By Heart & Soul Staff
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
An entrepreneurial spirit has been prevalent in me since I was a teenager. While I worked various retail jobs in high school, it was my lawn mowing and snow shoveling business that I took great pride in. During my undergraduate years in New Orleans, my best friend and I had frequent interaction with a lot of aspiring artists who were clueless as to the business side of the industry. As business and pre-law majors, we started a company dedicated to helping people turn their idea into a legal entity and develop business plans. So while the fire was already in me, it was truly stoked during the early years of my career at large institutions. I quickly realized that in order to maximize my skillsets to have optimal impact while creating generational wealth, it was incumbent on me to build a business, and eventually businesses that furthered that purpose.
Tell us about your education.
After graduating from high school in Gary, IN, I matriculated in Xavier University of Louisiana where I majored in Business Administration/Finance. Xavier is a phenomenal HBCU. While there I engaged in undergraduate research and most importantly, I came to appreciate the greatness within and the associated responsibility to make an impact. I later transferred to Mississippi College, a liberal arts Christian College in Clinton, MS where I earned my Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. It was at MC that I gained a deeper appreciation of working with people from all ethnic backgrounds and the importance of aligning your faith to purpose in business.
To this day I remain active with the MC School of Business and helping forge future leaders of purpose. A lifelong learner, post graduation I took a series of courses, gained several certificates and securities licenses. However I truly desired to dive deeper in the field of finance and learn from the best the world could offer in an environment conducive to me continuing to run my business. Harvard best aligned with that. I went on to earn a Master of Liberal Arts in Finance (extension studies) from Harvard University. My time at Harvard was filled with a tremendous amount of intellectual and relational growth. The academic rigor, challenge to think beyond the norm, and exceptionality of those in your learning environment created an experience that propelled me tremendously.
Tell us about Comer Capital Group and its services.
Comer Capital Group is an independent financial advisory firm that delivers holistic and innovative financial solutions to our clients and the communities we serve. As a registered municipal advisor, we specialize in structuring and arranging the sale of municipal bonds, notes and lease obligations in addition to financial turnaround services for distressed public entities. The firm has advised on more than $2.7 billion in debt transactions. We have also had the pleasure of assisting institutions critical to meeting the needs of predominantly African American populations either keep their doors open or stabilize from their distressed position. This includes but isn’t limited to hospitals in the Black Belt of Alabama, an HBCU – Benedict College, the City of Compton, CA and my hometown of Gary, IN.
Our work extends beyond this sector and also affords us the opportunity to work with commercial middle market companies and developers to devise appropriate capital structures to support their growth and development strategies to optimize return while being impactful. Our professionals bring a level of expertise and commitment that goes far beyond the call of duty. The CCG guiding principles – integrity, dedication, and transparency – are present in every engagement.
Share details about your biggest professional win to date?
My biggest professional win to date was assisting my hometown of Gary, IN avoid becoming financially insolvent and developing a comprehensive financial recovery plan to stabilize the City. The City had lost a significant amount of revenue because of property tax caps in addition to a declining population, they had very little cash to operate, and owed a substantial amount of money to critical vendors. We were able to immediately assist structuring a short-term transaction to provide cash flow for the City to continue to operate. We then worked with City officials and local legislative delegates to develop and execute a comprehensive financial strategy that included: relocating an existing casino out of Buffington Harbor to the I-90 corridor (which is now the site of the soon to be opened Hard Rock Casino) also allowing development of the 140 acres of Buffington Harbor property for the newly created Port; PILOTI with US Steel for large capital investment project yielding $15MM upfront to the City; operational efficiencies; staff reductions; insurance modifications; reduction in governmental footprint; variety of fee changes; and various other initiatives.
There were also other legislative initiatives being put forth. Recognizing that implementation of the plan takes time, especially for all savings to be realized, we executed a $40MM transaction to repay outstanding short-term loans, payoff accrued liabilities including payroll and critical vendors, and cover operating expenses. This was achieved through a structure we created of the sale-leaseback of the City’s public safety complex. The City was able to pay off its vendors, avoid becoming insolvent, implement key economic development goals, and have funds to operate during the implementation of the other components of the plan. While there was a subsequent change in City administration, the work executed to pull the city off of the cliff is undeniable and it was pleasure to be a part of that.
How has Covid-19 impacted your business?
COVID-19 has greatly impacted how we interact with clients in what were once usual and customary ways. But we have adopted as most companies have to the use of technology to fill this void. Many of our clients have needed assistance and advice on mitigating financial impact of the pandemic, which led to a increase in advisory services but a decrease in transactional activity. We also saw a great need in helping small businesses access capital to weather this storm. As an entrepreneur this was especially important to me, so we created a large education initiative and interacted with over 1,000 business owners across the country on accessing PPP and EIDL loans. While we continue to keep the health and safety of our employees of highest priority, we have solved for maximum efficiency in varying work environments while we remain resolute in our mission to assist all we can in financially managing through this pandemic.
Share details about your next project.
We are excited to be embarking on an initiative to assist in the increased capitalization, financial opportunities and optimal impact of black banks. Comer Capital Group has assisted in the creation of the National Black Bank Foundation and the Black Bank Fund which will ensure that mission driven entities dedicated to providing capital to historically underserved communities have the resources to stabilize and thrive while creating wealth and growth in these underbanked areas. A current example of this is the NBBF’s facilitation of a $35MM loan for the Atlanta Hawks for the financing of their player development facility with a syndicate of Black Banks. Comer Capital Group is financial advisor and structured the transaction, which is the first major transaction for any major league sports franchise to be financed by black banks. Transactions such as this generate long term income for the banks, while stabilizing the quality of their loan portfolios, thereby increasing capacity to do more mission driven lending and fostering community development.
Where would you like to see your company in the next five years?
I would like to see Comer Capital Group scale by 10x in the next five years. What’s most exciting about this is not the increase in personnel or revenue, but the exponentially greater impact we will have on the municipalities, businesses, and mission critical institutions across the country. I truly look forward to seeing my purpose driven company and all those affiliated grow to their greatest potential.
CCG is an independent financial advisory firm that delivers holistic and innovative financial solutions to our clients and the communities we serve.
As a boutique firm, we understand that no client is the same and thus provide customized services that produce superior results and ensure our clients meet their long-term financial and operational goals.
Our professionals bring a level of expertise and commitment that goes far beyond the call of duty. The CCG guiding principles – integrity, dedication, and transparency – are present in every engagement.