Karim Webb is a once-in-a-generation kind of person. Perhaps most known in the media for how he brought business back to the Crenshaw District after the Los Angeles riots of the ’90s — and thus rebuilt the community — Webb is also the founder and CEO of 4THMVMT a social equity initiative aimed at giving “access and opportunity” to marginalized communities and people of color.
4THMVMT Founder, Karim Webb
But Webb isn’t just the owner of PCF Restaurant Management and founder and CEO of 4thMVMT (super casual)… he’s also: a venture partner at OPV, a partner at Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen, Commissioner at LA World Airports, on the Board of Directors for the California Community Foundation (and a spokesperson for that organization’s initiative, BLOOM) and on the Board of Directors for Everytable and LA Southwest Foundation, as well as a Corporate Advisor for the Brotherhood Crusade, and potentially a few other things we may have missed. (*gasps for air*)
We joked with Webb that his resumé is as long as a doctoral thesis, but we were kind of serious and not joking at all. Yet for someone with so many titles, accolades, awards and achievements, his best business advice is “don’t make anything about yourself.”
The Impressionable Years
So how did this entrepreneurial renaissance man get so involved in activism? As the son of successful restaurateurs and entrepreneurs, Webb saw not just the results of hard work first-hand but learned a valuable lesson about what it means to be a good person.
“I grew up experiencing how hard working my parents were as entrepreneurs,” he said. “The way they went about conducting their business earned the respect and admiration of a lot of people. Observing them in action and in conversations, both in and around the business and at home, gave me the foundation on which I’ve established my way of being.”
What does that way of being entail? “A commitment to execution and putting other people first,” he said. “The understanding that a good business acts in the interest of its stakeholders. As does a good person.”
“I’ve always been a leader,” he told Svn Space. “I always believed in my ability to solve a problem and enroll others in solving the problem with me. I also knew that whatever I saw as possible, was for me.”
He knows that not everyone has that outlook, nor is given the opportunity to look at possibilities in such an optimistic light. This is the crux of his activism. Even in the restaurant business, Webb wasn’t just hiring food servers for Buffalo Wild Wings — he was giving people possibilities, hope, and a training ground to develop themselves.
“The opportunity to do something ‘big’ inspired me,” Webb told Svn Space. “‘Big,’ meaning significantly different. A game-changer. For me, opening that restaurant was that.”
“The opportunity to do something ‘big’ inspired me.”
The Launching Pad
That restaurant in south Los Angeles was also a launching pad for many of his human rights and social activism endeavors — at the very least, a launching pad for doing more good in the community. “The Crenshaw Buffalo Wild Wings put me in a position where I was being asked to participate further in South LA,” he said. “To speak on panels and to students, to become politically active and engaged. Ultimately, it led to my involvement in BLOOM, an initiative of the California Community Foundation to reduce recidivism amongst Black boys ages 12 to 18 in South LA,” he explained.
“That work fueled me. It changed my approach as a leader and entrepreneur, it altered how I think about business — a conduit for radical positive change.”
A Training Ground for a New Movement
In Webb’s family, the apple does not fall far; He picked up some of his affinity for activism from his parent's good example as well. He shared that his father was on the Board of the LA Urban League when he was a young boy. “When I was 10 years old, John Mack, and LA Legend, was the president and CEO,” he said. “I grew up going to Urban League events, initiatives and meetings with my father, Mr. Mack and other Board Members. So, I’ve always had respect for the organization and the work it does in LA on behalf of People of Color.”
“That work altered how I think about business — a conduit for radical positive change.”
For those of you who aren’t from the area, LA Urban League is a storied nonprofit in Southern California dedicated to serving, educating, and empowering minorities and minority communities so that they can secure economic self-reliance and civil rights. They do a lot of work around helping minority Angelenos find gainful employment.
“It is still a relevant and important institution in LA today. Under the leadership of Ambassador Lawson, it will only do more to facilitate fairness and equity,” said Webb.
Years after his first experience with the legendary John Mack, Webb would end up hiring many people from LA Urban League to staff his restaurant in the Crenshaw area, bringing things full circle and combining his entrepreneurship with philanthropy.
LA Urban League was like a training ground for Webb, as he now has an equity-focused initiative himself, called 4THMVMT. In fact, 4thMVMT is said to be “The answer to social equity.”
The Answer to Social Equity
Ask anyone in a marginalized community, and they will likely tell you that the “American Dream” was not built for them. “People don’t often realize, or don’t think about, who the American system was built for,” said Webb. “It wasn’t built for people of color and marginalized communities. And by extension, the ‘American Dream’ wasn’t built for these communities either.”
He pointed Svn Space to a book by Nathan McCall: Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America. The following excerpt, in Webb’s opinion, sums this up eloquently.
“They remind me of it everywhere I go. Every time I walk into stores, the suspicious looks in white shopkeepers’ eyes make me think about it. Every time I walk past whites sitting in their cars, I hear the door locks clicking and I think about it. I can’t get away from it, man. I stay so mad all the time because I’m forced to spend so much time and energy reacting to race. I hate it. It wearies me. But there’s no escape, man. No escape.”
So how is this problem solved? How is social equity achieved? “For us, [answering social equity] means helping to close the gap between the opportunity in social equity and actually being able to take advantage of it,” Webb said. “Without access to resources, education, and the tools necessary to build, and keep, a successful business the opportunity means nothing. It would be as if it never existed in the first place. We are calling out the problem and saying we are here to help fix it.”
He’s started by identifying barriers to success, such as emotional burdens. “Whether it manifests itself as a lack of confidence, self-assuredness, or in some other way — the weight of trauma can stymie forward progress and ultimately success,” said Webb. “We believe that being the best version of yourself is important for success, so we always start with trauma-informed personal development.”
“For us, [answering social equity] means helping to close the gap between the opportunity in social equity and actually being able to take advantage of it.”
They’ve already seen progress, even though they’re still in the process of building out many initiatives.
And he’s got some serious, serious goals. One example? A program that trains future business leaders on the cannabis industry.
“The process starts with investing in human beings overcoming their traumas, in order to be successful leaders of multi-million-dollar businesses,” he said. “And that starts with trauma-informed personal development. The applicants are then put through a 12-week proprietary business training program called MoveUp, created in conjunction with LeadersUp, a highly sought-after talent development company. Finally, they are trained on all things cannabis, ensuring each and every owner-operator in the program is well educated on the products they will carry and their health benefits.”
4thMVMT is also helping those who have been “convicted of a Cannabis Crime committed in Oakland, Chicago, and Los Angeles.” Webb said, “We go where social equity applicants need support.”
How to Get Involved
Feeling inspired? If you too would like to go where support is needed, Webb encourages you to visit 4THMVMT’s website and sign up for the newsletter; “That is where we will share new social equity opportunities, job openings, and general information about what we are up to,” he said. “You can also follow and engage with us on social to stay up to date @4THMVMT.”
Trying to follow in Karim’s footsteps and build a business empire while making the world a better place? “Don’t make anything about yourself first, instead add value,” Webb advised. “In any situation, figure out what the objective is and how you can help bring that objective to fruition. That’s what people value. When you do that, you become valuable. The more valuable you are, the more opportunities come your way.”