From left to right: Isaac Yowman (IYO Agency CEO), Ashworth Barnes (713 Motoring CEO), DeShawn Scott (Student), Marquis Harris (Student), William Lewis (Student), TreVon Demas (Student), Slim Thug. Photo: IYO Agency

Houston automotive customizations shop 713 Motoring is partnering with GM Motors and Film/Creative Company IYO Agency to create a vocational program for inner-city youth to experience the automotive industry.

For six months, the Automotive Customization Skills Trade Program provided six young men ages of 17 to 19 an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the industry and participate in hands-on training to restore a vintage Box Chevy. It is their first time launching the pilot program in Houston.

“Originally the idea stemmed from the [Houston non-profit] Eight Million Stories organization that already was doing similar work, so we thought it would be a good idea to document the experiences of these young men doing something with cars,” said Isaac Yowman, CEO of IYO Agency. “We weren’t sure where this idea would take us, but this ended up being something that uplifted these men who are going through many adversities.”

Yowman said the program helped those who were in legal trouble and was an opportunity to potentially save their lives and their freedom.

“College was something I felt I should have done because no one in my family has gone to college, and I wanted to break that generational chain so finishing high school for me was a big deal, said William Lewis, a program participant. “I didn’t see a reason of going to college if I didn’t know what to do but this program helped give me clarity. 

Lewis graduated high school in 2021 and took business courses at Lone Star College. By the time he finished the Automotive Customization Skills Trade Program, he saw different avenues of entrepreneurship. 

“This experienced showed me that one day I can own my own business,” he said. “There is a lot of different stuff like if we don’t want to be hands on there is always another way to work in the trade without being physical.”

A detailed curriculum was created based on automotive customization stages. Sessions ranging from body work to tire installations were led by experts. 

“Within our community, a lot of Black men aren’t taught that trade work, whether it be a plumber, painter, or carpenter could be profitable, said Ashworth Barnes, CEO of 713 Motoring. “Our main goal is to help them see a different path and make decent money doing it.”

Last month, 713 Motoring celebrated its 20-year anniversary and Barnes’ 40th birthday during a special night honoring the young men with a certificate of completion and the official reveal of the vintage box Chevy at the Astorian.

Notable figures at the event included Houston rap icon Slim Thug, actor Kendrick Sampson of HBO’s “Insecure,” chef Don Bowie of local restaurant Rare and Marvin Pierre, co-founder of Eight Million Stories.

713 Motoring was presented with a $10,000 check from IYO Agency and GM Motors to further its philanthropic efforts and business.

“There is an actual full film coming out that documents the journey of these youth in the program,” said Yowman. “The film will be set to drop later this year.”

Laura Onyeneho

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...