triving to become a successful business owner when all the odds are against you is tough to accomplish. According to the United States Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners statistics, black-owned businesses account for five percent of American businesses in 2007. Theoretically that percentage should never be this steep but now the federal government and a number of private organizations have made it their mission to increase it. Roosevelt, owner of Visol Sol II, being a minority small business owner, has seen these times and knows them quite thoroughly through his endeavor on becoming an entrepreneur. A business is never something that you stumble upon or falls onto your lap. Usually, businesses are planned, passed down from a previous family generation or persistently worked towards. My father Roosevelt Sr, had his mind set to own his own business since he was about 18 years old. While maintaining a social life and working full-time, he opened his first business, an auto body detail shop in the early 2000’s, although it was not easy.
My father was born to Herman and Dorothy Adams on January 13, 1962 in Little Rock, Arkansas and is the sixth of seven children but is the youngest son. Now standing at an average 5’8 feet, medium build, with dark brown hair, light brown eyes and caramel colored skin, Roosevelt still carries that smooth baby face of his.
“ As any parent would normally do, my parents supported us as much as they could and provided us with the essential necessities we needed as far as school materials and clothes but anything we didn’t need but we “wanted,” so to say, had to be bought with our own money. Then I didn’t think it was fair or even humane but now as a parent, I completely understand their tactics and I know the value a dollar carries.”
An article posted on the Constitutional Rights Foundation, CRF, because of Jim Crow laws and practices, black communities evolved into viable societies. Societies
with their own hospitals, banks, restaurants, insurance companies, food and clothing stores, gas stations, moving companies, prisons, and orphanages were segregated as were schools and colleges, and more essential enterprises needed to maintain a community’s sustainability. Black doctors tended the community’s sick, and black undertakers buried the community’s dead. Black film theaters, inns, and hotels thrived at a time when racial segregation was a fact of life and law. Before the American Revolution and before slavery, blacks had rooted themselves as workers and entrepreneurs determined to make good in this new land of opportunity. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, free blacks owned inns, stables, construction firms, barber shops, tailoring and catering establishments, restaurants, and taverns. They had ventured into shipbuilding, furniture and machinery manufacturing, real estate, and newspaper publishing. Free blacks (and some former slaves) more than held their own in the face of seemingly impossible odds.
Many black businesses were fire-bombed, and their owners were tarred and feathered. “Those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat is,” is a famous quote and seems to fit my fathers lifestyle like a glove. Knowing the road to becoming an entrepreneur wouldn’t be easy but would be achieved is what kept my father on the right track because when one door closed, he found a window to climb out of. Anything was possible because at this point in his career, he was already a first time business owner and with that momentum he embarked on a new idea.
In 2008, Roosevelt’s newest product, BuffLes, was born. Roosevelt was working on a cleaning product, which in turn helped expedite his work for his current occupation, in auto detailing at Lexus of Orlando. BuffLes allowed him to work faster, produce more and in turn began quit the chatter in his department. “This product is for auto paint, chrome and upholstery cleaning, which was something that I was working on through trial and error but with every error I had, within time I had the formula that finally worked!” There are special resources provided to all first time business owners, that not only help everyone but focus their attention mostly on helping the African-American communities get their businesses off the ground. In doing so, many black business owners, with a good business plan have better odds of getting the help they need when using the right resources.
“I remember the first time I showcased my invention. Being an African American, yes there are quite a few obstacles that are hard to overcome but it’s possible. It made me work a little harder because the demographics and statistics were against me but knowing one day I will achieve my goal, there is no stopping me!” Roosevelt once said “preparing for the first day at a new job is quite similar to preparing your business plan. You must be able to present your ideas in a way that the investors will comprehend and engage with.” The federal government charges the Minority Business Development Agency with the task of giving African-Americans free help with creating business plans and preparing to present their business plans to the banks and future stockholders. Quite frankly, I’ve never heard of a successful entrepreneur who doesn’t have a great testimony. Roosevelt and his wife Luz, invested their time, money, sweat and tears in a product that was only but a dream at one point. Finally, they decided it was time to put the pedal to metal and make their dream a reality. When launching a product, you have to consider a few consequential factors, and one major factor, which is finding investors for your product. Next, once investors are all in, then explaining a marketing plan, business proposal and the promotions for the product fall into place. “I went to small business meetings, took some classes to become more knowledgeable in a craft I held deeply to my heart and one thing I had to do was keep my go-getter mentality,” my dad told me after reviewing his business plan and seeing where so many doors were closed but he stayed positive. It doesn’t take a genius to know that debt is not something you want lingering over your head, especially when owning a business. Many small businesses begin their foundation on a small business loan, which is normal but not for everyone.
“When the going gets tough the tough get going. Remember these are your dreams and this is your vision, no-one else’s and for that reason alone, no one can, nor will, ever understand you, or the sacrifices you’ve made for your business along the way! Never listen to the negative comments people will say to you.”
The author of “Funding for African-Americans Starting Their Own Small Business”, stated “The Small Business Association, (SBA) Business Development Program, which is devoted to helping racial and ethnic minorities secure financing for their small businesses. The process for this is strenuous for an entrepreneur to secure a loan, let alone a minority entrepreneur. The Small Business Association can connect you with lenders who are predisposed toward lending to minorities, such as the Minneapolis Consortium of Community Developers, which is dedicated to supporting African-Americans in its community.
In addition, you can apply for an SBA guarantee, which means the government promises to pay off your loan should you default. This opens the door with many lenders.” “Son, a bit of advise I wish I knew when I began this journey was, having equity in a company isn’t always a win-win situation. Instead of going into debt, considering selling equity in your business to get the needed start up funding, could’ve helped me make some solid decisions. When I was looking for collateral, I began to reach out to previous auto body shops I did work for, professionals and past investors. “The biggest mistake many start up business owners make is reaching out to friends and family members. I told some family and friends about it and some invested but it wasn’t because I asked. It was because they saw my willpower, transparency and strive in wanting my business to thrive,” he said when asked about his challenges attaining capital when starting up his business. “Minority Business Entrepreneur” magazine has a resource network for subscribers to help them connect with other minority entrepreneurs and business leaders who invest in minority businesses and also help with providing grants to first time African American male business owners.
Roosevelt was working on a cleaning product, which helped him assist in his work for the current occupation, an auto detailer for Lexus of Orlando. “The product helped me save time, steps to cleaning and produced higher quality vehicles. Before I began using Buffles at Lexus of Orlando, there was a 5-step process in how we were trained to detail a car. One day I decided to put my product to work and see if it was up to par with the chemical mixes and production. After a week of using Buffles I began to work faster. The 5-step process Lexus of Orlando trained us to use, turned into a 1-step detailing process with using Buffless. Sequentially, the fleet of cars work load grew but we began to work smarter not harder.” Buffles is mainly used for—auto paint, chrome and upholstery cleaning. “This multipurpose cleaner was something that I was working on through trial and error but within time I had the formula that finally worked!”
Luz, his wife, was the first person he told about this invention, but she was a bit skeptical. In the beginning Roosevelt just wanted to be more resourceful at work but once he saw the product’s potential, he brought Luz, his children, family and friends to see what he came up with. Not everyone will always be happy with his success, but he proceeded on pushing his product to the next level. Growing is a part of life. The resources that are at everyone’s finger tips are unfortunately the resources less used. Venture capital groups are dedicated to buying equity in businesses and helping them grow. Many groups that support minority businesses are Diverse Strategies and Active Capital. Unashamed of not helping, the federal government says very clearly on the SBA, MDBA and a number of other business resource sites that it is not in the business of giving grants to start up businesses.
It takes a lot of research to find an organization willing to give a grant, especially to a minority but one well-known organization that give grants to African Americans includes the MillerCoors Urban Entrepreneur Series. This grants is focused especially on businesses in areas in need of urban renewal. BuffLes is a product that will be around for a long time. Not only because it’s a useful product but because every company has the same concern, which is a faithful and revolving clientele. On the amazon website Buffles is rated as a 5-star. A rating which proves that Roosevelt has what it takes to provide a customer friendly environment. Stick with your dreams, goals and values, it is what drives the businesses and its products. Never give up.
I took my dad to dinner at Carrabbas Italian Grille because I know it’s his favorite restaurant and he began to open the door for questions. “Thank you dad for helping me with my project. You’ve always been my inspiration to become a better man and I admire your will and dedication to always do better and want more for yourself.” He returned saying, “you’re my oldest son, I love you and I can’t wait until the day you help run the family business because yes, hard work does pay off.” “Dad, what helped you the most? What made this path to becoming an entrepreneur worth it or smoother to say? Were there some words of encouragement you held dear to you?” Taking another bite of his medium well, steak Marsala, he places his fork on his plate, takes a drink of his red wine and said, “Jr, I honestly wish someone would’ve have told me the road to success is more empty than it is full. Don’t ever stop encouraging yourself! The people around you that you call friends, watch out! They’ll drop like flies.”
Thanks dad, it’s moments like this, when I cherish these talks the most!
“A Brief History of Jim Crow – Constitutional Rights Foundation.” www.crf-usa.org/black-history-month/a-brief-history-of-jim-crow.
Cheryl L. Wade, AFRICAN-AMERICAN ENTREPRENEURS: INTEGRATION, EDUCATION, AND EXCLUSION, 32 W. New Eng. L. Rev. 483 . 2016
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