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Rapper Jason Shoneyin didn’t like where his music career was going, he wanted to be in full control and independent. When that didn’t happen, he left the industry and, thanks to a visit to the Bronx, decided to focus his efforts on helping people recover from COVID-19.
The Staten Island native was in the Bronx during the pandemic working with a law truck where workers provided lawyers so they could find more clients. During this time, he saw the despair in the community and felt compelled to roll up his sleeves and help.
In response, Shoneyin, 26, started First Class Help in Staten Island almost a year ago. But only a few months in a very few people came through the door. He immediately closed that location – recall his recent experience in the Bronx – and opened a location in the South Bronx eight months ago.
Hundreds of customers have sought help since it opened its doors at 2823 Third Avenue.
“We want people to know they can be their own boss and take control of their lives,” he told the Bronx Times. “We want to change the way people think.”
According to Shoneyin, he and his staff help people with everything from job hunting and résumé to stocks and crypto investments, acquiring licenses, money management and unemployment, paying bills, insurance and taxes, and improving their creditworthiness and procurement of credit.
While these services are available online, because many people either do not know how to navigate the Internet or because English is not their first language, they simply need help. “I want this company to be able to give birth to millionaires,” he said.
Shoneyin admitted that the job can be very emotional for customers and employees. People have cried more than once, he said, referring to a time when they were helping a homeless man find a place to live. His goal is to teach his clients how to build wealth. He explained that people come to him for various reasons, but ultimately they want to change their financial situation.
“People are broke. You need money, ”he said. “I love my hometown, but when I came to the Bronx and saw this church, I knew I had to be here.”
What bothers Shoneyin the black most is that a lot of the people who have problems are colored people. This is one of the reasons he felt compelled to help those in the South Bronx, which is 57% Hispanic and 40% black.
Shoneyin emphasized that most people want to make a change in their financial situation, but simply do not have the tools or knowledge to do so. When customers come to First Class, his goal is to give them orientation. “Seeing people change their situation and add value to their lives is the most fulfilling part of my career,” he said.
Although First Class has been in the district for less than a year, it feels like it just scratched the surface.
“People don’t know the information is out there,” he said.
Shoneyin recalled never imagining owning a business, but he’s glad he did.
“I have found my purpose,” he added.
Reach Jason Cohen at [email protected] or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bxtimes and Facebook @bxtimes.