( ENSPIRE Man Code ) Serial Entrepreneur Armond Davis Seeks to Provide Opportunities for Black and Woman-Owned Businesses to Thrive
ENSPIRE Contributor: Naomi Stamps
Serial Entrepreneur Armond Davis is a businessman and investor dedicated to helping minorities and women-owned businesses to reach their full potential. He’s equipped with two Master’s degrees (MBA in Finance and MS in Commercial Real Estate Investment), 15 years of business operating, and investment experience. This entrepreneur’s abundance of experience has shown him what it takes to survive in the business world and educate others.
Minority businesses have always struggled with funding and are deprived of being successful as their white counterparts. This issue intensified during 2020 when the pandemic first hit. Many black-owned businesses were forced to close during that time and are still struggling in 2021. This alarming factor inspired Davis to use his entrepreneurial skills to create The Paragon Group in 2021. This private firm based in Atlanta manages funds for investing in minority and/or women-owned businesses and commercial real estate. Entrepreneur Armond Davis believes that providing proper funds for disproportionate enterprises will help them during the pandemic and beyond.
ENSPIRE spoke with Armond Davis about The Paragon Group and business tips.
Tell us what inspired you to go to school to learn how to be an advertising executive.
I went to school to learn to be an advertising executive like Marcus Graham, Eddie Murphy’s character from Boomerang. That’s a true lesson in the power of imagery. Seeing Black men and women in positions of power and sophistication is essential to inspire the next generation. I took my first marketing class and realized quickly that it wasn’t for me. It was actually a physics class that steered me towards finance. I looked at the laws of force and momentum and realized that those same principles applied to the stock market. From that moment, I was hooked. My interest in real estate is long-lived. I bought my first property when I was 20 years old in Tallahassee, FL. I lived in it until I graduated and then rented it out for a few years before selling it. I used the proceeds from that sale to buy my first company. So I have had an acute understanding of the power of real estate as an investment tool from a young age.
Can you share more details about The Paragon Group and how the mentoring program helps minority businesses? How much does this mentoring program cost?
The Paragon Group is my private equity firm, and one of the funds that we run is focused on investing in minority and women-owned businesses. As a part of that, I created a mentoring program where the founders in which we invest are required to mentor at least one small business owner in their city. When I say “required,” I mean it. If the founder doesn’t serve as a mentor, then I will pull their funding. I’m serious about this because I didn’t get to where I am today on my own. People reached out to me and helped me and advised me, and vouched for me along the way. They still are. And I’m a huge believer that you have to pay it forward. So if you’re a founder and I invest in you and give you the benefit of my knowledge and experience, and relationships, then you must pay it forward. The program costs absolutely nothing. The only requirement to be a mentee is that you be a small business owner who is determined to grow their business the right way and is open to learning from other people.
What are the most important steps to take when starting a business?
Know your customer, and identify a problem that they face and come up with a solution. Once you’ve done that, as best as you can, create an infrastructure for your business that allows you to grow. Infrastructure isn’t sexy, but it’s the backbone of any successful business. Just like in a human being, not having a solid backbone causes all kinds of problems with the rest of the body. By infrastructure, I mean things like having your business legally organized and protected, having a skilled and knowledgeable CPA handling your books, and having an investment thesis that will attract customers and investors alike. If you can successfully execute these things, then you’re off to a great start.
What is one piece of advice you feel Black-owned, and Minority businesses should take heed to?
Just because you don’t like being told what to do doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to be a business owner. As entrepreneurs, we get told what to do all the time. Your customers tell you what to do. Your employees actually tell you what to do, too, if you want to attract and retain good ones. Being a successful business owner isn’t about giving orders; it’s about knowing when to provide them with and when to be quiet and listen. It would help if you spent a whole lot more time listening than giving orders. Another thing I would advise minority business owners is that your difference is your strength, so embrace it. The fact that you’re a minority means that you see have experienced the world differently than most people. You have a fresh outlook and perspective, and the world will be better for it. Stay confident. Believe in yourself. And work harder than you’ve ever worked before in your life. There is no guarantee of success, but the journey is full of valuable lessons. You never fail as long as you learn something and use it to make yourself and those around you better.
How can people learn more about you?
You can visit our website, www.paragoninvestmentfund.com, and you can also follow me on Twitter (@armonddavis), Instagram (@iamarmond), and LinkedIn. I’m very accessible and am committed to telling the story of minority and female founders.
Davis’ initiative to help minority businesses to thrive shows us the importance of fighting for change. So often witness problems in the news or our own communities, but most people wait for someone else to step forward. If we decide to stay, we’re only allowing the problem to be prolonged. Davis shows that if you have the knowledge and capacity to help someone in need, it’s crucial to provide assistance. In order to get ahead, we all have to work together.
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