Gerard Kersey is the first to be honored in our MANdatory Awareness segment, which will feature Black men striving to make a difference. Kersey is the founder and owner of That Suits You, an organization that provides professional attire to men and teenage boys. TSY also provides training in the following:
- The importance of image
- Being the Brand
- Thinking beyond the norm
- Social Media and you
Learn more about Kersey and TSY in our Q&A below.
- When did you start the That Suits You Organization and why?
I started That Suits You in February 2013. One of the reasons I felt the need to start TSY, was because so many men that I interviewed for jobs were coming in dressed inappropriately. They were qualified individuals, but their lack of professional attire hindered them from ranking higher than other well-dressed candidates. I was disappointed but felt there was something I should do to assist these men. I figured they either didn’t know about the proper attire they should wear or they didn’t have the means to obtain the proper clothing. So TSY helps to address both areas of need. TSY partners with job training programs all over and provide their qualified candidates with suit and ties to wear to job interviews. We also work with high schoolers and college graduates to provide them with clothing for prom and graduations.
- What obstacles have your had to overcome with your foundation?
As with most nonprofit organizations, support and resources, are concerns that we have to manage with to continue this vision effectively. I realized early on that I would need tenacity and commitment to make this vision happen. We work hard to secure donations and partnerships through word of mouth and social media to serve our clients. That is why I am so thankful to all of our partners who continue to support us. So many men are securing employment and confidence because of our donors.
- How receptive were others when you decided to take on this venture?
So many people were very pleased to hear our mission when we first started; they just wondered how we would pull it off. The reason they were happy is because it is a needed resource that is helping so many men get work and support their families. However, with any good venture there will always be naysayers, but I tend to tune them out and focus on the positive individuals who really matter.
- Tell us a little about your upbringing.
I was so privileged to have both parents in my household growing up. I can’t tell you how fortunate and blessed I am to say that. So many of my friends unfortunately did not have that foundation. I think that has made such a tremendous impact on my thinking and beliefs. While we had some challenges, just having them both taught me life lessons that will never be forgotten. It stresses the importance to me of being a great father to my 2 boys.
Also growing up in Brooklyn, NY and being a black male was not easy. Several of my childhood friends were either killed or incarcerated. That is why I am so passionate about helping young men today, because I know firsthand the challenges they face.
- How would you describe your swagger? What makes Gerard, Gerard?
I would say my best qualities are intangibles. I never let pressure get to me. No matter the challenges or difficulties I don’t over react. That is something my faith has taught me. I believe I have that inner strength that helps me to get through the toughest of times. That characteristic really assisted me in all areas of my life as well, whether it is being a husband, father, entrepreneur, etc. Also I am a very passionate person and people can see that by the effort I put into things. I don’t like to just talk about something, but I like to provide answers or solutions and get to work on it. And lastly, I think I wear a suit pretty well. LOL!
- What’s one thing you think we need to work on improving in the Black community and why?
The one thing I would say is our ability to communicate with each other and to build solid relationships. I believe the black community for so long has had a lack of trust of one another. That is why it is hard for some blacks to buy or support from other black businesses. If I don’t trust you then, I will not buy from you, I don’t want to live by you, and I won’t hire you. Communication is key to destroying this obstacle and then begin to network and build serious and strong relationships with one another. I am a strong proponent of supporting and networking with other black businesses because I know the challenges they face. They say it is lonely at the top, but I believe it is lonely because sometimes we don’t try to bring others with us while we are going up.
- Please share a message for our brothers. (something positive and motivational)
My message is that our potential is limitless. So often we look to other races or people in general to save us or to provide solutions to the challenges we face. When in fact we have the ability ourselves to control our destiny. We have the ability to start business, be owners, to be awesome leaders. There is nothing second class about us. A bad start does not mean a bad life; it just means that you have to work hard and be persistent in obtaining your success. Also never be afraid to partner with other brothers and build a solid team. We can do more together than we can alone.
- Who do you predict going to the Super Bowl and why?
Every year I predict the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the Super Bowl. Growing up a Steeler fan makes that choice easy. BLACK AND YELLOW!!!
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