An Orange County nonprofit teaches children how to become entrepreneurial leaders through the work of auto detailing.
You might look at a dirty car and see a mess that needs to be taken care of. Kevin Jones sees a blank canvas. An opportunity to bring back its shine through auto detailing.
“When people come out, and you see a smile on their face, it puts a smile on my face as well,” he says.
He looks at today’s youth similarly: as a blank canvas he can fill with practical knowledge to help them advance in life and avoid falling into the traps of drugs, crime, unemployment and more. He works with many from underserved communities.
Jones, a retired businessman and founder of Orange County-based nonprofit Business in a Bucket Institute, teaches children ages 11 to 16 how to become entrepreneurial leaders. He does so at West Anaheim Youth Center and local schools through a combination of mostly free seminars and hands-on education focused on auto detailing, but applicable to other industries. Each class accommodates up to 25 kids. The business foundations — finances, customer service, time and resource management and more — give Jones’ students an understanding of what it takes to start and run a business. At the end, each person receives a Business in a Bucket starter kit with products to detail cars. Many, he says, go out immediately, reaching out to friends and family as first customers and start making money, gaining more financial independence and even contributing to their households.
Jones, who grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana, developed a passion for auto detailing and entrepreneurship when he was just a boy thanks to a mentor who lived in the area and showed him the ropes. When Jones moved to California as an adult and couldn’t find a job, his wife, Marva, suggested he get back to auto detailing, which he did. But, as he worked on his own business, he noticed a number of people in various communities who struggled to make ends meet or lacked direction for their futures.
The solution was clear. Jones looked back at his own beginnings and knew it was time to pay it forward. He started by writing “The Owner’s Guide to Auto Detailing,” an eBook he sells to this day to raise money for his nonprofit, which he founded in 2013. He also includes it in the kit at his seminars.
“It’s been enjoyable helping youth in different communities to see them grow and understand what business is about,” Jones says. “Business in a Bucket is a stepping stone. If they know what’s involved in owning and operating a business, they can take it to the next step.”
Christopher Ingram did exactly that. He says he was about 11 years old when he first met Jones and worked with him side-by-side to learn how to detail a car and do so as a business. Following his mentor’s teachings, he detailed cars for about six years, making extra money on the side. Later, he transferred the skills to start his own DJ business and is now teaching his 11- and 12-year-old kids about entrepreneurship. He says he’s even helped Jones teach through Business in a Bucket Institute.
“In school, we don’t get taught business oftentimes. We get taught how to budget and we don’t get taught the business side of life,” Ingram says. “It’s important to understand how to do that, but also when push comes to shove, if anything, you can work for yourself or use your skills you have to get through school or make your own schedule.”
Jones says he often hears from his program’s alumni. Many share moving stories of overcoming adversity and finding their purpose. It’s one of the reasons he would like to see the nonprofit grow to other cities.
“When you see them start to hold their head high and figure that they can do something in their life, that’s very rewarding for me,” Jones says.
By Magda Hernandez