Why she’s interesting: Shareef was a Cleveland State University graduate student in 2013 when she met a homeless veteran who changed her life. His story of the trauma of war and his struggle to integrate back into society inspired Shareef to start a business to help others like him. Today, Inspiring Lives Forever Transportation provides transport to around 250 disadvantaged individuals and veterans per day throughout Ohio.
Spare Change: Before that fateful conversation, Shareef had never made a point of talking to homeless individuals. “I was just like any other person. I either gave them money, or tried to avoid and walk around them.” She’s still not sure what inspired her to ask the man about his story that day, but now Shareef makes it a point to talk to every homeless person she sees.
Popular Mechanics: Shareef decided to start Inspiring Lives Forever Transportation when she realized how hard it was for veterans to get to their various appointments. Although Shareef had to learn all the logistics of running a transportation company, the actual mechanics of the vehicles was something she was already familiar with. “My dad was a mechanic. He taught me a lot about how to properly take care of vehicles. I have no fear of getting down, getting dirty and getting it done.”
Honest Talk: Shareef doesn’t agree with policymakers who advise against giving homeless individuals assistance. “If someone asks for change and I have it and it’s going to help them in some way, I’m more than happy to give it.” But the transaction doesn’t end there. “I always ask them: ‘What are you going to spend it on?’ Some people tell me, ‘I’m going to get me some beer.’ I don’t mind. They’re being honest. I can live with the honesty. I like that better.”
Second Chance: Shareef employs 16 people currently — many of whom are former veterans. “They are not looking for pity. They are looking for you to understand where they’re coming from and how they got there.”
School Break: In order to focus on her business, Shareef had to drop out of her graduate program in nonprofit administration and leadership. But the unfinished degree really gnaws at her. “I’m hoping to go back and finish up my master’s next year.”
Interesting Fact: 25: The number of satellite offices Shareef plans to open in the next five years.