We had the good fortune of connecting with Mel Alston and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Mel, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
It started back in 2016, while I sustained a back to back work injury that kept me out of work for over a year. If anybody knows anything about work injuries, worker’s comp and state govt jobs, it becomes a uphill battle to receive compensation. During that time, the bills didn’t stop coming in and I had a friend who proposed that I take my cooking skills and turn them into a business to pay my bills. The initial thought process was just having means to survive through my situation. However, by 2019, the business had developed an organic clientele base and was steadily growing. As the business evolved and saw success through the years, the thought process has been to grow and scale the business to create and provide jobs and opportunities for young people in our community.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Since 2009, I have actively worked with young people in my community. Most of them come from impoverished backgrounds and are faced with immeasurable odds stacked against them on a daily basis. I began working with this particular community at both alternative high schools and middle schools in Washington D.C. “In 2011, I left the DC Public School system and starting working in MD with a government agency that works with young people who come in contact with the judicial system.”

In this career field, there isn’t a vast majority whose life’s work is about helping, influencing, and reaching the young people who come from that background and who more times than not, have made contact with the judicial system. Sadly, there is a majority who are there to perform their job duties enough to get paid and not fired. What sets me apart from others is that in this career field, I have dedicated this to becoming my life’s work at a young age. I never saw myself in this field, never had any inclination growing up to have any interest in it. However, discovering that I am naturally gifted in this field and connecting with young people, I found and saw purpose. I saw the effects of showing up in this space – authentically, and the positive effects and impact it can have on a young person’s life. When you find your purpose, life constantly affirms it and never lets you stray too far from it. I can’t think of a better purpose to aspire to inspire the younger generations, and to help them navigate and circumvent life lessons and pitfalls you have already learned.

Getting where I am today in my career wasn’t hard but it wasn’t easy. Being one of the youngest in my field at the time and being blessed to not look my age, created a few challenges. Older staff didn’t like my new and youthful approach to reaching the youth, or thought I was too young to have the influence that I had with the youth. You have to make a choice to either fall in line with a system that was outdated or choose to remain authentic to self no matter what obstacles lie ahead. I chose the latter and my choice was constantly and continues being reaffirmed through the letters youth wrote, their parents showing their gratitude for being there and working with their children, seeing the youth in the community and the joy and proudness they have to update me on what is going on in their life – (new job, off probation, better relationship with family, playing sports, passing grades at school, having their own children), through coworkers telling me that I’m gifted in this field, with one even joking “you know if you had your own program, I would come work for you!” Those constant affirmations and the lack of rehabilitation I saw in this field led me to in fact create my own program which is currently a work in progress now.

I’ve learned many lessons along the way. A few are: surround yourself with a knowledgeable mentor, never be afraid to ask questions and challenge yourself, stay away from the politics and gossip/drama, network and then go network some more, and remain authentic and true to self. The biggest lesson in this field is to come with no games or gimmicks when attempting to reach this population of young people. They go through and have been through things that most adults have never had to deal with in their lifetime. They know when your intentions are counterfeit, they know when you are there only for a check or any nefarious motives.

What would I want the world to know about myself, my brand and story is that we are just getting started. We are building the REBEL system. R.E.B.E.L stands for Relinquishing Erratic Behavior Enhancing Life. The Cosmicality. brand is the one of many that will come from the REBEL system. A system built exclusively for our young people who come from these backgrounds. A system that aims to prevent, reduce and combat juvenile recidivism. A system that will help youth achieve their goals and aspirations through resources, jobs, advocating, opportunities, and mentorship. A system that will aid our community in creating generational wealth, and breaking generational curses.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We have the best brunch and day parties in the country so we will definitely have to start there. Park @ 14th, Sequoia’s, Ozio’s are just a few to name.

For nightlife, we would have to tap in with our local promoters like YoungToon or IBetItBuzz who holds events at places like Mirrors, St. Yves, Barcode, Sax Lounge, Rosebar, Brooklyn, Opera. There are a lot of good promoters in the area, you just have to find your niche and follow.

MGM, Georgetown, H st, Ust, and The Wharf area are a few good places to check out your bars, hookah lounges, and good eateries. The pandemic closed some of our favorite spots but also opened the opportunity to patron new businesses.

From brunch/day parties to nightlife to bar crawls to good eats to music festivals and concerts, there is always something new to check out and discover and you will always run into interesting and exciting people.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would have to first shoutout every client and member of Cosmicality. because through the years, no matter what they have consistently shown their support through purchases, promoting the business through word of mouth, hearing and seeing the reviews and story of their experiences.

Second, I have to shoutout Monet Wright who is our Creative Marketing Director. Through this pandemic, Monet has been right there through it all helping us navigate our way through it all. From being a listening ear, to a sounding board to bounce ideas of off, even when the idea has no shot of landing – haha!, her humor and words makes you feel secure to take risks to help this business succeed.

Lastly but always first for me, I have to shoutout my son Melrose. Through it all that comes with the entrepreneur lifestyle, the ups and downs, good and bad, he remains the constant reason, motivation, and source of strength to push through no matter what. I am intent on creating generational wealth and breaking generational curses. He remains the checkpoint to ensuring I focused, motivated and stay on the right path to accomplish these goals.

Instagram: _cosmicality._

Facebook: Mel Alston

Image Credits
Picture of myself photo credit: Imagine That Studios Picture of cocktail photo credit: Ena Rochelle Photography All food pictures photo credit: myself

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