( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) Vincent Brown with A. Donahue Baker, Resolving the Racial Wealth Gap and Advancing Generational Wealth Among Black and Latinx Communities
ENSPIRE Contributor: LaShonda Thompson
Vincent Brown, better known as Vin Rock of Naughty By Nature or Vinnie, has quietly toiled behind the scenes with Money Avenue, a Black-owned and operated Fintech in New Jersey that is placed at #199 on the Inc 5000 list. Vincent is the Community Development Officer for the Leadership team where A. Donahue Baker is CEO. Vincent is doubling down on championing financial well-being and its education to be the driving force behind igniting a pathway towards generational wealth, as it has been a passion of his to give back and inspire the next generation of talent, entrepreneurs, and young Black and Latinx people from his community.
Money Avenue is a digital Financial Services platform that helps consumers nationwide with their residential mortgage, investment, personal finance, and life insurance needs. The platform was created with the goal of bridging the wealth gap between Black and Latinx communities and advancing generational wealth. Vincent will work with lawmakers and community leaders across the country to promote local initiatives to increase homeownership, company creation and growth, and opportunity zone development financing.
ENSPIRE Magazine had the pleasure of interviewing both Vincent Brown and A. Donahue Baker, asking a few questions about Money Avenue and receiving some financial advice for our readers.
Vincent Brown Interview
ENSPIRE: How did you go from your 30-year career in the entertainment industry to partnering with Money Avenue? At what point did you think you could give back to your community? And what motivated this thought?
Vincent: During my 30yr career I’ve always looked for business opportunities I would be passionate about. Through my network of friends, I connected with Money Avenue and was impressed by their team of well-informed, talented young minority men who were into fintech and servicing our community. I’ve always been hands-on with my hometown of East Orange and the State of New Jersey. The people of New Jersey supported Naughty by Nature since high school and we never left our state. Two initial motivators for giving back were the fact we could open a retail store in ‘94, employ people from the community of which for many was their first place of employment. Second, once we invested in REITS (affordable housing) on the west coast, I realized we could help build safe, affordable housing on the east coast.
ENSPIRE: Why are financial well-being and education important, especially in the Black and Latinx communities? How are you educating the community on Fintech? How do you envision these communities growing as a result?
Vincent: Financial literacy is vital to our communities. It levels the playing field when it comes to the growing wealth gap and inequality in our country. I’m educating our community about Fintech by partnering with Money Avenue and explaining to people the importance of getting their financial health in order to access personal and business credit to start a business and invest in real estate which is still one of the most stable paths to generational wealth building. Using the platform of my 30yr career in the entertainment industry enables me to spread the word through traditional and social media to not change the narrative but include the narrative of investing in oneself as opposed to being an uninformed unappreciated consumer.
I envision these communities growing by remaining aggressively involved in the voting and political process. For example, in my home State of New Jersey, Essex County in particular we have 4 city neighboring coalition of Newark, East Orange, Orange, and Irvington. The coalition is working with developers for affordable and market-rate housing, attracting businesses to the cities, and providing a quality education that will attract more home and business owners. The more financially literate and formally educated our population is, the stronger the tax base which results in more resources to help stabilize our communities overall.
ENSPIRE: In what ways have you already helped the community? What resources do you offer? Who exactly can benefit from this information?
Vincent: Since the beginning of my career I’ve always been hands-on politically in my hometown. In 1994 we opened our first retail store Naughty Gear. Not only was it impactful for my hometown, but it also inspired my peers in the music industry to invest in similar ventures. I always support and donate to homegrown non-profit organizations so I see the work being put in and results on a grassroots level. Now with Money Avenue, we will do far more financial literacy outreach by working directly with our mayors, governors, and people of our community. Credit building resources and workshops on how to properly use and manage money are just a couple of valuable tools we provide. I also consult quite a few businesses on e-commerce and will broaden my offerings because there are tons of people launching e-commerce businesses and could use creative strategies.
ENSPIRE: Do you have any special financial tips for the audiences at ENSPIRE?
Vincent: My financial tips would be to pay attention to the shift to digital and cryptocurrencies. This is the time to get your financial health in order. Study the future employment and business opportunity trends. It may require taking a course of two to be on par. Finally, I would say we could all examine our spending habits and allocate a bit more of our disposable income towards investment opportunities even if it means starting a side hustle.
A. Donahue Baker Interview
ENSPIRE: What was your motivation behind the creation of Money Avenue LLC? What is the company’s mission statement? Why should someone join Money Avenue LLC? How does Money Avenue LLC compare to other financial and credit monitoring companies?
A. Donahue: The motivation behind the creation of Money Avenue was to create more wealth for our community while empower the community. We wanted to provide a pathway for creators and entrepreneurs to get more access to capital. We wanted to increase homeownership and help close the wealth gap.
For years we have been denied by the traditional gatekeepers of capital, when we needed money the most we were redlined and denied it. Our mission is to decentralize access to capital, so the process becomes more fair and transparent, taking the power away from big banks and other financial gatekeepers and giving it to the people that need it the most.
ENSPIRE: Why is it important to be a part of the Money Ave movement? Because we are obsessed with creating better entrepreneurs. We are obsessed with helping our clients improve their financial literacy. We provide better banking services, mortgages, personal and business loans, life insurance, merchant processing services, auto financing, and creative ways to build wealth via your business that traditional banks have neglected for years.
A. Donahue: Money Avenue is the one-stop solution for personal and business financial services. We differ from our competitors because we offer a unique product set. We get at least $50,000 of business credit that is not linked to a personal credit profile to every LLC that joins our program. We provide that LLC with a business bank account and merchant process services to help them scale. We educate our clients about opportunities related to their business via our private networking events. We even invest our capital in our fastest-growing clients and businesses to help them scale quicker.
ENSPIRE: In what ways does Money Avenue educate its clients? Why is this education so important? What resources does your company offer? In what other ways are you empowering the Black and Latinx communities?
A. Donahue: We educate our clients via online financial literacy courses. Our goal is to help them improve their financial literacy to help them make better financial decisions helping them create more wealth. This is important because we have to understand the language of money in order to create more of it. Our philosophy is rooted in building wealth via entrepreneurship and real estate ownership, our products are built from those perspectives. By helping to create more entrepreneurs and creators as well as increasing real estate ownership in those areas we believe we can contribute to narrowing the wealth gap in Black and LatinX communities.
ENSPIRE: What were you doing before you started Money Avenue LLC? Did you ever face issues with finance and credit monitoring? How did you tackle these issues?
A. Donahue: Prior to Money Avenue, I owned a thriving CPA practice and built a real estate portfolio of over 500 residential rental units in 10 years of investing and development. After my first 4 acquisitions, I had tremendous difficulty financing properties until I learned how to properly structure my businesses. That one simple move opened up a new avenue to leverage and finance real estate and business ventures. Most people don’t fully know how to utilize business credit but your business is a completely separate legal entity. It should have a completely separate profile that is established and set up correctly to allow you to leverage the credit of the business to get much-needed capital.
ENSPIRE: What are 5 financial tips that everyone should follow if they want to maintain and build good credit? How can teens and young adults get a jumpstart on building good financial habits? Women, especially Black women, often struggle to secure funds for their businesses. Any special tips for this?
A. Donahue: 5 Tips in no particular order for young and old, women and men, all minorities and people of color:
- Set up LLC that are not connected to your personal credit profile. That means avoid leveraging your personal credit and guaranteeing business loans via your personal credit. If you get in trouble and 90% of business fail the impact to your family and personal finances are greatly lessened. Take advantage of a Money Avenue business account sign up at www.bankmoneyave.com.
- Try to buy rental income properties that cash flow monthly first before you buy dream homes and expensive cars. The idea is to buy assets that pay for luxuries. We have special loan programs for those looking to acquire multi-family investment properties. Inquire at www.moneyave.com.
- The wealthy know how to structure their business and as a CPA I have helped many create wealth over the years just by structuring their business correctly. Ideally, every entrepreneur should have: a) a business account that receives all the checks or income of the business b) a personal bank account that allows you to pay yourself first c) an operating account that allows you easily see all the expenses of the business and d) a tax account that sets aside funds for taxes on a quarterly basis. This formula pays dividends if employed early so the practice can allow businesses to scale easier and be more transparent for other professionals that join the team. Get a no-fee bank account at www.bankmoneyave.com.
- In order to create generational wealth, you have to make some sacrifices for the next generation. That has to be something you commit to consistently over time. Life insurance, real estate, entrepreneurship are all ways to get there but as yourself what I am teaching the next generation? We have to teach our children to be owners. As a CPA I saw many times young adults inherited real estate with tremendous profit potential but opted to sell quickly for a fast buck just because they weren’t willing to handle the management of the property they sold away their family’s generational wealth. Teach your children that rental income is like the goose that laid the golden eggs. Real estate is the goose that keeps giving. Try to play the long game. Delay of gratification.
- It is not enough to verbally support companies like Money Avenue but you should invest in companies that are looking to disrupt entire industries. Money Avenue is pioneering in the decentralized finance space known as Defi. Defi will eventually disrupt the entire finance industry and the gatekeepers are nervous about it. The opportunity is now to invest in early-stage platforms. My final tip is to encourage people looking to build wealth to invest 1-5% of their net worth in early stage technologies.
The information provided by both Vincent and A. Donahue goes to show the value proposition Money Avenue offers. And as we all can recall, Naughty by Nature created timeless hit tunes, and with their self-titled album, they received a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album and have earned worldwide acclaim. Their 30-year career was highly successful, and it paved the way for many great artists to follow. Vincent uses the same motivation he used with his musical career to create a better way forward financially for underrepresented people.
For more financial advice and an opportunity to learn about creating generational wealth, please visit the Money Avenue website HERE.