Welcome to the newest edition of Spendefy Stories — where we interview black entrepreneurs and business owners to tell the story behind the business.
We sat down with our founder and serial entrepreneur Antwon Davis to get to know what keeps him going, how he approaches business, and what he thinks about being a black business owner. Let’s get into it.
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When did this entrepreneur journey start for you?
This journey started when I got into Georgia State University. I knew I wanted to start a company out of college. I was going to pursue sound engineering and my plan was to open a sound production studio, produce music, and score movies. That came to an end after my first semester. I didn’t like the Music major, so I switched to Business Management and finally to Marketing.
One Summer I was working at my home church – Victorious Life Church – and they needed some graphics. One of my mentors – Vincent Hunt – showed me how to use Adobe and that’s when I got the right design software. When school started back in the Fall, I returned to college and back to the college ministry at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. I talked to a couple people at the church and got my first client who had his own business. He had an entertainment company and needed some graphics done. He was my first paying client.
From then on I stepped up and started to charge a real price. Eventually, I joined Shaun King with Courageous Church, took over the graphics and web design, and that’s when my career really took off. I was getting churches all over the country. Everything came out of trial and error. I didn’t think I’d be doing this design stuff. It all came from me meeting a need.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
One thing I’m really proud of is graduating high school with a dual diploma and a 3.8 GPA. I was ranked #38 of 400 in my class, I was an honors graduate and I was sitting on the stage amongst all of the smartest students during graduation. In all honesty, I had no intentions of doing that well, but doing it made me realize I could be one of the top performers in my school. That set the tone of me realizing I could be excellent. My confidence level was totally different after that. I’ve been able to pursue things at a higher level because I realize I could. I can do anything.
Another huge accomplishment is when Spendefy went viral and we were featured on CNN and different magazines and blogs like Essence, Black Enterprise and Ebony. Getting that notoriety and attention was a huge accomplishment.
What has been your biggest challenge?
One of my biggest challenges has been finding mentors or people ahead of me who can give me direction. I’ve had mentors throughout my life and it’s been a struggle sometimes finding the right kind of people or feeling like people just don’t have the time.
I’m constantly on a race against my ignorance trying to connect the dots and figure out what I don’t know and sometimes I need guidance, direction, and more insight just like anybody else. I’m smart, but I can admit that I don’t know everything.
One thing that encourages me is the work I’ve been able to do with my nephews. I’ve always wanted to mentor all of my nephews, but I’ve been able to take my oldest nephew under my wing and now he’s an entrepreneur. I’ve seen him have a sense of progress and responsibility and accountability. He calls me to get advice and I’ve seen him get mentors and grow his business. That’s been a major accomplishment.
How many businesses do you actually have and how did you start them?
I have about 4 currently.
Spendefy came about because my former business partner shared his idea with me. We worked together to start what would later become Spendefy. With Spendefy, I am able to awaken possibility in the black community by putting green dollars into black hands.
4THPARK came out of me working with clients and having a skill set to meet the need. I was able to build a team and awaken possibility by working with clients in various industries to see their vision come to fruition.
4TH&AVE is my real estate company and that’s all about personal wealth and partnerships. We purchase rental properties and convert them into coliving spaces for Millennials, college students, and professionals. I knew I needed to invest and get into real estate as a black man.
Cloudberry came out of an opportunity for us to service our 4THPARK clients who needed web hosting and domain name services. It was another smart revenue model.
Do you have a personal mantra?
Awakening Possibility is my personal mission and mantra. That’s what I aspire to do for myself and other people. Awakening answers within people. Strategy. Solutions. It’s about bringing paradise and alignment. Helping people develop and manifest their best selves and their best work. I want to be a part of that. I also want to represent the era of BLACK that is untainted by black oppression. I ask myself: How would we look if these people weren’t in the way? How do I rise above that and live out that vibration of Wakanda – for real? I’m working on this liberation in myself. Let’s buy the city. Let’s buy the houses. Let’s own the businesses. Let’s broker the deals. Let’s bring paradise. Who’s coming? This is the NEW BLACK. Let’s forget about what “they” got going on. What are WE doing? That’s where the heartbeat is and I want to pull it down and manifest it. I’m dancing to that rhythm.
I want to create jobs. I like paying folks and putting people on. I want more money and everybody to be up. I don’t want to just talk about it. I want to build the machine. I want to build these businesses. Part of my vision is representing this level of excellence, Godship, and kingship that’s needed in the earth.
I want to position myself as an influencer in culture that can write the check. I want to be the connector. I want to put people on and make it happen. I think people are worthy of the platforms, but you have people holding up the gates. People are selfish. I’m like Tyler Perry. I’ll hire everybody nobody else wants. That is the dance. That’s what keeps me going.
What influence has your family had on your success?
My family plays a BIG part in my life. My mom was one of the first few people to make the sacrifice. She moved so I could be in a magnet elementary school. I was around all of these diverse students and I was able to go to a magnet middle school and perform better in high school.
My mom is quiet and reserved, but she has always been one of my biggest cheerleaders. I do what I do for Ms. Jackie because I want her to be good. My dad and I have a great relationship. We sit on the phone talking about Lakers games and laughing at old stories. My Auntie Ann is like a second mother and was always there for me. I’ve had a tribe around me and I realize that I am EXTREMELY blessed.
When I was much younger, I remember times when my cousins would bully me and leave me and go to the store. I’d be stuck on the front porch crying because I wanted to go to the store. I laugh at it now. I love my cousins and have a lot of great memories with many of them. I know now that it was all out of fun and love. But at that age, you think they’re just being mean and you register it as rejection. I had a period of time where I sorta isolated from my family. But over the years, my family has played a major role in my life. We’re deeply connected now and we share a lot of holidays together.
My grandparents were my BIGGEST influences. I’ve learned so many attributes seeing them lead, love, and provide. Seeing them be leaders of a family. I was blessed to have that thing you see in movies, like Soul Food and Big Mama. My Grandmother mothered so many people and had such a capacity to be that motherly figure and a safe space.
My granddad is like “the man” to me. A committed husband and father who held down the house of 9 kids and grandkids. My granddad was thorough. He’d cuss you out and tell you what you need to hear, tell you to follow God, and then put $5 in your pocket.
How have hard times made you a better person?
2016 was a tumultuous year for me. Black lives were being taken due to police brutality, the racial injustice of the country was on full display, and I lost my cousin Rod. That was hard because he was my first mentor. When I was in high school, he was the youth pastor at my church and I was the youth leader. We made youth ministry dope and I learned a lot about leadership through him.
I didn’t realize it back then but my cousin was showing me how to lead. He would just throw me into these crazy situations. For example, we had a youth night where one of the performers had yet to show up. There was a 20-minute window with nothing to fill the time. My cousin came to me and said, “I need you to go out and mime and dance and get the crowd hype.” I was like, “What!?” I had to go on stage in front of hundreds of people without rehearsing or anything and hype the crowd up. Moments like this happened often. He taught me how to lead in the midst of chaos and it prepared me for problems that came to me later.
What advice would you give someone starting a new business?
Don’t get so caught up in the weeds of trying to perfect something early. You can waste your time trying to create in a vacuum. Take something in a fairly simple phase and test it.
People don’t always have a sense of their business model. You have to ask yourself, “do people even need this?” We romanticize the sexiness of business, but the reality is, there needs to be a customer that wants something.
Get your demand together. Let the demand feed the supply. Business is about what the marketplace needs and how you can create a solution for that need. We approach it wrong because we build things people don’t need, like or want.
Get in front of a mentor and peers around you to give you feedback. Constantly test and get feedback. You don’t want to spend so much time and money only to find out it’s not even a need.
What Other Areas of Your Life Contribute to Your Success?
I keep up with my health. I have been learning how to switch things out and up. I don’t eat meat – I’m a pescatarian now. I pay attention to the type of toothpaste and soap I use. I shop at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
On a spiritual level, I’ve been exploring my faith. I’ve been studying numerology, vibrations, and alignment. I’ve explored other forms of spirituality and it’s helped me grow and strengthen my Christian faith. Learning more about God in new ways has liberated me so much. I couldn’t see myself going back to the more traditional ways of spirituality and religion. I’m freer now in a way that’s so much more like Christ. You are missing out on this dance if you haven’t experienced this liberated faith. It really does bring about freedom.
What are you doing when you’re not working? What are your favorite things to do? The things that calm you? Replenish you?
I have a mastermind with a group of friends and we check in every week. I’ve enjoyed growing with them over the last 4 years. Before the pandemic, I was paying for the AMC Stubbs membership. I like going to the movies with the big screens and giant speakers. I am way more adventurous than I allow myself to be. I would like to do all the weird shit I see on TV — zip lining, kayaking, canoeing, and parasailing. Lol.
I like working out. I like feeling strong. Eventually, I want to invest more in my fitness and get into yoga. I enjoy watching shows and movies. I just finished Queen Sugar. I like watching documentaries and learning new things. I like to travel too; I love a good trip.
I carve out time for myself. There are days I lay in bed and binge-watch a show and spend time with my girlfriend. I want to be that guy that knows how to sacrifice work to be with the person I’m with and my future family. I want to be fully invested. I may be running five nations, but I’d carve out a galaxy for you.