Tell us your story. Why did you start your business?
I’m from a working-class family in Baltimore, MD. I did well in school but was always in trouble outside of it. My late teens and early twenties were rough – I dropped out of University of Maryland (College Park), was up to no good and generally on a bad path. One thing I did do well was managing local rappers and helping to put together and promote concerts in the area. It wasn’t enough to stop me from the nonsense and it took getting arrested to be a wake-up call.
When I decided to set things straight, getting meaningful employment was rough. I’d moved to Fort Lauderdale where I was between waiting tables and doing telephone sales when the recession hit and made things even harder. Because I knew how health insurance worked with deductibles and copays, etc – I was able to get a job as an admission coordinator at a company that did marketing and third-party services for drug rehabilitation centers. I did really well there and became an expert at how health insurance worked in terms of what they covered and how they paid.
Originally, my first company I imagined as a department within the company I already worked at. We provided a number of services to the rehabs but didn’t do the actual medical billing and revenue collection. I’d just had my daughter and was desperate to get up the ladder to more financial security. I was certain my idea would be a big money-maker for the company. However, when I pitched it my boss, he didn’t want to be bothered with it.
So in February 2011, with one customer and no back-up plan, I resigned at my job and started Infinity Behavioral Health Services, a medical billing company that catered to drug rehabs. It was the right time and right place – the Affordable Healthcare Act had recently passed, the substance abuse industry exploded in South Florida and my competitors had outdated models – my company took off in a major way.
As we reached the peak, I decided to hire an investment bank to sell the company. We went through an auction process with private equity firms and managed to sell for a stunning 12.5x multiple. Based off my success with Infinity, I was approached by a private equity firm Blue Ox Healthcare Partners who put up $1 million to start Delphi Behavioral Health Group to build a provider platform. Starting in mid 2014, I did a roll-up of several existing facilities and started a few new ones from scratch. (One of those facilities was Maryland House Detox in Linthicum, MD near BWI which serves as the ONLY free-standing private detox center in the whole DMV. It has 16 beds, 2 of which are reserved at all times for Medicaid/indigent patients.) I was then able to secure a $50m+ credit line to continue to do acquisitions. In May of 2016, I moved from CEO over to Chairman of the Board where I oversaw the sales process of that company – it closed in late ’17 for $125m.
All this leads us to Dream Bigger Media Group, my current company. I started DBMG in 2016 after leaving my full-time position at Delphi. I’d had a great run but my heart never was fully into healthcare and wanted to get back to doing things I was passionate about, chasing my dreams. During the time I was running the healthcare companies, I’d invested in Architect Recording Studios in Baltimore, MD and had always gotten a lot of pleasure out of working with the studio. That gave me the idea to start Dream Bigger – I had all the background knowledge on how to grow and sell companies and I’m a diehard hip-hop fan. So I combined the two and came up with a company that partners with entrepreneurs in music and media.
How did you come up with your business name?
The name Dream Bigger Media Group is very personal and actually quite literal. At the time, I’d had tons of financial success, travelled the world and gotten married. On the surface, I had it all and had done it all but I was only in my early 30’s and still very young. I continually struggled with the question of ‘What do you do when you’ve already had all your dreams come true?’. And the company name was the answer to that question – Dream Bigger.
Tell us about your products and services. How do you help clients?
Our product is essentially other companies and entrepreneurs. We invest entrepreneurs that we believe have what it takes. In addition to the capital, our team becomes a working partner with them; we provide mentorship, guidance and help develop their corporate back-office in a way that helps provide them maximum enterprise value.
What makes you unique? What is your unique selling proposition (USP)?
Our whole approach and angle is unique. There are plenty aspiring record labels, promotions companies and start-ups in the entertainment space – most of those are singular in focus and stay running like “mom and pops” as opposed to corporate. There are plenty of venture capital firms and private equity groups – most of those are going for software apps or other large scale service companies – none of them are coming from an ‘urban’ lifestyle approach. Nobody has used the VC/PE approach to develop a portfolio of companies that focus on the types of creative/lifestyle/urban business. Nobody is focused on bringing the economic benefit to the DMV and nobody is taking chances on such a diverse range of entrepreneurs.
Where do you see your business in the next 3-5 years?
Hopefully, as a large nationally or internationally recognized entertainment and lifestyle conglomerate. In the way Underarmour was able to grow out of the DMV and stand toe to toe with the likes of Nike and Adidas, I want DBMG to be the hometown version of Time Warner or Disney.
Any advice you would give to entrepreneurs and business owners?
Know that there is no manual and that’s okay. People get so caught up looking for the “right” answer and frozen in fear when there’s not one. It’s an understandable desire especially when your employees’ and customers’ livelihood are depending on you. When you’re in business for yourself, there is often times no exact right or wrong. Sometimes, you just have to decide based off what’s going to let you sleep at night.
Trust your gut. Listen to that inner-voice you have and let it guide you. Honor that voice that made you an entrepreneur in the first place. Tons of people have ideas and visions but so few are willing to jump off the porch and go after it. So, if you already have that – double down and lean on it when you need it.
What is your favorite business quote and why?
“More is lost by indecision than by wrong decision.” – Cicero
“It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.” – Grace Hopper
I love both of these quotes and they both touch on the same thing. Opportunity doesn’t wait around for formalities. When you see an opportunity, not just any random one, but one that leaps out to you and you just know is special, as an entrepreneur, you must seize it. I see so many talented people that just don’t know how to pull the trigger on something and wind up missing chances. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg were all incredibly smart guys but their companies also employ hundreds of smart guys from Ivy League schools. The difference is these guys knew an opportunity when they saw it, even if nobody else saw the same thing, and then went after it hard. Entrepreneurship isn’t a meritocracy where the best and brightest win and it also isn’t a random chance – it all comes down to who sees the opportunity and jumps on it.
What have been some of your achievements that you are most proud of? Why?
My marriage and my children. Picking a good spouse, raising good children – both of these things require all your experience. They take guts of a different kind and require integrity, authenticity, vulnerability, humility in ways I never knew I had in me. A lot of people are able to build and run companies or make a lot of money without having to be challenged to be essentially “good people”. Love is a whole different type of risk (especially if you come from a broken home) where failure hurts you to the core and ‘success’ requires you to constantly grow and evolve. I’m glad I took it and I’m proud of my family and the home we created.
Anything else additional you want to tell our readers?
Thank you for reading about me and what I had to say – I appreciate it and hope you got something out it since you’re already reading – I’ll leave you with some advice you can follow: Keep reading. Read books by entrepreneurs you respect, read well-respected blog platforms, read whatever it is you can from people who’ve been where you want to go. Your brain is only as good as the information and ideas you put in the process but there is so much out there – all you have to do is take the time.