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Brothers' above-ground vegetable garden business quickly growing across Dallas-Fort Worth

20-year-old civil engineering major Mene Khepera and his brother 18-year-old Jabari, a recent high school graduate, are the co-founders of a budding new business.

Mene and Jabari Khepera work quietly on the task at hand, drilling into lumber and positioning planks of wood just so. When you know your coworker this well words aren't needed, the two brothers have their routine down to a science. 

"He's the design mastermind and I'm his right hand man," said 18-year-old Jabari of his older brother. 

20-year-old Mene, a civil engineering major, and 18-year-old Jabari, a football star and recent high school graduate, are the co-founders of MJK Engineering and Construction, a family-run business where they design, build and install custom above-ground vegetable gardens for homeowners across North Texas. 

"People tell us what they want and we really can design anything," Mene said. "From a big backyard setup to a stand-up planter for a patio." 

This business is truly a family affair. Nia Khepera, their mother, is in charge of all scheduling and PR. Her phone hasn't stopped buzzing for the last few weeks but she handles every call with her signature cheery attitude and attention to detail. 

The brothers describe their father, Mene Sr., as the big-picture visionary, the one helping the young men articulate their vision and then go after it.

"We took a negative and made a positive," Mene Sr. said.

This business began in a rough patch for the Khepera family. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nia had been furloughed and was without a job. So her sons helped build her an above-ground garden so she could spend time outside. 

"I snapped a picture of the garden they built and posted it on Facebook. Then I woke up the next morning and the post had taken off," Nia said. 

Other people who were stuck at home wanted a garden for themselves, so the family decided to take this bountiful idea and turn into something bigger.

"We talked to our sons and told them this is a big responsibility, but it's also a great opportunity," Mene Sr. said. 

In no time MJK Engineering and Construction was booked with orders. The brothers went from house to house installing their custom designs. Most orders cost around $250, including installation, but prices can vary depending on what a customer needs.

"The goal is to make people more connected to their food, to eat healthier and to be less dependent on the supply chain. I think we've all learned how important that is in this pandemic," Nia said. 

One of Dallas' biggest business leaders has already taken note. Mark Cuban is working with his non-profit to commission MJK to build and install gardens in food deserts across the city. 

"To get that kind of feedback and collaboration from someone like Mark Cuban is just a blessing," Mene Sr. said. 

The family doesn't deny that the last few months have been tough, especially with Nia's furlough and the boys' summer plans being up-ended. But Mene Sr. says these tough times are actually opportunities in disguise. 

"We tell our sons that life and giving back is all about finding purpose. We could sit here and focus on the negative or we could look for ways to create a positive," Mene Sr. said. 

The family says their goal going forward is the same as their customers' goals. Put simply, to grow and nourish the people around them. 

If you would like to contact MJK Engineering and Construction, you can reach them at 214-810-6605, nmkhepera@gmail.com, on their Facebook page or on Instagram.

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