Program founded by former inmate teaching music biz to Minneapolis teens

No Lock Doors is hoping to help kids in Minneapolis stay on the straight and narrow while starting a path in the music business. (FOX 9)

Several days a week, Teizhjoun Smith sells t-shirts with slogans like "normalize greatness" and "growth is uncomfortable" on the front and back.

But this aspiring rapper is really learning some business skills that will help him unlock his full potential.

"It honestly makes me happy inside because I know I'm out here doing something," Smith said. "I'm making a name. I'm out in the community."

"So, I'm known for a positive energy," he adds.

Smith is one of 150 teenagers who work with no lock doors, a nonprofit that teaches young people how to become entrepreneurs.

Using the music business as the hook, they learn everything from sales and marketing to event planning to the ins and outs of publishing and licensing, all in an effort to make them self-sufficient.

"We always say go get a job," explains founder Damien Markam. "Go to school. We never teach youth how to be successful at what they want to be and what they want to do. How to generate revenue from the art they want to do."

Markam came up with the idea for no lock doors years ago while writing individual development plans for himself and other inmates when he was in jail in Chicago.

When he got out, he decided to modify his idea to help at-risk youth learn how to create, produce and market their own music.

"When you can do for yourself you don't have to rely on the government wait for any outside sources for you to generate and become a contributing member of society."

Smith gets to make his own money from his music as well as ticket sales to his shows and merchandise. And by learning some business skills, he believes when opportunity knocks, he'll be ready to open the door.

"I'm going to be involved until no lock doors locks the door," said. "I don't know where I'd be right now honestly. Opened up doors for me."