September 10, 2019

Side Hustle: How the New BGCSM Culture Inspired This Employees Startup

Think about the daily grind for most Detroiters. 

It usually starts with a busy commute, ends with another and has a blur of activity that (hopefully) pays the bills in between.

Image: Giphy

Now, imagine working somewhere both engaging and rewarding. If such jobs exist, could they also allow room to chase entrepreneurial passions?

Jennifer Trussell has done just that.

The metro Detroit native who grew up Downriver works as marketing and events manager for Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan.
By day, she works in a fun, impactful environment. By night (and weekends), she dedicates her time to Stella & Pearl Thrifted.

“It’s a company where I find pieces at local thrift stores and I resell them at popup events, craft and vintage shows,” Trussell says of her budding online business. 

The Michigan State graduate has always had interests in vintage clothing and sustainable living. Stella & Pearl Thrifted gives her a chance to delve deeper into her passions, with her employer — BGCSM — there to support.

“My number one priority is Boys & Girls Clubs but it’s nice to do something fun on the side,” she says.

Models for successful merchandising efforts are all around Trussell. BGCSM CEO, Shawn H. Wilson, has assigned work tasks to her that both support the nonprofit’s needs, and help the new business owner along the learning curve.


Trussell (right) with Arda Kafafian, BGCSM senior director of marketing
Photo: Urban Content Studios

“He (Wilson) asked me to curate the merchandise stand for DON Weekend,” Trussell reflected on one of her most recent assignments. “He said he thought it would really be good for my business. Most employers would tell you to make sure that a side job doesn’t get in the way, not give tips and pointers.”

DON Weekend is an annual, youth-centered community event hosted by Big Sean. The international superstar returned home with merchandise from his concerts and other ventures and asked that BGCSM set it up to be distributed to our Club Kids and other youth during DON Weekend.

Not only did the opportunity give valuable exposure to Trussell who will be working in similar merchandising environments for her business, it set an example for our Club Kids. Trussell was the adult in charge of merchandise for DON Weekend, but she trained a youth apprentice to do the work with her. The business-owner mindset continues to be passed down.

“Entrepreneurial traits such as hustle, creativity and innovation are truly valued in our new culture,” says Wilson. “We want employees who will challenge norms, move quickly and put the customer (our youth) first.”

“Jennifer is a great example of the type of hardworking employee we’re trying to attract and retain at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan,” he says.

Photo: Urban Content Studios/Darren Clark

Trussell started with BGCSM as the nonprofit’s donations manager. From there, she moved on to managing special events before eventually moving into her current role.

“It was a bit of a hard place to work for a while,” Trussell said as she reflected on BGCSM before the Reimagine campaign and Wilson’s leadership. “Having such a bright light around was re-energizing.”

The new BGCSM creates a synergy that energizes everyone touched by the new rejuvenated spirit of the 90+ year old organization. Club employees benefit from a culture that enforces economic mobility and entrepreneurship. They find themselves working in an environment that is on the cutting-edge of technology and innovation, while being encouraged to explore all the gifts they have.

Our Club Kids get the benefit of being around happy, fulfilled adults. The energy that adults bring can be felt by our Club Kids. When they see examples of what their lives could be, their realities could eclipse even the biggest BGCSM moonshot.

Lastly, our Clubs reap the biggest benefits of all. The new culture of the BGCSM aims to provide the same level of commitment and care to our youth, our staff and the communities we impact. We keep our primary focus on the youth and ensure we foster a culture that nurtures and inspires them. 

While she helps to make way for the dreams of our Club Kids, Trussell is also shooting for the moon with her own business. Ultimately, she would like to see a brick and mortar home for Stella & Pearl Thrifted.

And her dreams for BGCSM?

“I would love to be able to prepare each of our kids for their next step in life…graduate from high school and either go on to college or be able to find a job right away. That would be my moonshot.”


Help yourself achieve your own moonshot by purchasing an Adult Membership today.


“Just being around Shawn and UCS (Urban Content Studios), the energy of everybody made me feel like I could take that step to have my own business.”

Jennifer Trussell

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