Renay L. Butler is the founder, CEO, and visionary of Goal Grinders, Inc., a non-profit organization that mentors and educates teenagers in the fields of entrepreneurship, leadership, and science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM). Goal Grinders provides an after-school program for middle school girls, a teen mentorship program, and a series of summits that address crucial issues in our schools, households, and society.
Below are the highlights of the interview conducted between World’s Leaders and Renay L. Butler:
Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader. What challenges did you have to face to get where you are today?
My journey as a leader began when I was young. As the only child, I would naturally take charge or volunteer to lead activities. My journey as a business leader was by force, not choice. My first entrepreneurial endeavor as a businesswoman began while I was at home recovering from a broken leg. I was 26 and had a 3-week-old daughter. I had a mortgage to pay and some savings, but needed to figure out a way to earn extra income. I returned to work in corporate America after a year and a half of recuperation. I climbed the ladder pretty quickly, leading various teams in the IT industry. Five years later, I was laid off from a startup tech company. I decided to start my own company again and started the first technology-based daycare center in Maryland. About 10 years later, I sold the business and went back to corporate America as an IT contractor, leading teams and organization in both the public and government sectors.
The biggest challenge I faced in my career was having to be better than some of my counterparts. I always worked smarter, had more experience, and better credentials. As a natural leader, I was able to overcome those challenges by thinking outside the box to always provide transformational leadership and disruptive solutions that changed how an organization did business. I always strive to be the best version of myself. I never compared myself to anyone else and continually challenged myself to be better each day.
Describe Goal Grinders’ offerings that address the needs of your customers.
Goal Grinders is a non-profit organization that provides educational enrichment and skills training to middle and high school teens (some at-risk) in the areas of entrepreneurship, leadership, and STEAM. We focus on psycho-education, self-development, peer to peer relations, and appropriate school functioning behaviors through creative and unique leadership and empowerment activities. Our signature after-school program includes: lessons in robotics, coding, art activism, cybersecurity, engineering, diversity and inclusion, etiquette, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, leadership, emotional and behavioral regulation, self-awareness, mindfulness, and a 4-day overnight STEM on the Beach and Cultural Excursion. Other summits and programs include: our Goal Chat mentoring program, Teen Summit, Leaders in Training (LIT) Bootcamp for boys and girls, BODY GOALS for women and girls, and our You Matter Summit for men and boys.
Enlighten us on how you have made an impact in this industry through your expertise in the industry?
I’ve made an impact in my industry by redefining how children learn STEM. Early childhood education programs mandate that children be taught one concept six to eight different ways to ensure all children have an opportunity to learn. As children matriculate through elementary, middle, and high school, they are limited to each teacher’s teaching style. At Goal Grinders, we make STEM fun, creative, and exciting through real life, hands-on experiences, activities, field trips, and introductions to industry leaders. We relate STEM to everyday life. My training in early childhood education and STEM gave me a competitive advantage in developing curricula for after-school programs.
What are the challenges you and your team at Goal Grinders come across in your day-to-day operations?
The greatest challenge we’ve faced, as a program that works with at-risk youth, is collaborating with parents to ensure the behaviors and values taught are reinforced in the home. By providing support to both children and families, we’ve changed the trajectory of our students’ lives. We’ve reduced in-school suspensions, reduced physical altercations, and increased school attendance, classroom participation, and grade point averages. I am most proud that each of our students plans to attend college, which is huge given that students in our inaugural class had no plans to attend college.
What people, what books, what life factors have influenced and impacted you?
My greatest influence was my mother. She always encouraged me to dream big. She’d always say, “If God gives you the ability to dream it, he will give you the ability to make it come true.” When I was about 13, I met an Armenian millionaire. He said to me, “Young lady, all business is built on relationships. If you always remember this, you will grow up to be successful and wealthy.” This one piece of advice has influenced every aspect of my life.
There were a few books I read (while home recovering from a broken leg) that had a major impact on my life: Think and Grow Rich, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, The Millionaire Next Door, and Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. These books taught me to be a good steward of money, along with being out of work for 18 months and working for a horrendous manager. Those experiences taught me to always ensure I had at least 2-3 years’ worth of savings at my disposal.
I also studied books like How to Win Friends and Influence People, Secrets of Closing the Sale, and the Psychology of Sales. No matter the industry, we are always selling something: ourselves, an idea, and/or a product.
Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drive Goal Grinders.
The values that drive Goal Grinders’ work culture are: lead with excellence, embrace every opportunity to learn and grow, and be curious, innovative, and goal-oriented. Our students recite the following creed at each session:
I promise to respect myself, to be kind to myself, and to treat myself well.
I promise to respect others.
I promise to use my words to speak kindly.
I promise to try to resolve conflicts appropriately.
I promise to make my academics a priority.
Where do you envision yourself being in the long run and what are your future goals for Goal Grinders?
I envision myself leading Goal Grinders as the CEO for 10 more years until I retire. My greatest goal and vision for Goal Grinders is for it to become a national program that positively impacts the lives of children across the country.
What would be your advice to budding business leaders?
“Being different isn’t a bad thing. It means you are brave enough to be yourself. “—Luna Lovegood
Focus on your strengths and hire experts for the rest.
People are your greatest asset. Treat them well.
Be a continuous learner.
Always have a mentor and always be a mentor to someone else.
Your only competition is you. Challenge yourself to deliver your best every day.
Be action and outcome oriented.
Enjoy the journey and have fun.