A fun business that works on many levels
Two teachers are using a business they created to help combat antisocial behaviour in their community, create jobs and empower the youth.
Aaron Williams, 37, and Keishen Bean, 30, founded Funworx and started by offering on-water activities. It has blossomed into a force for good at a grassroots level in the community.
The thriving business has become an umbrella organisation that spearheads a community project, with both its owners passionate about “plugging gaps” in society, such as the lack of male role models.
Mr Williams started out the business thinking of ideas that would be lucrative and at the same time beneficial to the community.
It began when the pair started offering water activities, renting out pedal boats, racing kayaks, glass-bottom boats, paddle boards and hydro bikes. When the summer season ended they introduced electric scooters.
Mr Williams said the URB-E electric scooter can be used for scavenger hunts, birthday parties or guided tours around the island. It has proved to be popular. Mr Williams said: “We didn't expect the business to be doing as well as it is.”
Funworx runs community outreach programmes for at-risk youth in the Pembroke area.
Mr Williams said: “I was born on Court Street and moved to Middle Town at a young age. This is why this community means so much to me.”
A full-time teacher at Success Academy, previously the technical school, he graduated from St Frances University in 2004 with a degree in sociology with a criminal justice concentration. On his return to Bermuda he knew there was something he needed to do for his community.
He started working within the Youth Development Centre, helping at risk young men. He knew it was time to do something positive for the community.
“I have grown up in the neighbourhood and I was once in the YDC as well. I suffered abuse within my family unit. A lot of these young men do not have positive role models, and strong figures in their lives.” said Mr Williams.
He met Keishen Bean, who worked within the YDC and shared the same vision.
“I stayed there for seven years on and off. Once Keishen came up it kind of took off,” said Mr Williams.
Mr Bean, a full-time teacher at TN Tatem and former national football team captain, said: “I fell instantly in love when I started working there and empowering the boys.”
He had a passion to work with the youth and knew it was something he wanted to continue to pursue.
The two men started to do outreach activities such as hosting weekly community nights.
Mr Williams said: “Each one of the young men will be paired up with a mature adult, to help out with the different events such as bake snacks, pop popcorn, and work at a football game or another activity.
He said it helped plug the gap by creating male role models. The community event was a success and attracted positive feedback from the neighbourhood. People in the Middle Town area came together and contributed to events.
Mr Williams said: “I found it striking that so many people wanted to be involved in the community. We had on neighbour who donated a Chopper bike, his spouse donated $100, someone donated sand for the football pitch to cover the holes in the ground, someone donated popcorn, and we had a pop up tent for a girl to braid hair for free. It was heart warming.”
Mr Williams and Mr Bean have noticed the positive impact on the youth and want to spread love and shed light wherever they can.
“When I first started at the YDC, I used to tell the guys I love them. At first they were a bit reluctant and didn't want to accept it, but a year later they are telling me they love me,” said Mr Williams.
Ian Coke is another positive example of this programme and community support working together. Mr Williams played an important role in Mr Coke's life by helping him go to college and stay on track.
“Ian Coke came from family trauma, the same neighbourhood as myself. I coached him when I first returned from college and helped him go to school. He finished school and came back to the island and is now working out of Bermuda Housing Corporation, and he's a community activist,” Mr Williams said.
Mr Coke said: “I used to go to the youth centre. I felt like I wanted to give back to my community. I now coach football and I was involved in the Mirrors programme as a volunteer. I received help from Aaron in getting ready for the college experience.”
Mr Coke is a striker with Dandy Town Hornets, and is a national football team squad member. He plans to continue working with the community and the youth. While working at BHC, he started his own construction, maintenance and photography business. He said: “I am a community outreach worker for Team Street Safe, and I am able to employ guys from the Back of Town area for maintenance and construction work as well.”
Mr Bean, Mr Williams and Mr Coke are playing their part to help the young men in Bermuda to turn away from gang activities and become positive role models.
Mr Williams and Mr Bean also gave recognition to Walisfort Manders, who stood by them when they needed a location from which to operate their water activities. Mr Manders is also involved in the community programmes.
“He is the man who was involved with our business from the start and made it all possible; we could not do it without him,” Mr Williams said.
Funworx is located at Clearwater Beach, St David's. The business also caters to corporate events and parties.
For more information about Funworx Bermuda, e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 595-2925