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A Business Planner is Born

Business Plan Packaging has been at the core of who I am and what I do. I remember the day when Ms. Martin came to my door the day of her son Chris’ funeral. I was just a teen. Chris was a former star athlete at Euclid High School known for his beautiful smile. In 1994, Chris was robbed at gunpoint, and had his life cut short by gunfire.The robbery was senseless, but not uncommon around my way. This was Northeast Ohio in the 90s. Money and anything of value was scarce. People robbed and killed to come up.
On the day of his funeral, Chris’ mom came to my house. It was just a few doors down from her in what used to be a low-income townhome community in Euclid, Ohio. It was called Willow Arms.
She was wearing all black that day and her eyes were filled with tears. She spoke in a soft and somber voice as she told my parents that she wanted me to have Chris’ books.
The box of books she dropped off at our house contained a fountain of information that would forever change the direction of my life. There were books on black psychology, black identity, black history and social issues. There were also books about business, the stock market, and how money works.
Most importantly there were books about entrepreneurship.
This was about the time Trading Places started to hit cable television. Eddie Murphy played a character named Billy Ray Valentine. He goes from life as a street hustler to hustling for big money on Wall Street. He also had the same last name as me.
The movie made Wall Street seem both cool and accessible to me. I was inspired to study business in college.
I attended Wright State University, getting my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. During my studies, I focused on Finance.
They taught us how to use actual stock tickers and had a live stock ticker going around the business school. I would often spend the better part of an afternoon just watching, learning and looking for patterns.
Things were looking good. I was on the way. Then, one month before graduation, my mother succumbed to cancer. It broke me and it broke my family apart.
In September of that year, the towers fell. Wall Street was covered in dust. The entire country was devastated.
Although I was trained to trade stocks and leverage people’s portfolios to make money even in bad times, I couldn’t take it anymore. The economic hit took a bite out of just about everyone in Cleveland.
I realized that the portfolios of Wall Street didn’t need help as much as the people of Main Street.
So, I did the only thing I could at that point. I set up shop in my own back yard. Instead of looking to make a quick buck off of people who already had money, I tried to build value in my own community.
I started shaking hands. I helped everyday folks create unique business plans that showcased their signature talents. I helped them shake the right hands and collect the signatures they needed to get their businesses off the ground.
Many of these original clients became my go-to investors eventually. I introduced them to my newer clients and they signed checks to help them. Nearly two decades later and the cycle of handshakes and signatures keeps going and keeps spreading.
Instead of collecting a steady check making money for big companies and wealthy people, I reaped the value that I created around me.
If you had told me the day Ms. Martin came to our door that I would one day be making a living by helping others create value for themselves, I don’t think I would’ve believed you. I’m not even sure I would’ve understood what that looked like yet.
But that’s how life goes and here I am. Close to two decades worth of experience helping clients of all walks of life build winning businesses and still growing.
Chris’ books gave me an opportunity to grow and a guide on how best to do it. I’d like to think I am returning the favor to him and his mother every time I use what I learned to help another person build a successful and fulfilling business for themselves.

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