ST. LOUIS — North St. Louis entrepreneur Shawn Walker is very open about his past.
“All I saw was darkness," he said. "All I so was trouble and death and funerals and court sentencings for my peers.”
He was also up to bad things himself.
“I wasn’t necessarily a gang member. I was more of the pharmaceutical side of street activity,” he said.
He grew up in a single-parent household, which he believes did not help in keeping him on the right track.
“I didn’t have a father to give me that direction. It may have been ignorant but who is going to say it’s ignorant if you don’t know it’s ignorant,” he explained.
Walker eventually found his way, and in 2008 he used his street knowledge to start his business. He now designs and builds tricked-out bikes for his own business: Candy Shop Custum Bikes. The glitzy rides range in price from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.
“They’re really like luxury low-rider bikes. They’re all handmade. These are handmade items,” he said.
No detail is overlooked. There are exotic seats. There is gold on the pedals, handlebars, chain and on the 144-spoke wheels. The bike frames are painted in vibrant colors.
“It’s not just a nice bike. It’s art,” Walker said.
Walker says his bikes have appeared in music videos, album covers and fashion runways.
But while his products have gained nationwide attention, he hasn’t forgotten about his roots in north St Louis. He's hoping to help others avoid the pitfalls of his life.
“It’s a fight against a mentality. It’s an ideology that tells our youth in our community that the only thing you can do is be a trapper or a rapper or a dope boy or a gang member," he said. "You don’t pick necessarily where your mom or father live or where you grow up and these events that take place in your neighborhood don’t necessarily define you.”
He believes teaching self-worth can help bring about change.
“As a youth, you don’t see the value in yourself. You don’t know your potential,” he said.
Walker is proud that he has been able to recognize his potential.
“It brings a different empowerment to me in particular as a Black man in America. It feels good,” he explained.
Walker wants his journey to be an example of what is possible no matter a person’s background.
“That’s what I want to show the world. I came from a thunderstorm. What motivates me seriously is seeing just how far God brought me and the mess he brought me from,” he said.
Walker also believes love can help in transforming the lives he hopes to touch.
“Most of our youth just need a hug and tell them that they’re loved. Embrace our neighborhood and our community. Tell them hey I came from here I love you,” he said.
If you would like to learn more about Walker’s efforts and his bikes, click here.