Business owners often spin complicated stories about themselves, but Haj’s tale is very simple. To him, founding Trueline and being its CEO is all about community—working with a tightknit group of people to create and provide great marketing, branding, content, and design from Portland, Maine. His credentials include founding and running multiple, successful companies involved in marketing, communication, and sales. A Hawaii native, an avid salsa dancer, and a father, activist, and vegan, he’s an on-the-move, hands-on person who enjoys speaking engagements, mentoring, and any opportunity to swap ideas.
“I come from an ethnically diverse family, and my experiences growing up definitely shaped my perspective and eventual exploration of solutionary learning. My mother is (white-passing) Creole with roots in New Orleans, and my father is African American. Even though he was a straight-edge guy, never breaking the rules, I remember watching, helplessly, as he was physically assaulted by police for driving through a yellow traffic light. He didn’t struggle; he didn’t resist the police. He just signaled to my mom to follow him to the station. Later, my mom explained to me that he was roughed up because he appeared to be with a white woman, her. It was a ‘crime’ without a law to support it, but where we lived in Kansas City at the time, an offense nevertheless. And that was just one instance. Many of my family members turned to drugs and crime, trapped in a world where access to jobs was poor and education even poorer.
When we moved to Hawaii to escape this trap, I learned that inequality had no borders. On the one hand, the aloha spirit was alive and well within a rich culture; on the other, there was a declining indigenous population of native Hawaiians, who – despite being the source of so much richness – had been deeply impacted by exploitation and colonization of land, art, and culture. This experience opened my eyes to other inequalities far away from those beautiful islands. As a child, I remember learning about endangered animals around the world and how poaching and deforestation affects their ability to thrive. I also recall being deeply unnerved about the clearcutting of rainforests. When I went to college, I was preoccupied with how to change the world. I recognized my goal was lofty (to say the least!), so I became fixated on what issues were most pressing and wanted to solve multiple problems at once. It was around this time that I became part of the solutionary movement without even knowing it. Through my research, I learned that my childhood observations were correct: the world is indeed unfair (though it needn’t be). I also grew convinced that uncovering and addressing root causes to big problems is the only way to change things. We don’t just need to solve problems; we need to fundamentally change our thinking and our systems.”