Dr. Michael L. Curry | Transformational Black Leaders | Exeleon Magazine

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CONTENTS

DR. MICHAEL L. CURRY 12

CONTENTS

LORENZO BATES 36

CONTENTS JAYSON JHONSON

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#MyJourney Exeleon Magazine Presents

#MyJourney

Coming Soon...

a Lasting

DR. MICHAEL L. CURRY PRESIDENT, FOUNDER & CEO
COVER
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ECO-FRIENDLY PLASTIC MATERIALS
STORY
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As global warming intensiies and climate change takes center stage, more and more companies are realizing the impact of their actions. They are, in fact, taking small yet signiicant steps to responsibly cope with the environmental impact for the future.

In a league of his own, Dr. Michael L. Curry is committed to reduce the carbon footprint worldwide through his business Eco-Friendly Plastic Materials, LLC. The mission of his business is to provide renewable biobased products that can be used for industrial commercialization.

Michael Curry found success in his career as a leader and entrepreneur by integrating the core values of transformational leadership.

According to him, the most valuable characteristic is a leader's ability to use their platform to empower others and inspire change.

This Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCU) Professor also draws inspiration from many transformational leaders from Black History who built bridges that transcended the boundaries of inequality.

“They did this exceptionally well through their ability to empower and inspire people, creating movements toward a common goal of equality in education, combating poverty, and social justice for African Americans like achieving the American dream: equality and opportunity for all,” he adds.

As a green chemist and material scientist, Michael also built his leadership style on these very principles: empowerment and inspiration. He says, “I aspire to extend my innovations beyond their mere advancement of scientiic knowledge and solutions to global issues.”

Taking his cue from George Washington Carver, who extended science beyond its norm by revolutionizing farming for sharecroppers throughout the South, Michael applies these transformational leadership principles to inspire and empower his team.

He especially encourages them to explore the global impact of scientiic discoveries and to leverage that impact towards equality and opportunities for others.

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“I HAVE STRATEGICALLY POSITIONED MY CAREER AS A PROFESSOR, RESEARCHER, AND ENTREPRENEUR TO AFFECT POSITIVE CHANGE TOWARD STEM DEI.”

“MY LEADERSHIP STYLE IS BUILT UPON TWO PRINCIPLES: EMPOWERMENT AND

EXPLORING HIS SCIENTIFIC CURIOSITY

From joining the US Navy to earning a PhD, mentoring STEM graduates to starting his business, Dr. Curry's journey to becoming a professional and entrepreneur has been nothing short of exceptional.

Little did Michael know that growing up as a kid from a small town, he would later use his talents to make a profound impact on the world.

“Remembering the impact that my family had on others within our community through business ownership, I began to wonder if that incompleteness that I felt was actually my calling to become a business owner,” he remarks.

This transformed him into a national scientiic igure and an agent of change for underrepresented or underserved students in STEM; truly living the American dream.

In fact, this journey deeply instilled in him the core values of integrity, honor, respect, commitment, and courage. It also gave him the launching pad towards opportunity and a platform for both personal and professional growth.

DEFINING A NEW VISION FOR STEM CULTURE

Michael Curry is a strong propagator

of building a diverse STEM culture. He believes that this is a deinite path to accelerate new innovations and drive a strong and healthy economy.

As a HBCU Professor and researcher, his vision capitalized his laboratory's research and innovations. He also aims to increase the number of highly trained minority professionals within STEM and entrepreneurship pipelines.

He says, “As our nation begins to explore ways to increase the production of human capital in STEM and hallmark diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as a vital part of the STEM ecosystem, it is critical that scientists begin to use their innovations and research platforms to advocate for equality in STEM.”

This is not all. Michael has also encouraged and enabled the movement of inclusivity and diversity extraordinarily. In fact, he has strategically positioned his career as a professor, researcher, and entrepreneur to positively affect STEM DEI.

“I have developed and partnered with academia, non-proits, and the chemical industry to create STEM programs and curricula that educate and promote underrepresented and underserved students at the K-12 and collegiate levels to pursue advanced degrees in STEM,” he shares.

THE ECOFRIENDLY STORY

THE FRIENDLY STORY

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INSPIRATION.”

ECOFRIENDLY STORY

Inspired by innovations developed in his lab at Tuskegee University, Dr. Curry thoughtfully curated his research endeavors of more than a decade into a successful business, Eco-friendly Plastic Materials.

The research team at Tuskegee discovered technology that made it possible to fabricate cellulose-based plastics. Further, this helped him to make eco-friendly and biodegradable plastics using common industrial resins.

In regard to the vision of the company, Michael assertively mentions “The vision of

THE ECOFRIENDLY STORY

our company is to partner with the bio-resin industry using this technology to bring sustainable innovations to the manufacturing industry, and to normalize the chemical industry seeking to partner and commercialize technology being developed in HBCU labs.”

Moreover, through his company, he continues to engage students from all disciplines (business, education, science) in activities that will provide them with problem-solving skills from a global perspective.

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Michael currently serves on local and national committees that address key challenges associated with increasing DEI in STEM and the STEM workforce. He is also involved in scholarship foundations that aim to provide underserved students with the inancial means for pursuing advanced degrees in STEM as a part of its mission.

MOVING THE NEEDLE AS AN INNOVATOR

As an innovator, Michael uses every opportunity to develop cuttingedge scientiic solutions and mentor young bright minds.

He shares, “Some of my most recent

committee assignments have been as a member of the Ford Foundation Fellowship Panel and as a committee member of the American Chemical Society Cellulose and Renewable Materials (CELL) newest committee on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Respect, and Belonging (DEIRB).”

To his credit, he also developed national symposia that brings together academia, industry, government, and underrepresented and underserved communities. His intent is to empower and inspire movements that lead to dialogue and actions that build diverse STEM ecosystems.

Along these lines, he is also currently organizing an American Chemical Society Presidential Event Symposium and an Accounts of Chemical Research special journal issue entitled “Research at HBCUs”.

These initiatives' motives are twopronged: First, to highlight the amazing research and innovations emanating from HBCU labs and second, to initiate conversations and partnerships that lead to reimagining the engagement of HBCUs and increase their access to adequate funding, resources, and facilities.

In fact, one of his recent projects was a creative outcome of a partnership with AlaCann, a startup medical cannabis company, in which the common goal was to increase the number of underrepresented and underserved students receiving training and conducting research in medicinal chemistry at HBCUs.

ADVICE FOR FUTURE BLACK LEADERS

Dr. Curry believes that he has been the most fortunate to have

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“MY ADVICE TO FUTURE BLACK LEADERS WOULD BE TO WIDELY INVEST IN YOURSELVES.”

surrounded himself and his business with entities and individuals that have helped him to have a successful company and career.

Drawing from his experience, his advice to aspiring and emerging black leaders would be to widely invest in yourselves: Broaden the training that you are receiving, even if it doesn't seem to it into your career plans at that moment.

He feels that often, “We become extremely tunnel focused as we begin to build our careers and forget to broaden our impact it could have in other areas.”

One of the most formidable grand challenges that hinder the advancement of translational research is insuficient communication among scientists and non-scientiic stakeholders. To solve this, he suggests “increasing your ability to communicate across boundaries is key to becoming a transformational leader and entrepreneur.” This will further “accelerate the impact of your research, innovations and leadership in other related areas,” he adds.

COMBATING CHANGE AS A PROFESSOR AND LEADER

As a seasoned entrepreneur and educator in STEM Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Michael faced many challenges, but he continues to remain optimistic about the future in this space.

Michael feels there is a critical need to expand innovation and entrepreneurship to maintain the nation's leadership in science and technology discovery and to ensure its national security.

“We must create an approach to STEM education that invests in new research infrastructures to encourage invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship at all levels of the educational process for all,” he shares.

Additionally, he believes these must be leaders that are equipped with the core skills to solve humanity's grand challenges.

When quizzed about the things he would have done differently if he were to start again, he candidly says, “My highly focused training in research methodologies, analytical skills, and communication with other scientists did not afford me the opportunity to fully develop my communication skills with the general public or entrepreneurship skills needed to commercialize scientiic innovations.”

He feels that the ability to communicate with a common man, clearly and tactfully, is critical for informing and persuading them to try your products.

“If I had to change anything about my journey it would be the addition of training in communication skills toward informing the general public about the scientiic beneits of my innovations. Further, I would have pursued entrepreneurship training early in my career which

would have enabled me to identify and ill market gaps,” he adds.

SETTING SCIENCE-BASED TARGETS

As an entrepreneur, Michael learnt to embrace change, leverage his networks to provide valuable solutions and persist through rough terrains. But his biggest takeaway was increasing his self-awareness — understanding his strengths and shortcomings to lead and inspire others.

He acknowledges that the world is looking for sustainable climate solutions and he believes that his company, Eco-friendly Plastic Materials (EPM), is at the forefront of leading this revolution.

As EPM continues to build relationships with plastic manufacturers and create plastic solutions that are more environmentally friendly and sustainable, Michael is excited about the opportunities that these partnerships will create.

He is especially thrilled about identifying more potential HBCU innovations and technologies that could lead to other minoritydeveloped products and startup companies.

“I am most excited about the impact we will have on inspiring more underrepresented and underserved students to become STEM innovators,” he remarks.

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INTERVIEW WITH SWITCH FOUNDER

Kathy Roberts

What according to you makes one an innovative entrepreneur?

The adjective “innovative” in front of “entrepreneur” is more than what I usually deine as entrepreneurial. My opinion is these visionaries see what is coming and usually don't follow rule if they don't produce the outcome desired. They will always ind a way even if it means water has to low up hill.

What is the Switch platform? What was the idea that led to the formation of the company?

The Switch Platform is a blockchain-based inancial ecosystem. From my irst introduction I had a fascination with the reliability of the data on the blockchain and the freedom to make transactions in a decentralized market. The world has shrunk and with that we must adapt and evolve.

This is the second time in a lifetime that I've participated in a project of this type. When Discover Card irst came on the scene in 1985, it offered unheard of features that were disruptive to the existing credit card industry. As an early executive (or “dawner”) at Discover Card, we introduced a lot of disruptive thoughts are now industry standards to the consumer credit industry. Now as a dawner in blockchain inance, we have the same opportunity.

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Talk to us about the Switch Rewards Card. What makes it stand out from the crowd?

With our Switch Black Card and Switch Trading Platform, users can buy, sell, and send cryptocurrencies and then can spend those converted currencies in everyday purchases. Through the Switch Node Network, all of these transactions earn our users Switch Digital Rewards. One way that we are unique is our Trading Platform has both a custodial wallet and a non-custodial wallet allowing our users to truly own their digital assets.

As the CEO, what role do you play in the day-to-day proceedings of the company?

As CEO I am looking for opportunities to further unite our product with the needs and desires of users and future consumers. There is the current business to oversee and keep up the momentum of the project, parallel with our future plans.

What have been the biggest challenges for you and the team when it comes to the technology used?

The speed of technology changes and consumer expectations are more rapid than ever. This alone keeps us in constant review of best practices and outcomes for the business and the customer.

What does the future look like for Switch? Talk to us about the recent beta testing expansion of Switch Reward Card and what it means.

With our Switch Black Card in Open Beta and our Switch Trading Platform is Closed Beta (and soon to be Open Beta), this gives our developers an opportunity to work with the Beta Testers in the community and receive feedback on the products and work to create a better user experience. We hope to have both of these products out of Beta Testing and in a full Public Launch later this year and then

working on our roadmap of other exciting customer offerings including B2B products.

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Kathy Roberts with COO and President Bradley Willden
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Founder

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Curtis May BUILDING WEALTH FOR A BETTER FUTURE

Transformational leadership is an

inluential leadership approach that aims to inspire and motivate individuals to reach their highest potential and drive positive change in the world. This transcends the conventional model of leadership that solely trades rewards for compliance. Rather, transformational leaders' endeavor to establish a collective vision and stimulate people to collaborate towards a shared objective.

Curtis May is a visionary in this approach. He is a inancial advisor, author, and speaker with over 25 years of experience in the inancial services industry. Additionally, he is the Founder and President of Practical Wealth Advisors, a inancial planning irm that teaches principles-based planning to help clients achieve inancial freedom.

May is on a mission to empower people towards inancial independence, and his journey to success is a testament to his expertise. As the Founder of Practical Wealth Advisors, he uses his passion and

knowledge to guide his clients towards a inancially secure future.

As a transformational leader, Curtis believes “you must be committed to creating a positive change in the world.” Being a passionate business owner, he often thinks about who he wants to serve and the results he hopes to achieve.

For most of his clients, that means living their life to the fullest without any inancial worry in the world — which, again, is a truly transformative goal. However, he feels, many of these individuals have limiting beliefs and mindsets that prevent them from reaching this objective.

“As a leader, my job is to help transform their belief system and expand their thinking. I focus on helping people work on their mental game when it comes to money, leadership, and wealth consciousness, as I believe this is essential for true transformational change,” he explains.

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THE ONSET OF NURTURING A GROWTH MINDSET

As a third-generation entrepreneur hailing from Philadelphia, Curtis grew up in a middle-class family that owned a supermarket. From a young age, he held an

unconventional belief that majoring in business would pave the way for a successful career in entrepreneurship. In fact, his family instilled in him the idea that working for oneself, rather than as an employee, was essential to tap upon inancial success.

At just 10 years old, Curtis began to showcase his inner entrepreneurial drive, raising money for his little league team and sparking a new mindset of generating his own income. He reminisces, "I always had little hustles, selling seeds in the back of comic books, and setting

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THE RISE OF PRACTICAL WEALTH ADVISORS

After spending over 20 years in the inancial advisory business, Curtis realized that he was following the typical traditional path of advising clients — invest in mutual funds, buy term insurance, and max out your 401Ks. However, after reading the book 'Rich Dad Poor Dad', he recognized a signiicant difference in how rich people think and handle their money.

This realization sparked a desire to learn more and apply the same strategies to his personal inances. As he delved deeper into the principles of wealth creation and inancial freedom, he became determined to share this knowledge with his clients.

By transforming his thought-process about money and teaching his clients the truth about inance, Curtis was able to help others achieve their inancial goals. With a new perspective on personal inance, he continues to guide his clients towards a path of inancial freedom and success.

an employer — leading him to have a healthy relationship with money and an absence of a poverty mentality.

Relecting on his upbringing, he acknowledges that many people fear the prospect of earning signiicant amounts of money, but he does not share this fear. He credits this fearlessness to his entrepreneurial roots and the familial success they had experienced together.

Despite his introverted nature, he persevered in his aspirations to attain signiicant success in life. He believes that studying successful people has shown him that, “the thread of success was woven into the fabric of these accomplished people's lives from an early age, and that they consistently pursued it throughout their existence.”

HIS INNOVATIVE FINANCIAL STRATEGY

At the core of his approach to inancial advising is the concept of reverse engineering. Curtis believes, “Traditional inancial advice often doesn't work for entrepreneurs, especially those who have different goals when compared to salaried folks.”

up lemonade stands, which fueled my brain with countless business ideas."

Curtis credits his family's entrepreneurial background for his outlook on money, seeing it as a tool to employ others and create opportunities rather than just a

means of personal gain.

“My grandfather employed 20 people in the '50s, while my father employed over 12 to 15 individuals in the supermarket business,” he recalls. Moreover, Curtis has owned multiple other businesses and always found himself in the role of

According to him there are two types of individuals: cash earners, people with jobs, and he interacts with many of them, and cash creators, those who generate wealth through entrepreneurial ventures.

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Many entrepreneurs approach him with a prior understanding about their businesses. Some even believe that their entities have the potential to yield greater returns than the S&P or certain mutual funds.

But for a cash creator, the challenge lies in storing their wealth effectively. “They require access to capital, the ability to capitalize, and the skill to save money. We educate them on a technique known as Ininite Banking or Becoming Your Own Banker, which empowers them to create and manage their own banking system,” he says.

Infact, his approach is focused on minimizing losses rather than chasing high returns. By helping his clients manage their cash low, mortgage payments, taxes, and qualiied plans, his team creates wealth and helps achieve their inancial goals.

Additionally, he also works with business owners to help them see the potential returns on investing in their own business, rather than relying solely on external investments. “The key to building wealth is not just about picking winners, but also minimizing losses and being eficient with your money,” he clariies.

UNLOCKING THE POWER OF PRIORITIZING

Eficient time management is key for business owners, and Curtis understands it to the core. He schedules everything in his life, from personal time to family time, and color codes it all on his Google Calendar.

With an inbound call system, he wakes up to a structured day and aims to work only four and a half days a week. “I set boundaries by not working on Friday nights, Saturdays, and Sundays,” he adds.

Focusing on the importance of productivity, Curtis advises business owners to design their ideal week and focus on maximum output. He also regards delegation as a crucial element and has two great assistants to help him stay on track.

Add to this, Curtis also follows Dan Sullivan's philosophy of focusing on his unique ability and only working in that area, thereby making the most of his time and expertise.

PRACTICAL TIPS FOR YOUNG LEADERS

With over two decades of experience, Curtis is dedicated to teaching his customized approach to inancial planning and helping people build the life they want.

His leadership style is bold and impactful, as he focuses on helping his clients achieve inancial liberation — a transformative goal that requires a shift in mindset and a strong commitment to personal growth.

Curtis' advice for young black leaders struggling with inancial literacy is: Start with Reading . He recommends reading at least one book a month on money and inance, along with books on leadership, negotiation, and marketing.

“Be sure to choose resources that cater to your goals and aspirations, not just middle-class advice that won't help you achieve true inancial freedom,” he asserts.

He and his team are expanding into education and coaching, with the goal of helping clients become inancially independent by teaching principles-based planning. He also suggests, “Save, protect, and build your legacy, while keeping in mind the importance of liquidity and the velocity of money.”

PRACTICAL WEALTH ADVISORS: A BRIGHT FUTURE AHEAD

Practical Wealth Advisors is expanding into education and coaching, with a strong emphasis on guiding clients towards inancial independence.

The company's goal is to help take clients from upper-middle-class to afluent and beyond, and to continue on the crusade of teaching inancial principles that help clients become and remain inancially free.

Additionally, Curtis May is working on his books, where one of them will be updated and published based on his philosophy and the others will expand upon the 'Money for life process'.

On a personal front, Curtis continues to see himself grow the company and help clients achieve inancial freedom.

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Enabling Networking Success

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Enabling Networking Success

It is true that we humans form a bond with those we

trust, and in the process, help each other to connect. While its essence is discussed in several streams of social theories, the connections and networks forged in the business fraternity are no less signiicant.

The importance of network building in business cannot be underlined enough because it is a cornerstone for companies and entrepreneurs to develop lasting relationships and achieve new levels of success. A wellrounded, powerful network can help a business weather the storm in times of need and serve as a valuable resource in times for growth.

Ali Scarlett is one personality who understands the importance of forming a network very well. Ali is a national bestselling author, entrepreneur, and avid researcher of networking sociology and is the founder of The Clever

Connector. Using the wisdom and helpful information he's gained over the years as the pathway to achieving more, Ali has embarked on a journey of helping others attain personal empowerment.

LEARNING FROM FAILURES

Ali can trace his irst memory of being an entrepreneur back to when he was 15 years old. It was when numerous online gurus were selling digital courses on how to make easy money and lourish in the business world. The advertisements claimed that one can learn about the secrets of entrepreneurship by joining free live webinars.

One of those days, Ali decided to take the leap and joined one of these courses. The catch was a business model named “freelance digital marketing” which he later learned was only a fancy term for “afiliate marketing”. He got scammed out of all the money he had, and experienced his irst business failure.

However, the silver lining that came out of that failed business was that Ali had to ind it within himself to get back up and try again. He got a job to make that money back and found that the grit to get back on track was a far more valuable gain than anything those online gurus would have taught him. From that point on, Ali Scarlett sought out more valuable pathways to his entrepreneurship.

OWNING HIS COMMITMENT

In his early professional days, Ali looked upon and studied entrepreneurship viewing it as some kind of a game. To him, running a business was a level where a particular style of play and tweaks would bring in twice as much money compared to the previous month. He says, "I loved the whole idea of it as a kid." He also cites how the whole experience was better from an employees' perspective. "I didn't feel like you could play that game as much—or have as much fun playing it—if you were playing it as an employee.”

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However, as things progressed down the line, the circumstances around Ali changed. He found himself in a place where he lost everything. "I was in a very dark place, and I didn't know what to do."

Ali found refuge under the guidance of mentor Lucio Buffalmano, the owner of the website The Power Moves, who helped him stand up from the ground and change his life. This guidance, support, and eyeopening moment inspired him to do for others what Buffalmano did for him.

Thereon, the transformational leader has embarked on a new journey of enlightening others with motivation, introducing The Clever Connector to the world. "I wanted to teach people how to ish. Except, instead of ishing for ish, it was ishing for health, wealth, love, and happiness."

Such a development is also the reason why Ali's deinition of a transformational leader spreads across a broad spectrum. According to him, there are many kinds of leaders, but the type he respects the most is one that embodies that of a servant leader. He describes such a leader as one who helps themself

and others so that everybody else can grow. He has always loved this idea, and that's why he prefers to go by such a leadership class and do his best to embody that style in his own life.

CONNECTING THE WORLD

While the irst professional touchpoint of Ali's entrepreneurship was being scammed by falsely advertised courses, he experienced the power of being connected when he was in high school, helping his friends with their relationships. While it felt good when everyone turned to him for advice, the whole experience

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helped him become better at mentoring others and helped him learn from their mistakes as he was learning from his own.

Fast forward to today, Ali still believes that, at its core, networking is simply relationshipbuilding. According to him, while it can undoubtedly help in personal things, it can do wonders for a professional life. He says, "Outside of what networking can do for your social life, networking cannot be emphasized enough as important for business growth."

Ali further clariies how many businesses owners network by looking for client relationships, leads, and sales. In his dictionary, that's low-level networking because it only results in the linear growth of the business.

Hence, if one seeks exponential growth, then the focus must be on

two main areas; leadership development and innovative campaigns. In his own words, "If you're a business owner, you should really be focusing on networking with the people who hold inluence over large pools of your target market. And, build relationships with the mentors who can make you into the kind of leader who can build a company that scratches off your business and life goals."

ACKNOWLEDGING THE WEAKNESS

While the path and motivation to make the world a better place came to him with some obstacles, his biggest hurdle was his internal battle. Ali names his struggle “nice guy syndrome” where he thought he could be an all-around nice guy and still make it. However, it was never the case, and he often found himself at the helm of others at a disadvantage. "The person I was

Spilling the Secrets

While aspiring and upcoming entrepreneurs can certainly learn to stand up for themselves, there are some other aspects that can also be learned from Ali's professional journey. There are three core areas where Ali would want newcomers to focus.

The irst one is to avoid bad debt, waiting too long to build credit and everything they need to know which is not taught in school.

Secondly, some circumstances in life are unavoidable, and that's where one needs to focus on things that can be changed. He says, "You can't

didn't receive respect or fairness from others and got taken advantage of," he explains.

Unfortunately, the most challenging part of this struggle was witnessing people close to him behaving in a similar way because they watched Ali accept that kind of behavior, which led them to feel like it was acceptable to take that kind of behavior as well. "I hated watching that," he recalls.

Hence, Ali acknowledged his weakness and decided to carry himself with more balance between his friendly and assertive attitude. He chose to present himself to the world as someone worthy of fair treatment and respectful communication. "Hopefully, anyone who looks up to me will do the same and avoid being treated terribly."

snap your ingers and change where you are, of course, but I believe you can change where you're going so you can be in a better place tomorrow." Ali was able to mold his way through guidance and feels privileged and blessed enough to help others create better tomorrows for themselves as well.

And, lastly, Ali wants aspiring entrepreneurs to learn from their mistakes and apply what they know. "Always go for it and do your best, no matter the situation. And, use what you learn to make your best better."

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MEET FRANCHISE OWNER OF 360CLEAN

Lorenzo Bates

Share a bit of background as to what led you to your journey in entrepreneurship.

My name is Lorenzo Bates, and I am a native of Simpsonville, SC. After spending over 30 years in the corporate workforce and working in the pharmaceutical ield I decided to leave my JOB (just over broke) to become an entrepreneur.

My action steps included keeping my current job while I was researching business opportunities. As the head of the household, I needed to do this rather than pull money out of my savings to start a business.

While researching businesses, I became interested in franchising because of the support and resources that are typically offered to franchisees. I signed up as a franchisee with 360Clean because I was impressed with their affordable startup costs, their commitment to “Cleaning for Health” that focuses

on disinfecting instead of merely cleaning surfaces, and their Pre-Set Sales Appointment Program.

I started my 360clean franchise on a part-time basis in 2017 in the Greenville, SC area. By 2020, I was ready to inally quit my corporate job and go “all in,” and since then I have seen my business skyrocket and have won many awards as the top performer with 360Clean.

I know that some people like to dive headirst and risk all of their savings to get started, but this approach wasn't right for me at the time. I took baby steps and eventually got where I needed to be with a patient, strategic approach.

What does a day in your life look like? How do you ensure work/life balance?

I like to plan my schedule a week ahead for customer visits, meetings with staff, and team members, I meet with my supervisors and team

leads on Monday's and discuss the week ahead.

I enjoy establishing two-way relationships with my current clients, employees, and creating a positive impact in my community. As far as work-life balance, there are boundaries that work for us regarding what is “work time” and what is “family time.” I like to be totally present for my wife and my kids.

I haven't had to change my health plan at all, as I had to follow a healthy diet, exercise, and have ways to ight stress when I was working in the corporate world to be successful. I have continued these same healthy habits as an entrepreneur because it's simple –you can't perform your best if you don't feel your best.

How do you feel when you look back at your "work" when you started and how it compares to now?

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The support team at 360clean is very helpful with helping franchisees as it pertains to running a successful business. I used some of my knowledge from the corporate world and added what was learned from the 360clean team and have created one of the top franchises in the organization. I now help other franchisees in developing their businesses.

When I look back at my work when I started my franchise part-time and how it compares to now, I see that it was more of a “side hustle” to

see if it had the potential to be more lucrative than my corporate job. Compared to now, I am fully committed full-time and have put in the work, blood, sweat, and tears to be one of the top performers and often #1 in overall sales with 360Clean. It is rewarding because it took me a few years to make it happen, but it's been well worth it!

What areas of business do you excel at and what areas do you struggle with?

I excel at customer relations, both

internal and external. I believe that it is equally important to make sure you have a great relationship with your internal customers (your employees) as well as your external customers (your clients).

As a former sales rep, I learned how to understand and relate to all types of people and personalities. My personal growth happened as I matured and grew more patient with “dificult” customers and personalities. I learned to take a breath, not be defensive, and to be a better listener when there are problems.

Today, I struggle with dealing with employees or contractors who have a lack of ambition or do not care about the quality of their job performance. I do not like to hire employees who feel they are just showing up, doing a below average job, and expecting a paycheck.

How do you go about planning and executing your business goals?

At the beginning of every year, I develop an SGAP (Strategic Growth Action Plan) for the year. I also set SMART goals to help me attain them. I review these plans and goals periodically to make sure I am staying on track.

What goals do you have for this year in business?

Client Retention is very important to my business and our brand. I also have a goal of increasing my YOY MCV (monthly current volume) by 60% in sales.

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What clients, brands, partnerships, or collaborations have you enjoyed the most?

In 2020, we were able to win a contract with all non-acute facilities with Bon Secours in the upstate area. This was a big “win” for the business and helped boost morale with all of our team members.

What would you consider to be your biggest accomplishment thus far?

Growing my business to the level where I was able to leave my 9-5 JOB (Just Over Broke) and spend more time with my family. To more, this is far more valuable than any sales accomplishments.

Was there a time you considered giving up or lost motivation? if so, how did you overcome that?

NEVER! Becoming an entrepreneur was always top of mind for me. I knew that I would do it one day, it was just a matter of when! Being an entrepreneur and having work-life balance is very rewarding to me. For these reasons, giving up has never entered my mind!

What advice would you give to emerging and aspiring entrepreneurs?

Don't give up and remember your “WHY”. Why did you consider being an entrepreneur and what drives you? Your “Why” doesn't always mean a proit or gaining exposure. It could be a purpose or a cause that is the driving force of your business.

What can be expect from you going forward?

Since the pandemic I have been able to hire more employees and help them and their families. I have also done some pro-bono work at nursing homes, churches, and other organizations with cleaning and disinfecting to help them operate normal and get back to what they do for our community.

I would like to continue this and establish other ways to assist and have an impact with my community as well. I would also like to grow my business to other territories and surrounding areas.

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Reining the attributes that it

takes to be an outstanding athlete are also the qualities that it takes to be outstanding in business and in life. Be it in athletics, business, or other aspects of life, the spirit of the sportsman must include integrity, teambuilding, selfconidence, the ability to make and execute on a decision, as well as empathy, patience, and a recognition that, by empowering others, we are stronger and more effective as team members, leaders and individuals. These are the attributes which truly deine LaVar Arrington. From his years as a champion on the ield, to his commitment to empowering youth and promoting health and safety for athletes, LaVar epitomizes the 'complete athlete'.

A former NFL star linebacker, LaVar remains steadfast about the need to incorporate service, ethics and mindfulness into his leadership roles. LaVar embraces the same attributes which made him an elite athlete, transferring them to his role as business leader, entrepreneur and mentor.

THE PRO-ATHLETE ENTREPRENEUR

The attributes of an athlete, when embraced as the accelerator of our character, allow us to handle unforeseen hardships head-on, manage both successes and failures, as they make us wiser, kinder and more resilient in the face of adversity.

LaVar prides himself on being a man of service – a true ethical and altruistic leader. Prioritizing young athletes, LaVar takes the lessons he has learned through his career and uses those lessons to guide and mentor young athletes enabling their

journey to be more enlightened and less trial and error than was his. However, even the most highperforming athletes need mentorship and guidance for life after sports, allowing them to have the mindset and skills necessary to be leaders, entrepreneurs and examples to future generations of athletes.

A complete athlete must be prepared for life on and off the ield, physically, mentally and emotionally. With a vision towards empowering young athletes, LaVar uses his company, Complete Athlete, and his dynamic podcast, Up On Game, which he cohosts with former NFL greats, TJ Houzmanzada and Plaxico Burress, to spotlight the importance of resiliency, self-conidence and behavioral and mindset development as the critical ingredients in building a complete athlete.

LaVar's mission is threefold: to educate and empower athletes so

that they can best navigate their lives on and off the ield; to ensure that their interests are soundly and ethically represented while they play; and, to set them up for success so that they are prepared to take the next step at the conclusion of their sports careers. Using his Up On Game podcast, LaVar dedicates a great deal of air-time to discussing the challenges athletes face at all levels of their career, with all three co-hosts serving as examples of true elite athletes.

AN ALTRUISTIC MENTOR OF YOUTH

Through Up On Game, LaVar is launching a new initiative to impact young athletes, called 'The 1- Million Kids Campaign'. This Campaign is a platform designed to give young athletes a collective virtual meeting place where they can interact with their peers, teammates, and athletes at all levels of their career; access specially designed personal and

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LAVAR ARRINGTON

FROM SELF-RELIANCE TO SELF-FULFILLMENT

behavioral development learning modules; engage in physical interaction/workout components; and, enjoy gamiication through a rewards incentivized mobile application.

“Especially during these disruptive times, like that which we are experiencing with COVID-19, is imperative that we give young athletes the tools, resources and resiliency to handle the unexpected challenges that life throws in their pathways. Whether is the disappointment of a not making a speciic team, suffering an injury, or facing the transition to life after sport, we must prepare our young athletes to have the courage, strength, mental and physical discipline and determination to conquer their physical, mental and emotional challenges”, notes Arrington.

It just not just fame or reputation that drives the NFL veteran to

nurture upcoming athletes. LaVar claims, “My wanting to be a positive inluence does not have anything to do with me being a popular football player. Rather, it is driven by my desire to help young athletes to succeed by avoiding the hurdles that I faced, sharing the lessons I've learned and the experience and wisdom that I gained during my career on and off the ield.”

Being a responsible steward of young talent is LaVar's passion. He derives self-fulillment by creating, mentoring, and strengthening outstanding athletes as well as individuals. His years as a college football legend, playing for Penn State University, and being selected #2 in the 2000 NFL draft, and ultimately going on to excel as one of the top linebackers in the NFL, LaVar has a irst-hand understanding of the challenges and the dificult decisions that athletes are forced to make relative to their careers, the inances, opportunities that appear while they

are playing, as well as the opportunities relative to their afterfootball career transition. “As a former professional athlete, I am well positioned to advocate for the athlete, ensuring that their health –physical, mental and emotional, is a top priority, and that they are equipped with the resources to be able to navigate the challenges of sports and life. Through his company, Complete Athlete and his podcast, Up On Game, LaVar and his team are committed to shaping the future, one youth at a time.

GETTING ON THE TECH TRAIN

LaVar is pioneering the future of sports through technology, changing the way athletes build and reine their talents and skills – especially during this time of COVID, where athletes could not be in the physical presence of coaches and trainers. COVID has forced us to reimagine the way we interact with one another, and technology has undoubtedly

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become the nucleus of our personal engagement and connectivity. Athletic training has been forced to pivot, forcing us to get creative with how we condition our athletes –physically and mentally. Through the Complete Athlete and our Up On Game 1-Million Kids Campaign, LaVar is using technology as the mechanism to engage youth, preparing them to achieve at a higher level.

As Up On Game aims to impact 1million young athletes, and recognizing that technology now must play a role in the mechanisms

that we use to development a complete athlete , we are able to put key resources at the ingertips of participants through both real-time and video platforms and through the development of a dynamic mobile app, which will use gamiication as the hook to keep youth engaged with their self-development. This will allow us to reach thousands of kids at a time, providing a more concierge-like product that includes having the opportunity to directly engage and learn from professional athletes and trained mental conditioning “coaches”. Technology provides the basis for connectivity,

allowing us to be together while being apart.

BUILDING A COMPLETE ATHLETE

In his illustrious professional journey from the NFL to broadcasting and business, LaVar has experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Appreciating all of the lessons that he's learned, not only is he better equipped as a businessman, but by adopting a pay it forward mentality, he is committed to easing the journey for other athlete-entrepreneurs by taking them under the wing of Complete

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Athlete and helping them to build the stepping-stone for life after sports.

Helping athletes to understand and prioritize iscal responsibility, mentoring them as they put their money to work while they are still playing the game, is essential to ensuring the long-term economic viability of the athlete. As a former professional athlete, LaVar has faced all of the hurdles, been forced to make decisions depending on the advice of others and has achieved success through trial and error. Recognizing that being an entrepreneur is often lonely and discouraging, with the right team, the right counsel and the determination and resiliency to continue in the face of adversity, LaVar has achieved his deinition of success, which to him, means impacting the lives of many athletes, making their journey easier, with less of the 'lows' and more of the 'highs'.

Working with young entrepreneurs, LaVar is always quick to remind them that you must never stop learning. Every day in business is a new day, with new customers, new innovations, new challenges, so he maintains that we can never get comfortable with our success. Each day, look for a new piece of knowledge, reine a skill, be brave enough to change when necessary, and most importantly, never assume that you know it all. “I don't have all the answers today, but I have many more answers today than I had in the days and weeks and years past.”

COMMITMENT TO 1 MILLION KIDS

LaVar's commitment to the young athlete, developing them into a complete athlete, is his give-back to the sport he loves and the young

athletes who will be the leaders and shapers of 'tomorrow'. In this very disruptive period of time due to COVID-19 and the economic challenges that our schools, businesses and families are facing, LaVar sees the mental toll that this is taking on our youth.

“When schools are remote, and sports competition has been delayed or ceased in many places, there is no mental OR physical release for these young people. When teams can't practice in person, high-school athletes not getting the recruiting visibility, jeopardizing scholarship hopes, and without the interaction with their peers, we are seeing levels of adolescent depression greater than we've ever seen in history. Our 1 Million Kid's Campaign aims to use the connectivity of technology, professionally developed behavioral development program modules, interaction with top trainers, and the ability to participate in webinars and communicate with professional athletes in real-time to reine the attributes needed for youth to master their physical/mental/emotional health, while also giving them access to a platform for social interaction,” notes Arrington.

“During this time of COVID, we place so much focus – and rightfully so, on the struggles of business, our challenged social dynamic, and how we keep our families inancially resilient during times of high unemployment and the overall uncertainties of life, but we are missing a very important component of our future well-being. If we do not prioritize the overall health and wellbeing of our youth, preparing them to be resilient in the face of adversity - the adversity they will face in school, sports, business and life, then

we are short-changing our future. These young athletes represent our future leaders, innovators and change-makers. If we help them build a strong foundation, then they will be able to build a stronger, more united and resilient future upon that foundation.”

“If, through our 1 Million Kids Campaign, we can guide 1 million youth to develop themselves to be the change-makers of the future, accepting the challenge to become more complete athletes and individuals, we will have done something remarkable for the future,” says Arrington.

A LESSON IN EVERY EXPERIENCE

The cardinal rule guiding LaVar through all levels of his career is the notion that: “ALL experiences are learning experiences”. He reminds all of his athletes to seek lessons – both good and bad, in every experience, big or small. “Sometimes the smallest experiences in life teach you the biggest lessons. Pay attention –be present so that you don't miss these valuable moments.” Practicing what he preaches, LaVar heeds and analyzes each success, failure, and obstacle in his own life. He is conident that his own example will inluence and mold budding athletes into being positive, resilient, and determined, but equally, empathetic, responsible and giving individuals.

Going forward, LaVar sees himself continuing his crusade of youth impact. Carrying on his leadership and legacy as a sports entrepreneur and broadcaster, using the power of media and his commitment to youth, LaVar will change the future for youth, from one to one million.

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Jayson Johnson

IN CONVERSATION
EXELEON EXCLUSIVE 46 EXELEON MAGAZINE
Founder | Strike Five Films

WITH FILMMAKER Johnson

EXELEON EXCLUSIVE WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 47

Please tell us a little bit to introduce yourself and your background.

Growing up as the youngest and the black sheep of my family, I spent my childhood in the West suburbs of Chicagoland living life fast, playing video games, and watching an abundance of movies.

While it was an exciting childhood, I knew as I entered my teens that I wanted something bigger, and so I set my sights on the entertainment industry but didn't know how to make it a reality.

That all changed when I visited Eastern Illinois University, where I saw a college counselor wearing a red bow-tie. Impulsively, I pounded my ist on the table and declared, "Whatever you're teaching, I'm in!" It turned out to be the College of Speech Communication, launching my journey as a public speaker, writer, and ultimately a ilmmaker.

What prompted your interest and subsequently your foray into ilmmaking?

I always knew I wanted to be involved in ilmmaking, but I wasn't sure in what capacity. Acting in plays as a young person had been cool, and writing short stories was enjoyable, but it all came together during a study session with my then-girlfriend.

We were pulling an all-nighter to prepare for a inal exam when I took a break and stumbled upon a job posting board. That's when my life changed forever. I saw an

audition for a local ilm called "Empire of Danger" and became part of it, catching the ilmmaking bug for good.

Talk to us about your journey as a ilmmaker. What has been the biggest challenges?

I'm a ilmmaker at heart! I've been through it all in my pursuit of ilmmaking. I've heard countless "no's", slept on the loor, faced homelessness, worked on small and large productions, collaborated with both famous and unknown individuals, scouted illegal locations, ran from the police, and did anything for the love of ilmmaking.

When I started searching for ilm gigs on Craigslist, I had no idea what adventures awaited me. Filmmaking is a challenging ield. You need to be resourceful, creative, quick-witted, and have a sense of humor, as there will be times when unexpected things

happen, and you just have to laugh and keep going.

The biggest challenge in ilmmaking is not inding money, as technology has made it easier than ever to make a ilm using just your cell phone, but maintaining your passion and hunger so that the dream you've nurtured doesn't fade away.

Looking at your journey, what would you have done differently if you were to start again? I would've packed my bags after high school graduation and said goodbye to Chicago, my parents, and friends. Instead of going to college (where I mostly just partied), or working any random jobs, I would've thrown myself into the ilm industry, soaking up as much knowledge as I could and focusing on my career goals. Despite potentially facing unsatisfying gigs, I believe the learning and experience I would've gained at a younger age would've

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been priceless.

As a ilmmaker, what according to you are the 3 most crucial things one needs to follow or be particular about?

If you want to succeed as a ilmmaker, you need grit, persistence, and a willingness to learn. While creativity, camera knowledge, and writing skills are important, they are secondary to these key traits.

You need grit to withstand the challenges of this industry and to keep getting back up even when you get knocked down.

Persistence is important because you will face a seemingly endless stream of rejections, but you must keep pushing forward until you ind success.

Finally, you need the willingness to continuously learn and adapt. When I started, I wanted to be an actor, but when I couldn't ind acting gigs, I learned how to produce. Then, when directors weren't interested in my ilm ideas, I learned how to write, and when they didn't want to direct my scripts, I learned how to direct. The best ilmmakers are those who can adapt and overcome challenges, making themselves more valuable in the process.

Talk to us about your irst feature - Counterfeit Cabernets. What can one expect from it? My irst job in California was working for Francis Ford Coppola at his winery in the Napa Valley. I didn't know anything about wine but for whatever reason they still hired me.

I became a wine steward and poured wine for a season talking to a lot of people about wine. It was

at this time I learned to love the romance, mystery, and seduction behind wine. So, when the time came for me to write my irst ilm, I knew I wanted to do something related but different at the same time.

I igured it would be cool to make a wine heist ilm after hearing about a botched robbery attempt at one of the vineyards. With this project I'm bringing my love of pulp crime novels and wine together to make something I think people will ind entertaining, a little weird and hopefully pretty funny.

Finally, what according to you makes one a successful entrepreneur?

A few years after leaving Francis Coppola's winery, I ran into one of his producers, Anahid Nazarian. She asked what I was up to, and I told her I was a ilmmaker entrepreneur.

She then asked, "What have you 'preneured?" I was taken aback and couldn't think of anything to say as I had not yet produced anything substantial. This experience taught me that a successful entrepreneur is someone who takes action and starts, even if it's not a big project. They must be constantly learning, striving, and improving to be the best value they can be.

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Dr. Dharius Daniels

Author and

Transformational Coach

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Leadership Failures Driving the Great Resignation

ince early 2021, the Great Resignation S continues to cause havoc in the employment world as millions of workers are making a mass exodus. More than ever, business leaders and employers need to think smart to ensure their work environments appeal to the post-Covid generation of workers, while also recognizing some of the fundamental leadership failures that drive good employees away.

Leaders globally are grappling to understand what is fueling the Great Resignation. Research suggests that in the aftermath of Covid, people are rethinking their careers, acknowledging their long-standing job dissatisfaction, desiring a better work-life balance, and increasingly preferring the lexibility that remote work allows.

To adapt to this post-Covid generation of employees, employers need to ensure that their work environment appeals to the generation of workers, and this includes recognizing and addressing some of the fundamental leadership failures that are known to drive employees away.

Dr. Dharius Daniels, an emotional intelligence expert, author of Relational Intelligence: The

People Skills You Need For The Life Of Purpose

You Want and former professor at Princeton University, identiies four crucial leadership failures and provides insights on how to rectify these.

Leadership failure 1: Not recognizing employees as the primary customers

Employees are initially drawn to work for a company because of the company's reputation. Ultimately however, good employees stick around because of how well a company looks after them. Employees should therefore be treated as the primary customer. This means that the employee should be treated, cared for, managed, and responded to in ways that are consistent with what the company wants for their customers.

Managing employees in this way not only sets a good example, but also increases one of the most important assets of any company – credibility. What credibility brings is trust. As Steven Covey says, every relationship “moves at the speed of trust”. Employees want to work with and work for a company that they can trust. If they can't trust the company, then there is no credibility.

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Leadership failure 2: Not recognizing the difference between leadership and management

'Leadership' is a buzzword in corporate culture but, in reality, what we see in most companies is a management culture and not proper leadership.

Management is important and is part of leadership responsibility. Managers have to make people follow, but leaders make people want to follow. Managers bring about compliance but what leaders are able to create is buy-in. When there is buy-in, it increases the likelihood of an employee bringing their best self to work and giving their best effort.

If leaders recognize the difference between management and leadership, it increases their likelihood of recruiting and retaining good employees and of having a team that gives their best effort and will go beyond the regular call of duty.

Leadership failure 3: Not recognizing that inances are no longer the only valued compensation

A recent development, speciically when considering the work patterns of the millennium generation, is that inances are no longer the only valued compensation.

Current studies reveal that this is the irst generation in a long time to not out earn the previous generation. It is not because this generation isn't capable or competent, but because there are things that they value more than money, such as being part of something that means something, and that values them. They value lexibility more than inances.

An example is the idea of golden handcuffs: paying employees so well that they tolerate toxicity in their working environment because of the inancial compensation. It may have worked for previous

generations, but it will not work for companies that thrive in the future.

Leadership failure 4: Not recognizing that EQ is the IQ multiplier

Given the reality of the Great Resignation, it is important to realize that what employees don't want to return to, is the toxicity in the culture they were part of. They are not avoiding work, or wanting to stay at home, but they've had a glimpse of what it's like to work in peace.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) should be seen as a core leadership competency.

The four qualities of EQ

1. Self- Awareness: How well you are aware of yourself as a leader.

2. Self-Management: Your ability to manage yourself based on what you know about yourself, as the irst person any leader must lead, is oneself.

3. Social Awareness: Your ability to discern the difference in others and their relationship management.

4. Relationship Management: The ability to distinguish how different people communicate and are motivated, and your ability to lead and respond accordingly.

Being an emotionally intelligent leader - able to manage yourself and others - is key and critical to recruiting and maintaining good employees in a post-COVID work world.

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