This is the longer backstory of MyTribe Marketing. If you want, you can “cut to the chase!”
It all started back in 1990. I graduated college and struggled to find a job. I earned a degree in Finance from the University of Maryland and I was a young, intelligent, eager, non-threatening Black man ready to fill a quota at some company. I was good with math (still am), I wrote well (still do) and I was ready to take on the world and start my life!
My job struggled lasted about 6 months until I got a bite from a well-known retail chain looking to move into Rockville, MD. They were looking for people to help open a store in the heart of Rockville on route 214. It wasn’t the job I was looking for but it was the job I found. So I took the job and began working 70 hour weeks while the store was in pre-open stage (12 hours 4 days a week, 1 open-to-close stretch day, and one 8 hour weekend day). I was young, full of energy and could not be stopped!
That schedule went on for 2 months. 3/4 of my co-workers didn’t make it though. It took a combination of clear thought, management and physical strength. Even the seasoned retailers didn’t make it, but I did! And I could’ve lasted another month too. I was young, hungry and had pledged a Fraternity (so there was NOTHING a job could throw at me that I hadn’t already endured. lol). In the end I was one of five that survived the duration to the store opening. I was rewarded a store section to manage and a nice cash ‘thank you’ handshake.
Fast forward 1.5 years. I had managed multiple sections of the store and had been promoted to Front End which meant I cashed out the registers each evening and made bank deposits. Money. They trusted me with the money.
We soon approached the store’s second Christmas season 1991. Christmas season is hard in retail. There’s lots of unpaid overtime (I was salaried), extra activity volume and heightened shrinkage alerts but I knew that on January 1st I, and the other 4 original employees, were due a 25% raise. It was in our contract.
The store holiday sales performed well. We were the #1 performing store (out of about 250) in the brand. Shrinkage was at an record low for a holiday season and every register balanced to the penny EVERY night. I wasn’t the job I looked for but it was the job I found and I made the best of it. My performance was outstanding so I had no idea how to deal with what happened next.
On the last Sunday of the holiday season 1991, after the final holiday weekend rush, after 6 weeks of 60 hour weeks I was asked to report to work at 07:00 Monday morning December 30th.
Yep. You guessed it. Myself and 4 of the 5 original crew that had opened the store were all fired. The store used us through the high-traffic holiday season, and before our 25% raises kicked in, fired us. I was blindsided. I didn’t understand. Even after 30+ years it still hurts to write this memory.
I was angry but still resolved. I was ME! Sure they saved a few thousand dollars but they lost ME. So I started on a new/same-as-before job search. Two years passed, nothing. I got by on unemployment insurance, my Dad’s help and an aptitude of working with my hands (skills I was never taught). I struggled to make ends meet.
Until one day I just accepted that the work world didn’t want me.
I stopped looking for work. Being a lifetime Army man, my Dad didn’t understand but he backed me, regardless.
Long story made a little less-long I hustled hard for the next 7 years. Unbeknownst to me I started a business selling Black art and taught myself how to build picture frames (that’s a completely serendipitous story. Ask me about it later). I didn’t start a business on purpose, and for the first two years, didn’t even realize I was IN business. To me I was in hustle mode working on the next opportunity, but the next opportunity never came.
In 2000 it was time for a change. I took everything I learned in the Black art and framing business and completely changed my business to website and Flash design. I dabbled in graphics a little and had ZERO idea what I was doing but grew it into my current business Liquid Web Designs. Today LWD specializes in branding, product development, web design, hosting, Internet marketing and more.
What should’ve taken me 5 years took me almost 15. It wasn’t fair, but it is what it is. My goal now is to take that knowledge I’ve amassed in the past 30 years and use it to build a force of Black businesses to uplift our community. Protesting for change is great, but my expertise is in toughness and small business development so my fight is there.
MyTribe Marketing is about a repayment to my father for always being there and to my mother by continuing her fight for our community. If they had the money or, experience, or connections they would’ve given it all to me. All they had was encouragement and they gave me every bit they had.