Today we’d like to introduce you to Huzaifah Haaris.
Hi Huzaifah, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I started United Culture originally in 2014 while I was working as an Auto Salesmen at Antwerpen Motors Jeep Dealership in Baltimore County. At the time, business was slow for a lot of American auto manufacturing companies therefore leaving me with a lot of free time behind my desk to surf the world wide web when I had zero leads or walk in potential clients to attend. I would spend a great amount of time on websites like Hypebeast, Highsnobiety, MrPorter and more; but always felt like something was missing content-wise that I wanted to explore, experience, and engage in. It was through my exploration when I learned more and more about these companies.
What I learned would change and influence my choices in life what would have a lasting effect seven years later. I learned although many of these companies promote and create content inspired around or by African American Hip Hop and culture, none of these Multimedia or E-commerce companies was created by or owned by an African American or anyone from the African Diaspora. So versus complaining about it, I decided to create the solution myself therefore creating United Culture; not to separate or cause more division but to create a platform that could provide equal opportunities to other minorities and highlight the many beauties from the African diaspora and the many sub-culture and art forms like art, music, fashion, and film around the world from all races and ethnicity. Here at UC, we understand that we’re all more alike than different and what makes us different is what is exciting, encouraging us to get to know one another better.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Honestly, there have been way too many struggles along the way and I’m sure this interview may not be the most appropriate place to fully express in depth all that I’ve been through to get to where I am today. It has been quite a journey since the day I was born to before and after I originally founded United Culture seven years ago, prior to being sentenced to five years in federal prison and being a returning citizen into society after serving three years in prison and six months in the halfway house May 29th of 2019. During my time in the halfway house, I was able to successfully relaunch United Culture on March 12, 2019, and register as a student majoring in Film & Media at Santa Monica College. I was ambitious yet still had a lot of doubt and anxiety about what lay ahead of me in my future following the halfway house and prison. Some may say my life pre-incarceration was nothing short of something you’ll see in a movie, having experienced the parallel ups and downs coming up in the drug-infested streets of Baltimore City, to seeing the other side of life in Columbia, MD where some may say the grass is greener while having to deal with racism and discrimination to redlining in our section 8 neighborhood and public school district. My condition didn’t make life any easier.
Unfortunately, like many in my community, I was raised by a single mother working multiple jobs, my father was incarcerated for half my life growing up while being absent the other half and I had multiple family members caught up in the crossfire of the so called war on drugs from either becoming the addict or the dealer. Growing up, it was the things I couldn’t change that would have a lasting impact, as well as my irrational thinking errors and cognitive behavior, for example, chasing instant gratification, cut off, super optimism and sentimentality. My own ignorance and unreasonable self-talk would lead me to make decisions that would have a significant influence on my life today. Financial literacy wasn’t something taught to me at home nor was it something mandated to be taught to everyone in the public school system. It was due to my lack of education that would lead me to deal drugs as a means of income to survive starting at the early age of 12. By the time I was 15, I dropped out of school due to constant discrimination and prejudice along side the NAACP fighting on my behalf with the Board of Education, so my mother suggested there were other means to obtaining an education therefore leaving me with just an 8th grade education (years later in the state of Maryland I received my High School Equivalent Diploma in a program similar to the GED program).
Today I view myself as a survivor. Someone who has overcome many trials and tribulations such as violence in the streets, countless death from friends to family due to homicide and disease, incarceration, and homelessness, just to name a few. Reentering society was extremely difficult being in a new city with no family or friends, no place to live, nor any money in my account. So I would say many of my anxiety was justifiable yet, I wasn’t going to let it get in the way of achieving my long or short-term goals. I knew it was inevitable that as soon as I was released from the halfway house, the same struggles from my childhood and early adolescence would come back to haunt me, but I knew if I was going to have any chance at making it that first, it would have to start with education followed by experience and excess cash as written by Robert T. Kiyosaki author of Rich Dad’s Poor Dad Guide to Investing. During my time in prison, I didn’t read much but that book was sent to me during my five months in the whole and I felt it was very informative and a great place to start if you’re interested in becoming an investor or starting a business.
One thing I was able to take away from it was how to raise capital legally without taking shortcuts. I made a plan and stuck to it. Since relaunching United Culture, I’ve had to work multiple jobs from being a dishwasher to working on a food truck, detailing cars, odd side jobs and passion projects with little to zero income just to gain experience. These hustles helped me take a lot of money to reinvest in my business putting me in position to provide consistent work for over 20 people on my team of different genders, races, ethnicity and religious beliefs and during the pandemic, we were able to start the United Culture Foundation and have a great turn out of over 60 volunteers providing 300-500 meals a week. It was a surreal moment having the same food truck I used to sleep on for a month down on Skid Row located on 6th & Wall. The struggles are what made me, what made us!
Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
United Culture (UC) is a start-up organization based in Los Angeles, CA originally founded in Baltimore, MD. UC specializes in creating and producing all original content for our multimedia website and offering exclusive apparel & merchandise from both up & coming and top designers, artists, and musicians from around the world. United Culture has developed several ambitious objectives. First is creating an online multimedia website where artists, designers, writers, and entrepreneurs can showcase, display, and sell their work without compromise; uncensored, raw, and uncut. Second is building and innovative, fun, interactive, and exclusive Brick & Mortar / Headquarters offering the best customer service and industry-leading technology, benefits, and interactive experience for customers, clients, and employees alike. Third is to exceed customer experience and expectations ensuring repeat business and word of mouth referrals.
With support and an amazing team, we’ve been able to stay true to our objective and produced and delivered countless projects in various different mediums at a high standard for our client large and small business to special talent and individuals. 2.5% of all United Culture companies profit goes to funding The United Culture Foundation. 100% of all donation goes to grants for individuals or other charities inline with our mission here at The United Culture Foundation to decrease poverty, incarceration, homelessness, and improve mental health & financial literacy for all. We’ll do so by first implementing cognitive behavior and mental health programs, followed secondly by financial literacy programs, and third an entrepreneurship program. Everything we do here at UC & The United Culture Foundation is built on the principle of Love, Truth, Peace, Freedom, Equality, and Justice for all. Here at UC, we’re truly grateful for all donations and volunteers effort. All though we established the nonprofit during the beginning of Covid-19, we’ve been doing the work prior with two years of experience on Skid Row and over a decade of experience in Baltimore with at-risk youth and the public school system as well as community outreach programs.
Are there any books, apps, podcasts or blogs that help you do your best?
Rich Dad’s Guide to Investing by Robert T. Kiyosaki.
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: www.unitedculture.co
- Instagram: @shineforlife_
United Culture @unitedculture_ , Huzaifah Haaris @shineforlife_ , Marc Cortez @lenzykravitz, Mansoor @mansoooooooor, Boutheyna @boutheyna , Elise Schatz @Elise.mov