You're a native Brooklynite. I know that’s something you're very proud of. What does the borough mean to you?
As a fourth generation Brooklynite, it means everything to me. OLD Brooklyn, the Brooklyn I grew up in, represents a melting pot of culture, innovation, fun and especially grit. Growing up I used to go to museums and read books about how Brooklyn came to be and the importance of Black society to the borough. I feel pride and joy when I think about it.
How has been to see your home transform due to gentrification?
I'm on the side of humanity. So from that aspect, it is a little painful because the cultures that brought the cache to Brooklyn don't get to reap the benefits of new Brooklyn. I'm talking about many people who escaped the Great Migration, so now they're dealing with another dose of trauma. On the flip, I'm glad kids now experience a safer environment and are exposed to how others live. I have family members who may have been to Manhattan five or six times, and mostly for school trips. While that's not a bad thing per se, New York City has a lot of intricacies that can expand the mind.
How did the effects of gentrification influence your entry into the financial industry?
Gentrification drove me to gain the knowledge that indirectly got me here. When my mom died, I had to become to owner of a property. To protect ourselves from being overtaken, my sister and I had to learn the ins and outs of finance, real estate, property taxes and all things related.
How did BREAUX Captial come to be?
BREAUX Capital is a manifestation of non-stop, passion-invigorated dialogue on Brown Street at Morehouse College. My co-founder Derrius and I both had Gates and Coca-Cola scholarships, so we were in a lot of the same networking groups and just hit it off. My other co-founder Ras used to edit my papers as a freshman. They had a venture together and once they let go of it, we thought about what would become BREAUX Capital. We would meet and talk about ways we could impact economic development within our communities, but in a real way that is compatible to our culture. We started the ideation process in 2015 and began as an investment club. We would put money in every month and by quarter, decide what we were going to do with that money. While going through our research process, we realized we could break it down so that anybody in our demographic, Black male millennials, can do it. As long as someone can read, they can join us and build. It started from 3 individuals and now we're at a solid 15.
What is the mission of BREAUX Capital?
The mission of BREAUX Capital is to bridge the gap between financial literacy and financial wellness through savings and entrepreneurship. The main model of BREAUX Capital is where wealth meets community. As we move through the coming decades, having one source of income is not going to do it. We understand that having a financially healthy mind and having entrepreneurial savvy will keep you above water. We are also empowering community. A question we're always asked is why is this just for men. Well, we realize we that as Black men, we have not done as good of a job at establishing community as Black women. Fostering empathy, deep-seated communication and relationship building with one another is not a cultural norm for Black men right now, and we want to shift that.
Can you explain how BREAUX Capital works? What does it mean to be a part of Breaux Capital?
We have several tiers: BREAUX 20, BREAUX 50, BREAUX 100. The premium tier, Breaux 100, is the most attractive to the majority of our men. To be a part of that you really have to have a hunger and desire to get your hands dirty. You are going to learn how to be an entrepreneur through trainings we offer while at the same time establishing a stake in BREAUX Capital for yourself. Each member puts in a certain amount of money per month and we use that fund to generate revenue, which will generate dividends for those members. Another major tenant of the idea is that if a member builds a scalable business that makes sense for the group, we’ll fund it from the inside.
BREAUX 20 and BREAUX 50 automatic savings product to help people begin the process of achieving financial health but don’t want to be responsible for building a business.
How have you and your partners gone about gaining traction for your business?
We adopted the lean methodology. One of its key principles is getting the messaging right, so that was our first focus. We initially created sample messaging and then did an A/B test on friends to see who responded positively and why. We have a saying “let the data speak,” so we spent a lot of time collecting it instead of making guesses.
We realized that we're dealing with Black people and the best way we connect is through community-oriented methods, so we used word of mouth within our personal networks and Facebook. We aimed to establish a culture and rapport that people can relate to. It set off a positive domino effect and people can say “being a Breaux means X, Y, Z and I do X Y and Z. Thus, I'm a Breaux.” There are even people who are not members, but still refer to themselves as a Breaux because the traits resonate. We add that to the data and investigate further.
Pivoting is something a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with. They want to execute on the exact idea they’ve had since age 12 despite the market not responding. How did you all get comfortable with adapting?
Once you find a more effective way of doing things, you can't be attached to what has worked previously. To us, the word pivot is everything, but it took some time to get there, especially for me. I had to realize that the most important thing is staying rooted in the values, the execution can change to align with the most viable strategy.
What’s on the horizon for you?
As for as it pertains to BREAUX, it's more growth and having members everywhere. As for myself, I'm realizing I like entrepreneurship, so becoming more of a serial entrepreneur and working on other ventures. I’m also currently working on creating more education opportunities for my community in Brooklyn.
How do you stay motivated as you strive to achieve your goals?
I practice meditation and then I'll say "I'm living the dream that my parents couldn't." Once I say that, my morale recovers. The entrepreneur journey can be very confusing and daunting. You may have passed up more stable opportunities, so you're wondering if you chose the wrong option. The way I come back is realizing that so many people can't do what I'm doing, so let me do it for them and let me do it for my parents. Both of them died working hard with their own dreams, but they couldn't fulfill them. In their memory and their spirit, me continuing on this journey will please me while pleasing them at the same time.