My thoughts on “Opportunity and Access” and the SD MEHKO Program from 3/11/2023

Last night I was bagging pickles for today’s dinner service and started laughing because this could easily have been something else on the scale. Growing up in Kinston, kids learn basic economics and weight conversions IN DEPTH. And a lot of times it’s not due to the school system.
The fact that I can leverage a skill I have (BBQ) to make money LEGALLY in San Diego County is incredible and as someone who originally joined the Navy to both pay for culinary school and one day open a restaurant; the path to get there might as well have been the same as becoming an astronaut.
It’s hard work, I really don’t make much, and to be honest for me, it was more about learning business and entrepreneurship lessons firsthand with a safety net that my career provides. I wanted to test the old business owner adage of “quit your whole life and eat Ramen and grind to make it” and test hypotheses I had on what it takes to run a business vice what conventional wisdom says. I’ve learned a ton of lessons that will serve me well in my career as a Naval Officer and business owner in whatever the next venture is, post Navy.
While this whole thing could be summed up as an experiment for me, I understand the privilege the Navy provides me, especially in a community like Chula Vista/San Diego with one of the highest costs of living in the country. For many people, programs like MEHKO aren’t just an experiment, they are vital lifelines. They are critical sources of livelihood and serve and build community in ways big box stores never could. When the village is strong, we’re all strong.
So for that reason, while I could have simply got my license, ran my business and stayed out of the way, I have been adamant about using my voice and experience to advocate for programs like this.
In the past few months on my free time, I’ve sat in data calls and forums with various universities, county and state lawmakers, economic justice organizations, and other business owners to push for expansion of this program and others like it not just in California but in other states and maybe one day nationwide.
No person should be denied the ability to earn a honest living using skills they have while also keeping their dignity.
As long as I’m able, I will continue to help where I can. I’m just a guy who likes to bbq in the backyard and share food with others. You don’t have to be a millionaire or a big shot to make a difference. You just have to be available.
“If you can be a blessing, BE a blessing”.
-Mal

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