Meet Jackie Shapiro Brooker- the founder of ‘Off The Grid Greenville’, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping small businesses in Greenville, South Carolina.
It’s not very common to come across an NGO that focuses on food, drinks and lifestyle choices of people and help them grow brand awareness- but Jacqueline has been able to do just that. Growing up in Miami Beach with a diverse group of eclectic people who were passionate about what they believed in, she mostly found herself surrounded by interesting people with wide-ranging ideas, styles, and backgrounds. However, life didn’t prove to be as smooth as an adult as it had been since childhood.
In 2008, she found herself struggling with a physical disability from a car crash, a newborn baby and a marriage that was on the rocks. The desperate need to find herself a community of people that would understand her situation and take care of her made her shift from Florida to Greenville, South Carolina. As a Jew from Miami, new to the deep South, she initially feared that she would not find a like-minded community. Even though it didn’t take long before she found friends, but she was also quick to notice the ‘need’ for space for people to connect. When she wasn’t busy with the baby, she spent her days exploring and expressing herself through boxed assemblage and folk art pieces.
Fast forward to five years later, she was living in downtown Greenville, showing art and learning to love where she lived during which she fell in love with John, a local photographer- “He encouraged me to push myself creatively and pursue my dreams of photography. With his support, I started food and prop styling for commercial photography. With time, I realised being on shoots is where I belong as it filled my cup. So after dating for three years, we threw which might have been the most diverse wedding Greenville had ever seen!” she says.
Immediately after her wedding, Brooker put her money where her mouth was and this is how she started her own business. She named it Off The Grid Greenville, a non-profit 501(c)3 organisation that is dedicated to helping small businesses in the Upstate of South Carolina achieve brand awareness through marketing assistance and educational programs. According to her, her only motive was to represent the underrepresented through her efforts and skills.
The well-reception of Off The Grid Greenville by the community has been an absolute blessing for her. Their website proves to be a resource for people who are looking to learn more about where to spend their time in Greenville and what to do when they are there. In this way, advocating for small businesses not only proved fun to be for Brooker but also impactful.
Explaining the thought behind the terminology for her initiative, she says, “Off The Grid Greenville does not mean ‘no electricity’ literally. It’s a state of mind; something which is non-conformist to the average person. This idea has thrown me into the world of media and non-profit work and it’s been an amazing journey so far!” Her current challenges include helping small businesses to learn about COVID-19 precautions, with which almost each one of us struggles at the moment.
As she contemplates over her journey of experiences and hard work, she feels that we must always be open to acknowledging a need in our community and must feel encouraged to address it. Her belief that if you don’t like the way something works, you can either change the way you think about it or do something to change it. “I didn’t like that a large percentage of the population was being excluded from media coverage, so I saw an opportunity to address the need and celebrate the previously excluded communities. Having said this, I do not believe in tokenism. Each business featured meets a list of criteria that we outline on our website and this is how we have been able to earn the credibility that we enjoy today,” she says as she talks about what really worked for her.