Rapper Jason Shoneyin didn’t like where his music career was headed, he wanted full control and to be 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 the workers provided leads to lawyers so that they could find more clients. During that time, he saw the despair the community was in and felt compelled to roll up his sleeves and help.
In response, Shoneyin, 26, launched First Class Help in Staten Island nearly a year ago. But just a few months in very few people were coming through the door. He promptly closed that location –remember his recent experiences in the Bronx — and opened a site in the South Bronx eight months ago.
Since opening his doors at 2823 Third Ave., hundreds of clients have sought assistance.
“We want people to know they can be their own boss and take control of their life,” he told the Bronx Times. “We want to change people’s mindsets.”
According to Shoneyin, he and his staff help people with everything from their job searches and resumes, to stocks and crypto investments, getting licenses, money management and unemployment, paying bills, insurance and taxes, as well as improving their credit and getting loans.
While these services are available online, since many people either don’t know how to navigate the internet or because English is not their first language, they simply need some help. “I want this company to be able to give birth to millionaires,” he said.
Shoneyin admitted that the job can be quite emotional for clients and the staff. People have cried on more than one occasion, he said, referencing a time when they helped a homeless man find an apartment. 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. They need money,” he said. “I love my hometown, but when I came to the Bronx and seen this community, I knew this is where I needed to be.”
What bothers Shoneyin, who is Black, the most, is that many people that struggle are those of color. This is part of the reason he felt compelled to help those in the South Bronx, which is 57% Hispanic and 40% Black.
Shoneyin stressed that most people want to change their financial situations, but simply do not have the tools or knowledge how to do it. When clients come to First Class it is his goal to leave them with a sense of direction. “Seeing people change their situation and add value to their lives is the most fulfilling thing in my career,” he said.
While First Class has been in the borough for less than a year, he feels it has only scratched the surface.
“People don’t know the information is out there,” he said.
Shoneyin recalled that he had never envisioned himself owning a company, but is glad he did.
“I found my purpose,” he added.
Reach Jason Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bxtimes and Facebook @bxtimes.