CINCINNATI -- Joshua Reid said he doesn't remember a time when life was easy or fair. Nor does he remember a time when he was not chasing dreams.
“My mother taught me that you should take risks, but they need to be calculated," he said. "You have to have a goal and a backup plan."
Reid, 28, a Mason resident, was born and raised in a tough inner-city neighborhood in Albany, N.Y. He was raised by a single mother who juggled three part-time jobs to care for Reid and his brother, Jonathan, 22, who is now in the U.S. Air Force.
"But you should never stop dreaming because if you do, then you are not living,” Reid said as he toweled off after an intense 90-minute workout.
Physical fitness and ambition have been constants in his life, he said, and he has used them to propel his dreams forward.
Reid graduated with two degrees in electrical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis. He had a secure job at Emerson Climate Technologies in Sidney, Ohio -- that is, until he decided to switch gears.
He left it all to focus on his health and fitness business, Operation D.R.I.V.E.N., (Dreams Require Intense Vision plus Endless Navigation).
His mission: To help young people change their lives through fitness and health.
Operation DRIVEN is a small business that provides a personalized, active program that emphasizes development through health and fitness. DRIVEN works with Cincinnati Public Schools, the Cincinnati Police Department and TriHealth, through which he offers year-round services to youth and communities that focus on fitness events.
By enhancing health and fitness, Reid believes that youngsters’ social, emotional and academic wellness will improve, too; and he's so passionate about the cause because he's been there.
As a student, he won a scholarship to a prestigious private high school school, Bishop Maginn in Albany, playing football and basketball and running track. Reid said he quickly became obsessed with fitness and bodybuilding, but he couldn’t see how it could evolve into a career. So, after completing college, he went on to his engineering job, though he wasn’t happy. He wanted more.
“I toyed with the many dreams of becoming a personal trainer, a motivational speaker, even a rapper. I was searching, but I wanted to stay safe,” said Reid of his job at Emerson.
Meanwhile, his physique started gaining attention and recognition. He won bodybuilding contests, was named an International Federation of Bodybuilding Professional Athlete, became an Adidas Campaign Athlete and is currently a General Nutrition Corp. (GNC) Sponsored Professional Athlete.
When Reid saw his face on GNC billboards and posters all over the country, he began to dream even more. This time, he thought of becoming an entrepreneur.
Three years ago, Reid sat at his kitchen table and came up with a business plan. Then he started meeting with community leaders and selling it. Until four months ago, he worked both as an engineer and at his new business, until he felt confident enough to resign from the former.
“Every weekend, I am out there in the community with free events. I know I am changing, inspiring and educating our youth,” Reid said.
Even with many free events, Reid said he is confident his fledgling company, which has eight staff members, will rake in profits when the fiscal year ends. For now, he is not divulging any figures.
Ethel Cogan, who participated in one of Reid’s boot camps, says, “Everyone gets excited at his events, because his energy is just contagious.”
Operation DRIVEN has secured contracts with CPD, CPS and Tri-Health, with leaders from each organization endorsing Reid and the company.
Officer Donald L. Jordan, who has been working on youth programs for 22 years through the Cincinnati Police Department, said he enjoys watching Reid interact with kids.
“Joshua is a breath of fresh air,” Jordan said. “He has energy and this personality to connect. Every kid had a smile on his face and every kid wanted to participate.”
Susan Hules-Meadows, a retired staff member from CPS who currently works as a grant manager for Fredrick Douglass Elementary School and supervises partnerships like Reid’s, said she agrees.
“We tell our students, ‘If you can change your mind, you can change your life. But whatever your dream is, if you don’t have your health, you cannot achieve it,’" Hules-Meadows said. “Joshua’s program just fit in seamlessly with ours. I admire his passion. He is just phenomenal.”
And a mentor who helped Reid “maneuver his way through unknown territory,” Dr. Cleaster Mims, 82, an educator and a community leader, noted that “Joshua has passion. It’s that’s simple.”
Watch video of Operation DRIVEN at Frederick Douglass Elementary here: https://vimeo.com/145092944.