TELLING STORIES, CHANGING THE CONVERSATION

For Hawwa Muhammad, good works organizations are the lifeblood of communities: She makes sure that they thrive

in Career & Retirement by

For many non-profits, completing projects or navigating solutions with a sustainable model are the heart of growth. This is where the non-profit whisperer, Hawwa Muhammaed comes in.

When you see Hawwa Muhammad walking on any given day, you will probably catch a zippy glimpse because she is moving with an almost fleet-footed gait.

Head straight and eyes set on a destination, Muhammad is hyper-focused to make it to her New York gig, a community class by her house, her side-business at home or to a volunteer opportunity in the area.

Her stare shows that she is thinking of a million things in a nanosecond and has a week to finish each project.

When it comes to social entrepreneurship, even in the midst of a full-sprint to somewhere, she pauses to pay attention to the details. Her DNA was coded with service. Because of a career centered in helping communities and non-profits grow, she wants organizations to run effectively so that they can do the work that matters.

“There are a lot of non-profits with great intentions, but often are not able to complete the work that they are set out to do,” said Muhammad. “For an organization to invoke positive social change, there has to be an infrastructure or some type of system in place that is designed to complete their goals.”

Non Profit Boom or Bust

Growing up in Newark and starting her career there, she saw many nonprofits come-and-go. Muhammad began interning of a non-profit when US Senator Cory Booker was mayor. During his tenure, the non-profit sector boomed. Now, many of them are defunct or barely operational.

US Senator Cory Booker

Muhammad said in reflection, “From the work that I do, I was able to study the processes and systems of community development and government – from red tape to ground breaking events. Many [Newark non-profits] simply were not equipped with a business strategy. And there were many that had good people who did great things, but needed more structure to grow and sustain.”

To address the non-profit-boom-to-bust that she witnessed in Newark, Muhammad launched, Pink Trumpet, a consulting firm that helps to retool how nonprofits, businesses, and people achieve better results for underserved communities.

No means a different way to say yes in Muhammad’s world. She is an expert in strengthening the structures of businesses and organizations then pairing them with partners in which the work and services of each help achieve their mission.

“I do a lot of the work that social entrepreneurs may not like to do or want to do in the start up phases of their projects or at a point where they hit a bump in their organization,” said Muhammad.

“Although they perform work that is service, to run an organization is running a business. That is the part that they need to think through. This is where I come in. Often I ask questions about each step or how a program runs so that they know every step. I do the un-fun work so that they can do their work and still be passionate about it.”

Change Gonna Come

Newark is one of several dozen major cities experiencing redevelopment. Panasonic and Prudential Center insurance set their headquarters in the area, as well as Audible. Currently, the city is on the shortlist for Amazon’s second headquarters.

Downtown Newark, Nj

However, most residents are working class or lower middle-class black and brown people who must navigate a precarious economy. But this is where Muhammad, who is soft spoken and quite reserved, developed her strength.

“If it were not for my upbringing in Newark, I am not not sure that I would have acquired the ability to learn how to fight. I had to learn how to be vigilante so that I could be resilient,” she declared emphatically.

Read how the City of Newark implements an inclusionary zone policy for housing

Muhammad, a member of the Hausa ethnic group in Kano State, Nigeria, immigrated to the United States when she was toddler with her parents.

“My parents made sure to shelter me about the usual stories that we grew up on in Newark, but I wanted to gain experience to know where I wanted to go, and my next steps. I also wanted to change some of the things I saw,” she said. “I had a friend that told me that change has to start locally. She said, ‘You want to make that happen locally before going out to the broader world and make change.’”

Muhammad started in Newark, and remained because for her, there is much to do. Beginning to do work in Kano, to help women enterprise themselves, Muhammad travels to Nigeria in her tight schedule. For the three-time entrepreneur, it is part of the grind, and most importantly, part of her passion. So, she decided that her gray hairs would come through social activism.

“There must be people who fight and speak up for the youth and community; especially the youth. But the organizations have got to be around to do so. That’s where I come in.”

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