Mr. Fresh: From selling drugs to cleaning the air
Photo by: M. Ann Phillips, Ph.D.
Mr. Fresh is a local entrepreneur who says that the Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre’s Green Change Project helped to validate the importance of his green business venture. Mr. Fresh participated actively in the Green Change Project in 2009, completing the 45 hour Green Change Agent Training Program and conducting more than 50 green home audits with community residents, many of whom were already his customers.
The Green Change Project was a one year collaboration of the Toronto Region and Conservation Authority and the Toronto Community Housing with the Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre as the lead. The project provided basic training to Green Change Agents in different environmental themes and engaged residents in various community greening activities. Thanks to the commitment and passion of these Green Change Agents, the project received tremendous success and media attention on the front page of the Toronto Star, was identified as one of Toronto’s four environmental game changers in the NOW Magazine and is a finalist for the Green Toronto Awards. A seed was planted.
Now, thanks to the financial support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation over the next three years, an expanded collaboration with the Jane Finch Green Jobs Coalition and the partnership with other community organizations such as the Black Creek Community Health Centre, the Green Change Project is ready to take root. The collaborative partners are also actively seeking financial support to establish a Centre for Green Change. The goal of this Centre will be to identify and attract green business entrepreneurs like Mr. Fresh and other environmentally conscious residents and youth and provide training and support to them to further their career in the green economy while greening their community, protecting its natural heritage and retrofitting community assets.
This concept works from a community asset building approach and is exactly what is needed in Jane and Finch. As he explained in a recent interview with M. Ann Phillips, long before he earned the title of ‘Mr.’ Fresh, back in the days when he was just Fresh, he was already an entrepreneur, though his path was not always as socially conscious as it is now. Mr. Fresh started doing business when he was in Grade 4. His career began by selling chocolates and he gained a lot of hands on experience and developed his entrepreneurial spirit from his early experiences.
Like many youth growing up in poor marginalized communities with limited opportunities, his life took a detour when he was seduced by the opportunities that the business of the street can offer. It was getting involved with his eco-friendly business that saved his life according to Mr. Fresh. It took him away from selling drugs and being involved with guns and all the other aspects of life on the street. “My name is Mr. Fresh. I’d like to be known as Mr. Fresh. It tells you who I am and where I am coming from. The community loves that. They gave me that name. I didn’t become Mr. Fresh just like that. I was given that name. When I was working and hustling I used to be Fresh, and I became Mr. Fresh over the years of doing the air freshening business.”
Mr. Fresh developed his environmentally friendly business, a line of 4 different air fresheners with 3 natural scents and an unscented one, when he realized that it was time to change his life and do something different. Fresh attributes his success to the support of the community. He says “the whole community has bought my air fresheners. The whole community has supported me. ”
“Our community would like to have more clean air and more places where we can buy organic food and fruit. We don’t have those things now. If we can have more trees and more green areas, if we keep doing this it will be good!”
The main message Mr. Fresh learned from the Green Change program is “This is our only planet and we have to take care of it!”
Written by: M. Ann Phillips, Ph.D. and Rosemarie Powell