28-year-old Jacob “Jay” Rayford is the epitome of a social entrepreneur, creating businesses not solely focused on the bottom line, but that impacts his community. To say his passion is infectious would be an understatement. If you take a few moments to stalk him on various social networks, you’ll understand how invested he is in promoting positivity within Detroit.
Growing up in Detroit, Jay attended Frank Cody High School, graduating in 2001. He then went on to study at Wayne County Community College, Davenport University, and Full Sail University. He was also gone about four years before he came back to Detroit, exploring other states like Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania.
He was set up with an internship with GM, while only a Junior in High School. Ironically, not having a car, Jay was forced to take the only other possible means of transportation: the city bus. “I would have to leave my house by 5:00 am just to make it to work by 8:00 am.” His positive spirit was alive with determination even at such a young age. He was also part of the National Vocational Technical Honor Society (NVTHS). Being a part of that got him the City of Detroit award, while still a High School student.
Everything he did in vocational school set up him up for a lucrative career in engineering, which he pursued for a short while, before deciding to make his mark on Detroit even larger and giving back to the community that shaped who he is today. Even though he has his engineering career to fall back on, he doesn’t see himself in those shoes again. He wants to make a direct impact on Detroit, and engineering just isn’t in the cards.
Jay’s not satisfied with going through the motions. Fear doesn’t control his actions, hope does. He’s experienced enough of life’s sick jokes to understand that even a sure thing can fall apart. He understands that taking risks is beneficial to leading a successful and happy life, and he will stop at nothing to spread his message. “I’m not saying I want my name in lights or anything like that. I just want to be, you know what I mean, I want to be a part of something that’s bigger than me.”
He loves to let people know what’s happening in Detroit. Being part of something bigger than himself is part of what drives Jay forward in both his life and in his quest to unite all of the forces of good in Detroit. He created a movement called “Social Sushi” which acts as a social hub for all of the circles and efforts that are working on making Detroit all that it can be. He recognizes all of the separate efforts in the city and unites them with their common love of Detroit and sushi. Follow the conversation on Twitter using #SocialSushi, or simply search “Social Sushi” on Facebook to be connected with the group and to find out when it’s happening next!
Another interesting effort that Jay is working on is his Community Loyalty card. It’s essentially a punch card that Detroiters carry around with them to participating local businesses, ending up in deals and discounts. He feels that the deep discount sites end up hurting local businesses, and that this is a way to keep things at a completely local level and any money saved or spent goes directly back into the community, instead of a corporation’s pocket that’s not even based in Detroit. “It’s a way for us to reward citizens for supporting local places.” When asked about the possibility of a mobile app, he was open to the suggestion but when it comes down to it the punch card is the only way everyone can be involved, since not everyone has a smart phone yet.
Finally, his biggest project and business, Rep Your City is a site geared toward giving back to your community using his five point system of Community, Talent, Business, Youth, and Opportunity. His goal is to have it be the home for everything that best represents your city. His hope is that it will increasingly promote local talent, businesses, and organizations. You can check it out at RepYourCity.com!
Jay Rayford’s relentless optimism is inspiring. It’s no wonder he’s been asked to speak in front of students and adults alike. After a conversation with him, you feel like you could take on the world! Keep an eye out for this guy. He’s making more than waves in Detroit—he’s making a tsunami. – Natasha Guimond