Why this Toronto entrepreneur wants to level the playing field for youth

Phillip McPherson is a Toronto-based entrepreneur whose latest venture, Young & Gifted, has him looking to uplift and boost career opportunities for racialized youth.
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On a cool autumn evening, Phillip McPherson sits at a neighbourhood park with his girlfriend and young daughter, plotting and setting his sights on building a better future.

“When she came, man, my mind was just in a different zone — grind, grind, grind, build, build, build, because God forbid something happens to me, I want to make sure she’s well (taken care of),” he says.

McPherson, known to many as Philly, is a Toronto-based entrepreneur whose latest venture has him looking to uplift and boost career opportunities for racialized and marginalized youth. Through his company, On Point Entertainment, his aim is to start a mentorship program called, Young & Gifted, that connects Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) youth with industry leaders and executives. The program would be geared toward youth between 15 to 18 years old. It would help them find their passion or areas of interests that they could potentially pursue in post-secondary school and connect them with people in that field.

McPherson has teamed up with several other entrepreneurs and creatives to bring this program to fruition, including his older brother Duane McPherson of Chosen Athletics, Dushane Farrier of Powered by Fitness, Matthew Phillips of Progressive Minds apparel and MikeyTheArtist

“I feel like a lot of the times we just get snubbed from a lot of the positions because most cases it’s not what you know, but who you know,” McPherson says. “Without [the youth] being connected to those people they can’t get into those establishments. We’re able to really bridge that gap.”

The program builds off work McPherson is already doing, as he has mentored many young people in the community. McPherson says his parents instilled in him an understanding of love for not only his family but also his community and for giving back.

“My mom always told me if you’re able to help and someone needs the help then help them. I know when I was coming up and seeing certain kids not have … someone they could really talk to, to help them through certain things was a major thing for me,” he explains.

McPherson’s strong sense of family and community values is actually what inspires some of the young people he works with most.

“He’s the type of person who knows and values what’s important. He’s always been able to delegate and manage both his business and family, never forgetting the responsibility he holds to both and that’s something I respect,” says Jeliah, 24. “The principles he’s portrayed, have been something I’ve held with me to this day because family is very dear to me.”

The most important thing Philly has taught me is to always give back because karma is a real thing. The more good you do, is the good you get back.

Malik Lue Mitchell

Ian Gloria, a 16-year-old graphic designer, says meeting McPherson has helped him in so many ways.

“Having him as my manager/mentor is truly a blessing,” Gloria says. “He has guided and educated me on having the knowledge I need to know in the business. I appreciate people like him because they help others get opportunities to grow. Finding someone willing to give you free game is priceless. I’m forever grateful for everything he has helped me with.”

Malik Lue Mitchell, 23, says that when he moved back from the United States after attending university, McPherson took him under his wing. He considers McPherson a mentor, friend and like a brother.

“I found my passion, which is the music management. He has taught me how to conduct myself and how to always bring something to the table that other peers can’t. The most important thing Philly has taught me is to always give back because karma is a real thing. The more good you do, is the good you get back. With Philly it’s never about the money, it’s about how good and real of a person you are.”

At certain times life can be very discouraging or hard on you, so if you don’t have that constant reminder or push to do good then you can have doubts about what you can do.

Phillip McPherson

Phil describes himself as someone who wants to be able to leave a “positive mark on people’s lives by giving them positive energy and positive vibes.” He got an early start on this mission in high school. Back in 2007 during a Grade 12 marketing class assignment, McPherson and a couple of his classmates came up with an idea to start an entertainment company, On Point Entertainment. The company would go on to host a series of all ages parties over the next few years with each event growing OPE’s reputation and following. The idea was simple: host parties in a safe environment for people around their age. The events ended up having upwards of 400 to 500 people attend and the momentum grew from there.

In the late 2000s into the start of the 2010s, Toronto was beginning to boom as an entertainment hub. The music scene was just on the verge of taking off and the city’s nightlife was bustling. OPE was in the middle of building a company that was providing good vibes and good energy for everyone. The company began to create a line of clothing that would not only be stylish but have a positive message — like ‘Stay On Point’ for example — to it as well.

“We wanted to push and have more motivational pieces, just to uplift people our age or anyone we interacted with. At certain times life can be very discouraging or hard on you, so if you don’t have that constant reminder or push to do good then you can have doubts about what you can do,” McPherson explains.

From the clothing line to the events, OPE would go on to create not only a following but also a long-lasting legacy in Toronto. McPherson himself would leverage his connections with people in the entertainment industry to manage a few artists, most notably rap duo A-Game and singer/rapper Notifi. His time spent working with artists allowed him to fine tune his management and marketing skills. This led to himself, his friend and mentor DJ Charlie B, and other business partners launching a record label called Beezee coming in 2021.

McPherson was also able to use his connections and strong relationships to land a partnership with a popular Toronto-area tattoo shop. In 2017, one of his closest mentors, Shawn Forrester, opened RockStar Tattoo Parlour, but sadly Forrester passed away later that year. When Shawn’s brother Sheldon took over the shop later that year, McPherson began to assist with the marketing and advertising.

“We’re pretty much like family. They are pretty much my older homies; they taught me a lot when I was coming up. Actually, one of my first jobs or hustles was selling airbrush shirts at the time,” McPherson explains, adding, “When those were popping in the early 2000s Shawn was the one who was painting those in his house and then I’d take them to school and sell them and we’d break down the money.”

So, from selling T-shirts and managing artists to providing marketing and advertising services for businesses, McPherson truly embodies what it means to be an entrepreneur. None of these ventures were without obstacles and barriers though. During the early days, working as a promoter McPherson and his business partners faced discrimination when it came to pricing for venues, sometimes being charged $500 more than other promoters to use the same venue. These unfair business practices are the same obstacles facing the youth that he wants to reach through the Young & Gifted program.

I feel like this is something (where) we need to hit the pavement again and build a hub where the kids can come and feel safe and actually learn.

Phillip McPherson

With an increased focused on social and racial justice the Young & Gifted program would offer support to youth at a critical junction in their lives. The connection to industry leaders and those holding power and influence can really go a long way to help marginalized young people.

“In 2020 everything should be fair game. If I’m qualified for the position and the position is open, I should be able to get it. I shouldn’t not get the position because I’m Black, or Hispanic, or I come from this neighbourhood, or I got arrested when I was 16 — everyone makes mistakes,” McPherson says.

A lot of people have been showing support for movements like Black Lives Matter on social media or posting comments online calling for social change. For McPherson, his approach is more hands on as he seeks systemic change.

“The way we built On Point was really by hitting the pavement and being out. We were at the malls all the time with CDs, flyers, T-shirts, whatever. So, I feel like this is something (where) we need to hit the pavement again and build a hub where the kids can come and feel safe and actually learn,” McPherson says.

With Toronto, along with the world, still going through the COVID-19 pandemic, solidifying funding and resources has been tough. Right now, McPherson and his partners are holding discussions with community leaders and other stakeholders as they seek to bring the Young & Gifted program to life in 2021. But if his past ventures are any indication, very little will stop Phillip McPherson from reaching his goal of getting this program off the ground.

Photo credits: Main photo by Curtis Huynh @ Rockstar Tattoo Parlour (Pickering, Ontario) and second photo by Anil M.

All photos supplied courtesy of On Point Entertainment

Editor’s note: Phillip McPherson was formerly Promotions Lead for Urbanology Magazine.

Patrick Dennis Jr., also known as PDJ, is a product of the era of limitless potential. Born and raised in Toronto, his diverse interests and talents are reflections of his city’s exposure to all things eclectic and new. Graduating with a degree in media studies from Toronto’s University of Guelph-Humber, Patrick brings with him skills vital to content creators in today’s digital era. A communications and public relations specialist, freelance writer, consultant, event host, podcast creator, broadcaster, and online journalist, he represents a new generation of versatile media professionals capable of doing it all.

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