I Won’t Starve

6 Minutes Read

Episode 90

I Won’t Starve Academy provides education and training focusing on creating successful intrapreneurs.

Jamar “J Haleem” Washington is an author, nationally-published and award-winning commercial photographer, serial entrepreneur, business coach, motivational speaker and corporate trainer. 

J Haleem was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, where his interest in being an entrepreneur was birthed. While in college, he became a convicted felon. Because of his challenged background, he could never get the corporate job his degree warranted, even though he graduated with honors. In June 2021, almost 18 years to the date, J Haleem was pardoned by the state of South Carolina. 

With more than 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, his 501c3 organization, I Won’t Starve Academy provides education and training focusing on creating successful intrapreneurs.

Today, J Haleem Washington shares his story of breakdown to breakthrough, so be prepared to be inspired by this episode!

Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full Episode:

  1. J Haleem shares the challenges he faced as a convicted felon.
  2. Discover how his motto and academy, “I Won’t Starve,” was birthed.
  3. Learn about his transition from solopreneur to business owner.

Episode Highlights

Who is J Haleem Washington

    • J Haleem is a serial entrepreneur, author of three books, commercial photographer, business coach, motivational speaker and corporate trainer.
    • He grew up in northern New Jersey in the crack era, becoming a convicted felon in college.
    • As a result, he could never get the corporate job his degree warranted.
    • To put food on the table for his family, he hustled as an entrepreneur only to become a big success.

We do what we’re exposed to

    • J Haleem grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, what he refers to as the crack era.
    • His grandmother had eight children; seven were strung out on hard drugs like heroin and crack cocaine.
    • He was the first grandchild, so he was exposed to it all.
    • The perception of successful people in his community was rappers talking about being kingpins.

A convicted felon

    • When J Haleem was 13, his grandmother took full custody of her ten grandchildren and couldn’t work anymore.
    • It started innocently, where he just wanted to make some money to buy himself nice clothes, but he got caught up in the wrong things.
    • After going to juvie a few times and getting slapped on the wrist, he continued and ended up becoming a convicted felon while he was in college.

Starting from the bottom

    • Even though he graduated with honors, J Haleem was never able to get the corporate job his degree warranted.
    • He was labeled, and no one would give him a chance.
    • As a result, he started with an $8 an hour job because it was all he could secure.

His TD Jakes moment

    • J Haleem went to a TD Jakes conference and had a moment that turned his life around.
    • TD Jakes brought a full-grown lion onto the stage and used an interesting metaphor about why it’s kept in a cage.
    • He said there was somebody who knows that they’re in a place they’re not supposed to be and that they’re way better than what they’re doing.
    • J Haleem became extremely emotional as this message was meant for him and not long after, he left his $8 an hour job to pursue his photography business.

The journey to photography

    • J Haleem got a $2000 camera when his daughter was born to film her.
    • He never wanted to become a photographer; he wanted to get into the film business.
    • He started a media company where he interviewed major celebrities, but there were no celebrities when moving to South Carolina, so he needed to hustle.
    • He sold the camera to his pastor, who gave it back to him two weeks later without wanting the money back. 
    • This spiritually hit him, and he knew he needed to take photography seriously.

Using his entrepreneurial prowess

    • His first paying job was a funeral, but this wouldn’t be sustainable.
    • After attending bridal shows, he discovered that the market for wedding photographers was saturated.
    • He decided to go into corporate photography, serving law firms specifically.
    • J Haleem ended up branching into forensic casework for law firms and then government contracting.

A story that needed to be heard

    • J Haleem would shoot major functions and hear motivational speakers tell their stories.
    • While their stories were not bad, he realized that his story could have a real impact.
    • His mother left him at 11, was brought up by his grandmother where everybody was strung out on drugs, was shot at 14, had his first child when he was still a teenager, yet maintained straight A’s in school.
    • He says telling his story was the best thing he could have ever done.

I Won’t Starve

    • This motto came when J Haleem left his job and went through hell.
    • He faced judgment from everyone, including his family.
    • He’d go for interviews for good jobs, get hired, and they’d let him go because of his background even though he hasn’t been in trouble since. 
    • Instead of giving them the middle finger, he opted to use the phrase “I won’t starve.”

The academy

    • The I Won’t Starve Academy is a nonprofit organization created to help develop African American entrepreneurs.
    • J Haleem saw the need to create an avenue for individuals to get knowledge, wisdom and understanding.
    • By creating a 501c3 organization, he had the opportunity to get funds and resources so that his people didn’t have to pay to gain knowledge and be developed.

His message to kids

    • J Haleem says it’s about transforming, inspiring and exposing.
    • He aims to show kids that just because you come from a certain place does not limit what you can become in life.
    • Through his story, his goal is to expose them to the possibilities.
    • Expose them to other successful people from the same socio-economic background who made it in life that aren’t rappers or kingpins.

Transitioning from solopreneur

    • J Haleem understands that he can’t do it all by himself and was willing to be selfless enough to bring other people in and give them an opportunity.
    • He says that when you’re an entrepreneur, you’re creating opportunities not just for yourself but for others.
    • You’re making sure that the family of others is eating, sometimes before yours.

Becoming an author

    • A lady from the same TD Jakes conference told J Haleem that he would write a book, and he didn’t believe it.
    • When he started with motivational speaking, people would ask about his book.
    • He admits that he did things in reverse; usually, people write a book, start speaking and then have merchandise. 
    • After taking nine months to write his first book, the bug had bitten.

There’s opportunity in a crisis

    • Many people would say that they want 2020 to be over because of the pandemic.
    • J Haleem says that this is poor advice as there are opportunities for a crisis. 
    • His motivational speaking was heating up when the pandemic hit, and everything was canceled and shut down.
    • J Haleem used this as an opportunity to write his second book in 30 days.

The goal

    • J Haleem’s goal is to become a full-time investor and continue with motivational speaking.
    • He wants to have more free time to raise his children to be entrepreneurs.
    • Mentoring and being available for them to become the best they can be.

His daughter, the entrepreneur

    • J Haleem currently mentors his daughter to step into her greatness.
    • At 13 years old, she has her brand, is an author, and has a nonprofit organization.
    • She has written two books already and has two more coming out in the series.
    • Her passion and mission are around anti-bullying.

How does J Haleem want to be remembered?

    • The platform you lead from is more important than the platform you land on. We’re often too focused on where we’re trying to get to instead of focusing on where we are right now. He says to keep building your platform.


3 Powerful Quotes from this Episode

27:52 – “Entrepreneurship is selfless. When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re creating opportunities, not just for yourself or for others, you’re saying you’re willing to pay somebody else’s rent, you really need to make sure that their family’s eating just as well as yours, and sometimes before yours. “

19:51 – “I was trying to live someone else’s life and not live my own.” 

36:14 – “Understanding that the platform that you lead from is more important than the platform you land on. A lot of times, we focus so much on what we try to get to. But we’re not focusing on where we are right now.”


About J Haleem Washington

J Haleem Washington helps entrepreneurs through his three books, online academy and motivational speaking.

Jamar is a graduate of Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, receiving his Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration. He is a certified facilitator by the Kauffman Group, certified trainer by the Association of Talent Development, and certified professional coach through the Center for Coaching Certification.

With more than 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, he uses his platform to provide education and training for entrepreneurs and career development, focusing on creating successful intrapreneurs. 

Through his inspiring story, he shows us that it’s not what happens to us that determines our future; instead, it’s what we do with what happens to us that counts.


Connect with J Haleem



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Darrell Evans

Darrell Evans is a serial entrepreneur, investor, and Co-founder/CEO of Yokel Local Digital Marketing Agency. He and his teams have helped businesses generate over $300M+ in revenue online. Every month, he leads virtual workshops teaching actionable strategies and tips from his experience helping companies market, grow, and scale.