August is Black Business Month, when we recognize the importance and contributions of Black-owned businesses throughout our communities. To help celebrate, we’re introducing you to Alice “Ma” Harper – an entrepreneur whose restaurant has been giving second chances to those who need it most for 25 years.
Ma Harper is a 91-year-old woman who grew up in New Orleans as the second oldest of 16 siblings. “I always felt that I was working in a restaurant feeding that amount of siblings,” admits Ma. “And the desire grew. And even all the jobs I had, I never put my dream away.”
Ma’s dream eventually turned into one of the most successful Creole restaurants in Texas, leading her to make local and national headlines. Not only is Ma a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen – she’s a woman full of wisdom, and she’s got three life lessons we can all use to cook up a life well-lived.
According to Ma, living a fulfilling life starts with love. “The word love – it’s a four-letter word, but it’s an action; it’s doing,” she explains. “I can say I love you, yet do nothing – I don’t love.”
By cooking good food, Ma shows love for her customers in every meal. “I love cooking,” she effuses. “I love people and I love to see people happy. And the way to anybody is through the stomach; give them a good meal and they’ll do whatever you want them to do.”
Next, Ma serves up second chances as an opportunity to give back. She hires people who’ve served jail time and says it’s an opportunity for them to better their future, plus a reminder that mistakes can be forgiven. “All mistakes are not done purposely,” insists Ma. “I never make them think that they’re the only one who’s made a mistake. The only thing about that – you make a mistake don’t repeat it.”
Along the way, many of the restaurateur’s seconds chances have become inspiring transformations. “I have a young lady,” describes Ma. “Well, I have several of them – that made mistakes that has gone on to a new life nursing, and the other one has a business.”
Never Give Up
Her last lesson? Never give up – even though it’s easy to do so when things get tough. “I would tell anybody in any walk of life, follow your dream,” Ma urges. “Keep your dream alive. Grab a dream, keep the dream, bother the dream, but love your dreams – and I love mine.”
Feeling inspired yet? Now you’ve got three nuggets of wisdom to live by during Black Business Month and any time of the year!
Originally written by Rossi Ramirez from The List.