RapidChat: Toresa M. Blakely

From homelessness to entrepreneurial bliss, Toresa M. Blakely (A.K.A. "Coach TMB") is a truly inspirational community figure.  As the founder of the media and empowerment platform, In Life Now Enterprises, she proves that regardless of your circumstance, faith and a kind heart can get you far.
From homelessness to entrepreneurial bliss, Toresa M. Blakely (A.K.A. "Coach TMB") is a truly inspirational community figure.  As the founder of the media and empowerment platform, In Life Now Enterprises, she proves that regardless of your circumstance, faith and a kind heart can get you far.
Rapid Growth: Coming up this July, you will be celebrating your fifth anniversary with In Life Now Enterprises. How exciting is that?
Toresa M. Blakely: I can’t believe it's been five years already. It just seems like it was yesterday that I had the idea to do something. Here it is now… and I’m all in. I wouldn’t trade my journey for the world. It’s the most liberating feeling.
RG: Is ILN a one-woman team?
TB: Yes. I am an entrepreneur, so that’s a lot of work in itself. You’re constantly putting your face out there, because you are your brand, and people are the biggest part in that. You need to establish a relationship with people before anything else. They are a big part of what I do, and I treasure that. The social capital piece is huge.
RG: What have been some of the most exciting parts of your adventure with ILN?
TM: When we initially started the radio show, I had no idea how that operated. There were a couple of key people within the city that sat down with me and gave me some words of wisdom – they said go for it, which was exhilarating.
Another rewarding moment – there are so many of them – but to pin point one of them, it was last December we had our four-year anniversary. It was hosted at From the Heart of Yoga and Tai Chi Center on Wealthy. Media personalities such as Lisa LaPlante and Shelley Irwin were there. It was a really nice event. The atmosphere was full of love. Everyone just came to support what in life was doing, and it was very humbling.
RG: Are you involved in any community boards or events?
TB:  Yes. Mostly things that are city related. My husband ran for 3rd Ward City Commissioner, so there are things in the city we are both passionate about. But even more so, homelessness is one of the topics I am extremely passionate about, since I am one of the faces of homelessness in Grand Rapids. It’s eye opening to be on the other side of things.
I want to challenge people to change their thinking. They don’t know what God, the high power, has in store for them. Even if their current experience or situation is not the greatest. If I hadn’t been a fighter, or had faith that my situation was going to turn around… or even If I didn’t have individuals that smiled at me, or treated me a certain way with kindness, I might not be where I am today.
Beyond that, I serve on some boards on the city. I’ve had people reach out to me to be involved in more– which has been absolutely amazing for me that people would look at me as this leader. Honestly, I don’t do what I do to get attention; I just have a heart for people. I want to help people and I want to inspire people the way I am wired to do it. If I am able to reach out by a word, or a deed - if I can pull them out of that dark place they are in because of that… that’s what I am passionate about and live for.
RG:  How did you keep your holding your head up high during this dark time in your life?
TB: Well, going through homelessness, it’s one thing if it only effects you. But if it's you, and your family, that weight is unbearable. “Where are you going to lay your head tonight?” “Where is my next dollar going to come from?” I have a family. I have kids that I need to feed and take care of. That is all you are ever thinking about.
We were blessed to be welcomed by a few shelters, but they only allowed 30 days. Eventually moved into a hotel, and I starting working, but I was only making enough to pay for the hotel room. The feelings of hopelessness, despair, and feeling like giving up, was just overwhelming. But even in the midst of all of that, there was still an element of fight in me. I told myself, “I’m not going to give up. There is more to my life than what this experience is showing me.” I had to take it day by day. God would not let me walk around 'all woe is me.' You wouldn’t have known. But everyone can’t do that, and I get that. Which is why I have such a soft spot for people who have been pushed aside, because I’ve been there. You can’t treat people like that. You don’t know what God has put them up to, and I say that from a more spiritual perspective.
There were certain individuals that reached out to me and smiled at me. They didn’t look down upon me, and gave me some encouragement. There was some light coming through at a dark time. I could lie and say it was easy, but it wasn’t. It was extremely hard. But I couldn’t give up.
RG: What was the turning point in your life of getting out of that dark place?
TB: My husband (he is now retired), used to be a fighter, and in one of the boxing matches he participated in, he won the prize money and he got us out. It was enough money for us to get an apartment, where we could finally start living. At the same time, I was still working at the Duthler’s on Madison Avenue, which at the time it was Family Fare. I was a part of the start up crew. But since I’m a go-getter, I worked my way up.
RG: So your husband has had a pretty positive impact on your life, hasn’t he?
TB: Absolutely. I love him so much, and I am so blessed. My husband is the ultimate supporter of me and everything I do. He is the analytical one and I love my ideas. When I wanted to start the business and radio program, I gave my husband a presentation of my idea. As soon as I got done, he told me, “I like it. You should go for it.” He has been my number one supporter ever since. He makes himself available for any questions or needs I have. I would not be where I am today without Bryan M. Blakely Sr.
RG: How do you keep such a positive attitude?
TM: I workout every day. I do at least five days a week. That is a part of my daily routine. That is what keeps me grounded. It’s a stress reliever. There is nothing like that feeling when you get done.  Get up and get moving!
RG: Lastly, how do balance it all?
TM: I’ve learned to say no and I do not over commit. Listen to your inner voice – that is your true guide. I read a lot. My inner voice will guide me and give me directions. It lets me know when to pull back and go on. I pray and I meditate. You need to make sure to take breaks.

Jenna Morton is the RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.
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