The following conversation was conducted over email and edited for flow and clarity.
Acquania Escarne of Wealth Noir (WN): Hi, Calvin, thanks for joining me today. I am excited to share your story with the Wealth Noir Community. Before we dive in, can you tell us a little more about yourself?
Calvin Williams, Jr., of Freeman Capital: Hi, I’m Calvin Williams Jr., and I have never had an uncomfortable relationship with money. Growing up, my family often held discussions about financial planning; an unlikely conversation for most African-American households. These discussions prompted me to walk away from formidable job opportunities with the Department of Defense and a Fortune 500 company and dive into the unknown journey of entrepreneurship.
Continuous reports of the middle class and people of color’s inability to build wealth gave me the idea to offer a personalized roadmap to financial freedom. In came Freeman Capital Advisors, the first black-owned Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and is a registered automated wealth management platform. The platform helps to solve the nation’s growing wealth disparities by putting the power of the dollar back into the hands of everyday people.
WN: Calvin, your company’s name is interesting. Is there a story behind it? Why did you name your company Freeman Capital?
Calvin Williams, Jr., of Freeman Capital: I named the company after my great-grandparents. George and Evelyn Freeman accumulated their wealth through the same principles as my fintech company.
They worked hard to have a better future for their children and grandchildren. They knew they couldn’t get ahead from saving alone; their money had to work harder for them. So, they used their savings and purchased property. Freeman Capital is a personal wealth management platform for everyday, hard-working people looking for a better future and is built on the same values and vision that guided the Freemans.
WN: That’s an inspiring story. I am glad your great-grandparents instilled in you the importance of saving and investing. So, how did you get started in personal finance?
Calvin Williams, Jr., of Freeman Capital: I sold my first web design business, XMG Online, in 2011. I thought I had a sizable sum from the sale so I called a wealth manager to grow my money. This call was the catalyst for Freeman Capital. No one would talk to me because I did not have $1,000,000 in cash. What regular person has that amount in cash? I turned to invest in the stock market, but I couldn’t do it because I would’ve had to watch the market while at work. [I thought] there had to be a better way to invest. So I created it.
WN: What a dynamic story. I am glad that what was an unfortunate experience encouraged you to launch a business that is impacting so many people. What do you think is most impacting Black wealth?
Calvin Williams, Jr., of Freeman Capital: Financial literacy and access to help. Because we do not understand how to manage money, we often make decisions that are counterproductive or operate from a place of fear and ignorance.
Those of us who do understand are better equipped to make prudent decisions and take more calculated risks by investing and giving rather than spending and never venturing beyond saving at a bank. The statistics say that those who have a wealth manager generally have at least two times the wealth of people without one. It is just like going to the doctor: having a wealth manager helps you to stay on top of small issues and help you take advantage of opportunities to make your money grow.
WN: That’s an interesting perspective. Who is your target audience and how does your company serve them?
Calvin Williams, Jr., of Freeman Capital: Black and brown millennials, especially women. We have developed products to create educational opportunities, along with personal finance coaching and planning, to teach our customers how to get out of debt. Then they apply these lessons to wealth creation. We are providing people one place to learn, grow and earn all while providing an accountability partner in your financial planner. Our website and social media content are culturally aware and very relatable. We know what you are going through and want to help you.
WN: OK, a lot of our readers are considering entrepreneurship. What was your first business and how did you get started? How did you make the decision to go into business for yourself?
Calvin Williams, Jr., of Freeman Capital: Since age 12, I have had an entrepreneurial spirit. That’s when I started my first business venture, a lawn care service. While in high school, I began to invest in the stock market online through a website called ShareBuilder.
I then was able to purchase my own home at 20 years old while still in college. At the time, I was working for the Department of Defense. I was recruited in my freshman year at North Carolina A&T State University. I rented two bedrooms to cover the mortgage. This was my first time really leveraging my money.
During my junior year, I turned down a $75,000 job opportunity back home in Maryland to stay in North Carolina and fully pursue my entrepreneurship goals. My first startup endeavor – XMG Online – was becoming the preferred vendor for web development at my university.
XMG had some quick wins, but being an entrepreneur is tough, especially generating continuous business. These tough times gave me honest, untold stories because things weren’t so great financially. I struggled to keep the electricity on in my home, showering only in daylight so I could see in the bathroom, and created a diet of ‘syrup sandwiches’ to keep something in my stomach when invoices were late or I was waiting on the next big deal.
It did get better and XMG became profitable, but I still made the decision to sell the web design firm in 2011.
WN: What an amazing story. It shows the good and the downsides of entrepreneurship. Glad you were still able to sell your company and pursue other ventures. If you could flip a switch and get everyone to do one thing related to their personal finances, what would it be?
Calvin Williams, Jr., of Freeman Capital: People often ask, “Should I pay off debt or should I save?” My answer is “yes.” Somehow, people think it’s an either/or use of resources when, in fact, it’s both. It’s like asking whether you should eat vegetables or drink water. They are both necessary if you want to live a healthy and prosperous life, so you don’t focus on one and neglect the other.
Instead, you eat balanced meals because you care about your overall health. The biggest thing is nothing is done in a vacuum. Having a holistic plan that includes not just the immediate challenges but setting yourself up for success in the future is key.
I want people to know Freeman as their financial nutritionist who teaches them healthy habits that enable them to build a strong financial life. That takes education, financial planning and money management from us and follow through and consistency from our clients. But if they follow a well-executed and fully customized financial plan and commit to learning and growing, then I feel confident that they’ll start to see the results they desire in their financial health.
WN: This is a great way to explain how you can do more than one thing at a time to move toward your financial goals. Our community is focused on investing. What do you think is the key to investing?
Calvin Williams, Jr., of Freeman Capital: Time and consistency. There is no (sustainable or repeatable) fast track to building wealth through investing. Wealth is built over time, and it’s reserved for those who make it a priority to consistently invest on a regular basis. My advice: start investing and keep doing it. It’s so simple that it actually works!
I can’t think of one thing worthwhile that people accomplish without a plan. The same holds true for your finances. Whether it’s building a strategy to save and pay off debt with a budget or planning to give your wealth to your beloved University at your death, you need a strategy to guide you along that path. Financial planning is a process that allows you to turn ideas into actions by getting help from professionals with the expertise to provide sound guidance and the desire to help you accomplish your goals.
You need a plan, and you need help creating and executing it. The financial planning process is a great tool to help those who are serious about experiencing a change in their financial lives.
WN: Are there any exciting products or offerings you have coming up? Anything you are currently working on now?
Calvin Williams, Jr., of Freeman Capital: We are excited about our new offers and plans. Normally it costs $150-$350/HR to work with a Certified Financial Planner, but we are providing that service for just $65/month. This is big because those with a financial plan generally have doubled the wealth of those without one. We are covering investment accounts, retirements, debt payoff plans and more. Also, if people just want to try it out, they can get started with a FREE consultation and investing at no cost!
WN: Calvin that was great! I hope everyone got something out of this interview that can help you decide your next investment or financial move. Good luck with your launch!
Acquania Escarne is the creator of The Purpose of Money, a community of women building generational wealth for their families one dollar at a time. As an entrepreneur, real estate investor, and licensed insurance agent, Acquania has always been passionate about financial literacy. On her website, Acquania blogs about ways to help you improve your money habits, create wealth, and invest in real estate. Follow Acquania on social media for daily tips.