Incredible story... You f..ed up big, but I'm sure you will get back there!!! Congrats on successes and lessons! Speed+
Wow, this is the first time I ever thought about my story. Why I'm nervous, I'm not sure. But here it is. Hopefully up and comers can learn from my wins and losses.
I started out as poor there could be. Single mom, welfare in the "hood". As a young black boy growing up there, you realize fast that your cards aren't the best. But I always believed that none of that mattered as long as you believed in yourself and took action to go after it.
I knew I would be a successful entrepeneur one day, I was never sure how it would happen but as a kid i would fantasize about living in the hills high above my apartment complex. I mean our 4 plex had it all, pimps and prostitutes, killers and drug dealers. We didn't have to go to the movies, we just had to look outside! But thats all my mom could afford after leaving my father. His crack addiction had spiraled out of control to the point that he had every mobster in the city of Oakland looking for him. So after a crazy episode with threats to our family, my mother scraping up the money to pay these guys off, we departed one night as was willing to live anywhere my moms six bucks an hour could afford. I was about 9 years old.
I guess as I write, I see my early affection for money came from watching my mom work for 6 bucks an hour and walk home just to feed my sister and I. I grew so angry and frustrated I was determined to one day be so wealthy, she wouldn't have to worry again!
Life before that my father owned a restaurant, corner store as well as a antique store. So The rule in our house was as soon you acquired a skill you had to work. So when you started walking, you could clean & peel potatoes! When you learned how to count, you could work the cash register. So I started working extremely early and learning the value of hard work. SO I AT LEAST THANK MY FATHER FOR THAT SKILL!
It wasn't until the drugs hit in the 80's and what people thought was just another recreational drug, became a powerful addiction.
So fast forward to about 18 years old, I had my stint with tryna be thug like my friends. I was just too nice. I valued human life very high, I couldn't kill so easy. So I knew that life wasn't for me. I was always the "Smart guy".
Selling drugs, the money was GREAT, but I had a guilty consious becuase I knew what it did to my father and I was helping to contribute to it directly. so as I'm selling drugs, I'm counseling them to get off before it's too late. My last encounter with selling drugs, my father comes to the "dope spot" tryna to buy drugs, I recognize him and he finally recognized me and comes over trying to act like he was pulling me out of that situation. When i knew he was there to buy drugs. So we argued and fought as my friends laughed as the Dealer and the addict was father and son. Crazy shit.
Music and Art has always been my passion and things I was naturally good at, but I didn't pursue it because I didn't see the money in it, and I was very money driven and determined to have a better life for my family.
At the time everyone was talking Computers, so after high school, I went to a technical school and got an AA in Electronic Technology. At 19, I got hired immediately at Intel Corporation making a cool 35k a year. That was like hitting the lottery to my family. I swear. It was a great moment. I was a cocky bastard. 4.0 throughout tech school. I became a tech geek that worked at a Tech Giant that would come hang out in the "hood" on the weekends.
I was in a weird spot, because I related to NO ONE at work, so there was no group of friends yet being the youngest employee & only 1 of 4 African Americans at INTEL at the time, it was hard to relate to anyone! We are talking real tech nerds here! Real pocket protectors and shit! lol!
So I would go try to hang out with all my old friends, and they are living bad, and stealing, robbing and selling drugs just to survive! Soon, they started envying my situation as my cars, and living situations started to improve. Slowly I had to back off my association with them.
So I had a lot of alone time. I was kicking ass at work. I felt like I had a lot to prove.
In the first 4 months I was promoted, and was to get promoted every year I worked there. my income went from the 35k to 100k in a few years.
I still purposely dressed comfortable for "me". So my Jordans, and baggy pants and ball cap was my uniform. On an engineering level, People overlooked my appearance, and came to respect my work ethic. The joke was always "Go ask him for help, he's smarter than he looks!"
(Bear with me, i will get to the millions in a minute! It all relates!)
I next wanted a management position. I applied and applied and applied and applied and applied. Mainly thinking that would appease my intense hunger and drive, and secondly because I wanted to hone my leadership skills. But no one would hire me.
It was really frustrating, because everyone spoke so highly of me and my resume looked good. But still no one. Finally it wasn't until someone pulled me aside and said. "Do you want the honest?"
I said give it to me.
He said, you " You don't play the game. In a work environment with open dress code, technicians dress like you and managers dress like managers! Do you have a shirt with buttons? or a belt? You have to play the game or no one will take your serious. You can play Malcom X at Intel and be stuck for ever and they will take your over achievement and keep under paying you, or you can let everybody know you are growing up and willing to play a mature mans game."
I argued some Black power, and fairness bull shit.
He shut me up with " Dude, this is not your company. No one owes you shit! 3 options, you can conform, you can stay where you are, or you can leave."
It sunk in. I appreciated his honesty as a friend.
Next day I show up in polo shirt and some khakis. pulled to my waist....with a belt. I laughed, everybody laughed. But people started talking about it and by the end of that year I had been promoted to First Level Manager.
Everyone in my circle thought I had "MADE IT" from the day I was hired except me. I knew it was just another stepping stone to being at the top of the hill. A dream I had since I was kid.
I refused to accept it. I was barely scraping by. Mortgage, 2 kids, stay at home wife, 2 car payments. To me that was still struggle. Just with more to lose. I knew people at the top of the hill didn't take the path I chose. So I continued to be unhappy.
I still wanted to prove I could handle the job. There was so much controversy about hiring me. It was like my manager took HUGE risk and i was gonna prove to him, I was right choice.
I worked sometimes 7 days a week to ramp up to speed. I would go to his house on weekends and he would teach me not only the job, but how to manuver around the politics in the job. I went from installing, building, fixing semi-conductor equipment MYSELF, To powerpoint presentation, writing business plan and allowing OTHER people to do the work for me. THIS WAS THE HARDEST ADJUSTMENT I EVER HAD TO MAKE.
This was soon to be the most valuable asset in creating my own business.
(side note: A funny thing. My boss and soon to be my FIRST MENTOR would comment on how all the girls liked me at work and how I should write him a manual on how to get girls. And to me, he was a genius in business and business planning and execution. So i said "Look, I'll take you shopping and give you pointers on getting girls and make sure you get some ass, if you teach me everything you know about business.") He agreed and we both went all out making sure each other was up to speed!
8 years past. I grew rapidly and gained a lot of respect at my company. I still felt empty. I wanted that "LIFE". I was still living Living check to check and not happy with my financial success.
One day, I came across an online book. Are you an entrepreneur? I was glued to the book and read the whole thing in 2 days. It changed my life.
After that day, I was determined to create wealth through my own business. In the book it revealed that the best business to start, is doing something you love. I wrote down my pasions: Music, Art, Basketball.
In 6 months I had wrote a full business plan for an athletic clothing line geared towards basketball. I designed the apparel and the feeling I felt, I knew this was the path I was supposed to be on!!! I cashed out all my stocks, 401k and put in my two weeks notice. It was the best feeling ever!
After the green light from my wife, WE SOLD EVERYTHING! Rented out our house, sold all the cars (Including my 70 SS Chevelle!) All the big screens, and other bullshit that helps put on that pretense of success.
From a 3000 sq ft home, we (Wife, me, two sons) moved in with my in laws to ONE room, one car and a business plan. (What a crazy mutherf****)
I had about 70k liquid cash. I got started! By the end of the first year in business 68.8k was GONE! No inventory, no sales, Just a lot of research, some samples and lessons.
I so underestimated the cost to build the business it was a joke. (I'm laughing now, but at the time that shit wasn't funny..ask my wife)
I had about $1200 left and about 5 or 6 dozen samples, a nice looking website with about 50 hits a week....
I was determined not to give up! But I burned down my ships at work so i had no choice in the matter. I got focused on my goals. i cut up pictures of my dream home in the Oakland hills, and my BMW 745 and all the things I wanted and would stare at it everyday.
I took the 1200 and made PRODUCT. I had nothing but product! I went back to the hood. All my old friends and Gave it all away to people who had "RESPECT". The best basketball players, the MAVRICKS. Headbands, wristbands, Athletic shorts, tees all designed for the specific needs of a playground legend. I gave it for free and people started loving it locally.
After all the banks turn me down, I went to friends and family asking every one I knew to get in on this opportunity. We landed our first investor. 25% of the company for 100k. I took it. One of the first thing I did with the 100k was take 1k and be a sponsor for a non-profit org's basketball tournament. This unexpectedly created ALOT of free press for me and took my business to the next level.
The Tribune was there at the game. There were very little sponsors who participated, so my company logo was HUGE on the banner. and i was the ONLY one who showed up personally for the game.
When the media looked for a sponsor to interview, I was the only choice. Plus it helped that I grew up in that playground and played at that park and could give back. The media eats shit like that up. That Sunday my mug is on everyones porch! lol
I was so excited! I'm loving the article until it gets down to the end of the article " For more info Call 510.XXX.XXXX" THAT'S MY CELL PHONE NUMBER!
Every bored old lady trying to hook me up their granddaughter called me, plus every kid wanting a job, sponsorship, intern position, hater, and every body else!! I was so pissed off.
Then I get the next call "HELLO!" I answer in my WTF YOU WANT voice"
Some old sounding guy calls saying he has some experience in the clothing industry and would maybe like to share a few tips with me.
At the point, I am so fucking irritated with everyone who called me try to sell me a dream, I'm pretty rude.
So I say " So what kind of experience is this!" I'm thinking Flea Market or MC Hammer You can't touch this t-shirt at the Oakland Coliseum.
He replies with the name of the company he founded and sold. (it was a company he built from scratch that happened to be a 300 million dollar brand thats still HUGE all over the world)
I'm shocked, and embarrased. I try to clean up my tone and sound professional. LOL.
But it's too late, all I can be now us HUMBLE.
He invites me to his office to chat. I show up (Back in my Jordans, jeans and T-shirt and hat I'm self employed now!) and it is gorgeous with views of SF bay and all the bridges. All the offices are glass and he's in the middle of a meeting when I walk in. the receptionist looks at me sortof afraid (lol). Stuttering like Hell, she's like "Can I help you? ". I said yeah, is John James (name change for the sake of privacy) here ?
She say's "he's the CEO of the company, do you have an appointment?" Trying not to offend the 6'2 black dude covered in tattoos. So he see's me tussling with the Admin through the glass and he comes out and yells my name like an old friend "CAESAR, come on in!!"
Never forget the rather confused look on her face. LOL.
We looked fresh out of a scene from the CRASH season 1. He spent every week for 2 hours once a week for 2 months teaching me about how the clothing game works. He became my mentor. His knowledge was invaluable! I was so grateful. He offered to be on the board and use his resources to help push my business.Then he wrote me a 10k check and said I know it's not the million but this could help.
He's since retired, but to this day I check on him once a month to say hi. I will never forget that old guy!
We push, our business. we are getting about 40k hits per week on our website and we hit our first 100k in sales mark by our 3rd year in business. I wanted the Major chains stores! I wanted them BAD.
Mind you, I employed family. Friends with low level of experience. I never stepped outside of my box and got highly qualified people to take my business to the next level.
Year 3 another breakthrough happens. A rival company expresses hate about my company on a reality show and our webhits skyrocket from 40k a week to 250k hits a week over night. We are getting a million hits per month and just can't handle the traffic.
We don't the inventory to support so everything sells out SO FAST and we have to wait 2 months to get more product.
THAT IS BAD. Let me say that again. THAT IS BAD.
We could have made a million that year, but we weren't ready for something like that to occur.
It was on ME! Either I shouldn't have learned, or hired.
By the end of year 3 we made 350k by ourselves! Running out of inventory, Not capitalizing on opportunites. Me as the leader with no formal education, just the corporate leadership experience I had. To this forum it may not be a lot, but a CLEAN 350k to a bunch of street kids was a lot. There was no one to sanity check us and say hey this aint shit, keep working!
I'm starting get calls from retailers and distribution companies telling me I should have been past the million in sales mark and they could help me do it.
Year 4, we hit 500k.
I feel secure in my 10k a month salary and the housing market is GREAT! So I take one huge step towards my dream. Sold my home for 525k ( A 225k profit) after paying some bills put roughly 150k down a beautifully remodeled home in the Oakland Hills. It was a great moment to see my childhood dream come true. I could literally look down on my old neigbhorhood as I looked at the bay and the water every morning. My mother moved in with us. It was hapening!
Year 5, we hit 800k
I am flying high! At this time my net worth is over a million. I got my House on the hill. New BMW 745. Traveling all over the world. Our product in boutique stores all over the world. My loyal wife that was there for me through all the struggle and bullshit times is starting to look too ordinary for me. I'm never home. Most of it is work, the rest of it is partying like a . I learned how to make money, but I didn't know how to maintain it and BEHAVE with it. I'm not listening to ANYONE's advice, my WIFE, my MENTOR and People who knew what they were talking about. I became:
We are on another level that I need help, but I can't see it.
My company is still designing , packing, shipping, selling and traveling to tradeshows all by ourselves. We are making crucial mistakes in sales, and marketing and the worldwide demand is too much to handle.
My MENTOR grabs me by the collar and he tells me something I don't want to hear.
He says " First, I know your team has helped you get this far, but they cannot help you go to the next level. You have to let 80% of them go. They are childhood homies. Let them keep their ownership stakes for helping you, but fire them and hire more qualified people, it's crucial for your business. Second, GO HOME. Your wife needs you. This is new to her and she has lots of fear about groupies and shit like that. Reassure her, make her feel a part of what you are doing or she will resent the success!"
I DIDN'T LISTEN FOR 1 OR 2! I felt some weird sense of loyalty wouldn't allow me to do fire my friends. STILL KNOWING THEY WERE NOT THE BEST PEOPLE FOR THE JOB!
I took my wife to 1 trip to Miami and that was IT. While I'm all over the world like Jacque Cousteau. And sure enough just like he said it, my business became the "OTHER WOMAN" and she revolted just like she was supposed to because i wasn't treating her right.
And I tried to bandaid the "friendship" problem, by looking to a distribution company to handle sales, manufacturing and shipping and we just handle marketing and design.
I realized I was even more unprepared than I thought.
The distribution company I chose ended up costing me the company.
This distribution company owner. I'll call his name Asshole. (I could easily see him on a forum like this. lol. If this story sounds familiar to you, Whats up asshole! Thanks for the education) haha! I forgive you.
Just slick talked the hell out of me. Told me everything I wanted to hear. My ears was saying yes, but my gut and my instinct told me NO, NO, NO! But everyone around me wanted to go with him.
I swear to you. I know it's weird, but the day before I signed i had the biggest pain in my gut, like something was telling me DON'T DO IT! But, I said to myself, I'm the one with the least amount of experience here, and everyone else is saying do it, so here goes.
We signed to them. The took creative control over the designs and went directly to ALL the BIG CHAIN Stores. Delivered only 10% of what they promised! Our core customers were like, These designs are clearly from people who DON'T KNOW THE TARGET MARKET.
I see the company falling fast through monitoring our customers on our forums, simliar to this. So I go in a battle to retain control of our designs but a no go.
Year 6 sales 1,200,000. You say WOW. No, our deal was 6% royalty. We were making close to 15% net after salaries, but we were told sheer volume would skyrocket our revenue and our margins. But the one small peice I overlooked in the contract (THEM DESIGNING) cost me.
I threw a temper tantrum. Tried to pull the UNFAIR card. In business THERE IS NO UNFAIR CARD.
Between me acting like a and going into arbitration. There was no Year 7.
My inexperience, and lack of having the right people around me cost me my virginity. LOL. (Again, I laugh now)
Lost my family. Lost my company. Lost myself.
Two years later. I finally made it back to the starting point again. Took me a while but I'm here. LOL.
Had to get my family first.
Now that I got my family back, next is the hill. I'll do it right this time.
Put in prospective. Still not bad for a boy from the bottom of the hill.
Incredible story... You f..ed up big, but I'm sure you will get back there!!! Congrats on successes and lessons! Speed+
I make Book Covers - simplistic and good-looking.
Thanks for sharing this story. It sounds like you've been through a lot and it sounds like you are not afraid to learn from your mistakes. Welcome to the forum!
Thanks for sharing your story. You are showing a lot of guts. Keep us posted on your journey back to the top. +++speed
Awesome story, good luck next time around man
I appreciate it!! Feels weird seeing my life on a forum page! I got myself back. Better than ever! The rest is downhill....
Wow...first of all, THANK YOU for posting your story. With all sincerity, that was an incredible read and I found myself sitting up straighter with every paragraph as I couldnt wait for the "twist" that I knew was coming!
It sounds like even though the mistake you made was huge, the lesson you took out of it was even bigger. And as long as you have the drive, you are now in even better shape to regain your footing, and come back bigger and better than ever in the years ahead.
I too came from a poor family (not quite as poor as your background), so I know what its like to watch your parents struggle and dream of the day that you will one day do BETTER for your family. The dream that one day, you will take care of your family as much as they have taken care of you. That is something that I too learned from my parents, and it is a powerful lesson.
Again, thank you very much for posting your story, I was extremely interested from the start to the finish, and I look forward to hearing your next chapter in the months ahead. Best of luck to you and God bless.
Building my stats one day at a time...
WOW ... let me repeat ... WOW! It rings of familiarity to my own story albeit I wasn't on Main and Maple selling drugs to padre ... thank you for posting. As long as you continue to learn, I don't see you having a problem rising to the top again, you aren't afraid of hard work and you aren't afraid of getting out there with hustle.
I commend you for writing this and look forward to hearing updates. Speed+thanks!
Haha.. I didn't realize it was much of a story until I clicked "post". Then I read it like Damn, that guy was all over the place. and hes me! haha. I wish it was stuff like this when I got started..I Feel at home!!!!
I stand up and applaud you. I, too, had a rough life and overcame alot of struggle to get out of the "hood" mentality.
I understand exactly what you say, I dis associated all of my former high school friends from my home town. I can't relate to them (the ones not in jail or dead) in any way no more. I feel very out of place as if they think I feel I am better than them.
Anyways, long story short. One very, very powerful trait that we both have is street hustle. Like alot of fastlane thinkers, that "hustle" mentality is something very few have. I've seen some of the best "business minds" sell dope, if they had the same smarts/passion into something legal; they would be living in the hills as you say. I put 50cent in there as an example. He is gifted with a business mind and now opportunity gave him ways to hustle legally. He now owns a billion dollar Vitamin Water company on top of the GUnit clothing he already had.
What a ride.. That's a truly amazing story! Try to put that into a book/movie (bot) once you areon top of the game again!
Your story ststruck a cord with me. I have lived and continue to live similiar even. I too have a devoted loyal wife and twi beautiful kids. Left a six figure job to pursue my dream and ended up in a dark nightmare, however I have stayed the course and things are feeling as if they are heading in the right direction. One thing that I have found out in this world of business is that there is no shortage of experienced con men and women who are more than willing to take advantage to the nieve and hungry. I have learned my hard lessons and am now all the better for it.
Rich to me is not measured by the dollars in your pocket is is measured by your mindset and your heart. I was born into a poor family with a poor mindset. I have developed into a true go getter and I refused to fail. Your story truly inspired me because I can relate to it more that you may think. My story is also one of rags to riches and then to rags again. I would love to speak with nyou sometime ...maybe we could share some advice or motivate each other.....peace......keep moving
Thanks for bumping this story.
This is... astonishing!!
Thanks for sharing.
Oh, and I couldn't stop laughing with the Asshole.
LMAO x 5!!!
"Hey asshole! What's up?!" LMAO LMAO!!
FULL SPEED AHEAD!
I like this story especially because I was born in Oakland and I've been to those Oakland flea markets you mention haha.
I wonder how many times I've seen people wearing your clothes.
What I like the most about your story is how no matter what, you keep a positive attitude. Growing up under bad circumstances really adds reserves of strengths. I literally grew up right around the bend from you. When you say hood I know exactly the streets your talking about.
I've lived in a tent in my grandmas backyard before. At the time she lived in Hayward and was married to a black guy who is also from Oakland. To say none the least it was a black neighborhood right next to a huge housing project.
Every day I played with the black kids and occasionally ate lunch with them in the lunch hall they had.
People used to always take a double look at 1 black guy holding two little white kids hands walking around town haha. He used to yell at us, spank us, make us work. . . But he also treated us no different then he treated his nephews and nieces. I am thankful I was able to see the best & worst of both worlds growing up.
Later in my teens I lived in a huge 2 story house (which was short lived, but still nice with a waterfall and pool about 80 miles east of the bay area. I used to always wonder what my old friends in those housing projects were doing. I escaped those living conditions through the efforts of others, not everyone is so lucky.
But you, did it by yourself. For that I respect you.
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