines is holding one of his signature events, a sneaker convention, at Henrico High School on Saturday, March 8 from 1 to 4 p.m. While, he’s held five such conventions throughout the city, it’s the first time such an event has been held in a school, he said. A sneaker convention brings together vendors, traders and lovers of sneakers, who can buy, sell or trade the often coveted footwear. The convention is being held in conjunction with the school’s PTA, which will receive more than 50 percent of the proceeds, Hines said.

“We definitely have a goal,” Hines said of his company, “and our goal is to basically take Richmond to the forefront of better living, of new ideas, of a better lifestyle and a better