When he was just in middle school, Uri Robinson began his journey as an entrepreneur. With a desire to be in control of his own finances, Robinson knew that it was no longer cool to depend on his parents to give him the little “extras” that every teenager wants. So he took matters into his own hands. Fast forward years later and Robinson now teaches others how to successfully emerge onto the path of financial independence. He and his wife Tiyana are both business owners who have created a system that can easily be a Blueprint for Millennial couples. We sat down with Uri and Tiyana to talk about their journey to financial freedom.
SM – What was your relationship with money growing up?
UR – My relationship with money growing up was an ambitious one. While my father got stuff that I asked for, it was on a very limited basis. This led to the saying from my father that led me onto my Entrepreneurial endeavors….”You need to work and get some money if you want more things.” From then on, I’ve never let somebody tell me that I can’t attain anything, because I just sold stuff for money and bought the things that I wanted.
In addition to that, I realized that if I didn’t save any money, I would have to always work for it. The first thing that I ever saved for was a bulk load of candy that I could buy at the grocery store in order to lower my margins and make more money. I didn’t know what margins were at the time, but I completely understood the concept in 4th grade.
TR – Unlike Uri, I didn’t have an entrepreneurial spirit in the same way that he did as a child. I never sold Candy or flipped things like he did. Some people are born with that — I wasn’t in that way. He’s just wired differently than most! As a child, my relationship with money was formed by my parents. My Father is one of the hardest working people I know, always juggling several jobs in order to provide the lifestyle that he wanted for my mother, my sister, and me. So, at an early age, I learned to associate working hard, long hours with making money. I knew I didn’t want that for myself (My Mother always reminds me that I told her that “I didn’t want to work for “the man” when I was 8 or 9 years old), but I didn’t know the pathway for making money for myself.
SM – How/If at all has that relationship with money affected you as an adult?
UR – That relationship has positively affected me with what I do with money today.
TR – The belief that in order to make money, I had to work HARD followed me into the corporate world, and eventually into my work as an entrepreneur. But I learned early in my entrepreneurial journey that trading time for money is often a dead-end that leads to burn-out and exhaustion. In my first few years, I got so enthralled in work, work, work that I lost sight of why I started my business in the first place, which was to create more freedom! As an adult, I’ve made a commitment to un-learning pretty much everything I thought I knew about money so that I can create a healthy relationship with it — One where money is a tool that empowers me, instead of something that I’m a slave to.
SM – When you made the decision to become an entrepreneur had you saved money beforehand? Did you receive loans or grants to fund your business?
UR – In my situation, I didn’t necessarily need to save money per-se, because I had negotiated a contract with a company prior to leaving my “9-to-5” job. I organized my timeline to align my last check from my job to the first invoice payment for my company. A lot of planning had to go into it so that I did not see a lapse in funding over a two month period.
TR – I actually started my business at my lowest financial point. I’d been unexpectedly laid off of my job, and I didn’t have any money saved up. I was BROKE broke! So broke, in fact, that I actually moved in with Uri because I couldn’t afford rent! I bootstrapped the first couple years of my business by reinvesting pretty much everything I earned back into the business. I’ve never pursued grants or traditional loans, but I have taken a couple Paypal Working Capital Loans, which were great when I needed small infusions of cash. With Paypal Working Capital, they give you the loan amount upfront, and they take a percentage of each payment you receive via Paypal. It’s a pain-free application process (it literally takes less than 5 minutes), that allowed me to get capital without the hassle of a traditional loan process.
SM – How hard was it to make the decision to become an entrepreneur as opposed to working for someone else?
UR – The decision was not hard for me, because I’ve always had authority. Being an entrepreneur allows you to do things that the average person cannot. And while being an entrepreneur can be very lonely at times, it is worth the freedom of not having your decisions questioned by somebody “higher up the chain”, because you are the highest of your own chain.
TR – Deciding to start a business wasn’t a hard decision for me because I needed a side hustle (laughing!) When I started out, I just needed a way to make a little bit of money to hold me over while I found a full time job. Little did I know that my side hustle would become my full time passion!
SM – Who are some of the people you admire (personally, professionally, family) How have they influenced you in business?
UR – When it comes to Business, there are alot of people that I can say I admire and have influenced me in my business. The first is my wife. One thing she is awesome at is marketing. So organically, bits and pieces of the things she does in the house for her business end up in my business. It’s like osmosis. The second is my Father. While he has never been an Entrepreneur at heart, I’ve always learned that you have to be thorough when it comes to handling anything to get what you want. I remember as a kid watching him write letters when doing various disputes to anything….you name it. Credit Card dispute, Scholarship Application, Promotion Package, Property Tax dispute, etc; The third would be my great friend Nicholas Perkins. He is like a big brother to me and has always pushed me to greater heights in the world of contracting.
TR – My biggest business influence is my mentor Janice Wilson. She took me under her wing early in my career and allowed me to work with her in her startup company. She taught me all about start-up culture, lean manufacturing, social media marketing, and more! I spent two years living and working in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with her company and it was a formative period of my life and career.
SM – Had you discussed entrepreneurship prior to getting married?
UR – Oh definitely. One of the reasons that my wife and I met was based upon my entrepreneurship. One of the companies that I run is SoCo’s Beads (www.socosbeads.com) that creates wooden necklaces for fraternities and sororities. One part of my marketing strategy back in 2010 was to go on Facebook and “friend” every member of a Black Greek-Lettered Organization that I could find. So some of our initial conversations were about entrepreneurship. In addition to that, we both have evolved to the point of where working for somebody else is not an option for us or our future kids.
SM – Has your business had an effect (negative or positive) on your marriage?
UR – It’s always been positive. Thankfully, we’re at an understanding that there will be times where my wife is working on content and has no time for my foolishness in the house. And then there will be times where I will be in my office working on proposals or content for my clients, resulting in my coming home late. We’re on the same page with that which is great.
TR – This brings up a great conversation, though, because Entrepreneurship is not always easy on marriages. When you’re an entrepreneur, your Spouse really has to buy into your vision. Not the business itself, but the VISION of where you want to go and what you’re working towards. Because sometimes you’re going to be in a season where you may have to pull long hours, or you may have to “hole” yourself up so that you can focus and get work done, or perhaps you may have to make a financially risky decision in order to grow your business. If your spouse isn’t on board, it can create a lot of tension. We’re blessed in that we’re both entrepreneurs, so we “get it”. We speak that language and give each other room to do our thing. I couldn’t imagine having a partner who, perhaps, didn’t understand the entrepreneurial ethos. It would be rough!
SM – Do you assist one another in business with advice or concerns?
UR– Nope! Not at all. If she is seeking any advice or guidance, she will come to me with questions. If I’m seeking any advice or guidance, I will go to her with specific questions. But for the most part, that doesn’t happen! We operate in our separate bubbles when it comes to business and our time together is spent watching our favorite shows on Netflix.
TR – That’s because we have two completely different operating systems. I’m a textbook visionary. I have a million ideas a second, and I dive in head first. Uri, on the other hand, is MUCH more logic-based. So, he does things WAY differently than I do, and we’ve learned to respect each other’s approaches to business.
SM – What are you most proud of in your business and your personal life?
UR – The thing that makes me the most proud in my business is that I am ever evolving in my knowledge of Finances and Government Operations. I buy a new book or attempt to meet 7 new people every week. I also am proud of the effect that I’m having on the Black Community. With one of my business goals to be spreading the wealth of knowledge tied to Financial Literacy, it feels good when my clients let me know how much more confident they are in understanding their finances and have a positive outlook on their future.
TR – I’m also most proud of the impact that I’m able to have with my business. In my coaching program called Makeup Mogul University, I teach Makeup Artists and Beauty Pros how to diversify their incomes and they’ve been able to take what they’ve learned to make REAL change in their lives! I have Artists who were able to survive and thrive during the pandemic simply because they implemented what they’ve learned and found new ways to serve their clients through launching online classes and creating products.
SM – Tell us about your immediate circle. Are you surrounded by other entrepreneurs as well, or are you the only ones in your circle who are entrepreneurs?
UR – Definitely, my immediate circle consists of nothing but Business Owners. In addition to that, my Father is my partner in my consulting business.
TR – Most of my friends aren’t Entrepreneurs. My inner circle consists of people who I was close to before I owned a business. So, I embed myself into Entrepreneurial communities online through the various coaching programs that I invest in.
SM – Would you say that others in your age group are fiscally responsible?
UR – Not even tied to age group, I believe that most people are fiscally irresponsible when it comes to money.
TR – I agree! And I believe that’s largely because we’re not raised to have a good relationship with money or understand how it works.
SM – How do you balance life in DC with staying disciplined in growing your business and saving for the future?
UR – I got my initial financial savings attitude from my Father, which is my base. I realized that living in the DC Metro Area, you have to tune out the activities in the city if you really want to grow your company. Because there is always something to do entertainment wise. You have to lock yourself in your office and be laser-focused on your goals or else you won’t accomplish them.
TR – I’m an introvert, so I very RARELY go out. But generally speaking, the cost of living in this area can get pretty high depending on where you choose to settle.
SM – What are some of the major things you save for both individually and as a couple?
UR – Individually, I’m saving from a company standpoint to make sure I have reserves to cover new employees as I await a response from the government on various Request for Proposals (RFPs) that I have submitted. In my industry, you have to have a lot of cash upfront to cover expenses such as payroll, insurance increases, healthcare costs, onboarding expenses. It can get quite costly. As a couple, we are saving for an investment property and our single family home.
TR – Same! I’m also in hiring mode in my business, so that’s where I am as well!
SM – How do you go about setting goals for yourselves as a couple?
UR – I believe it’s super easy to set goals because most of them are quantitative. We have a timeline of when we want children, so that is our motivation. As an example, we know that Maryland State Law allows us to each deduct up to $2,500 in contributing to a 529 College Savings plan. That means we are contributing $5,000/year for our kids college fund and they haven’t even been born yet! As an example, out of state tuition to North Carolina A&T is $20,167 per year. That means that we’d contribute to a 529 plan for the next 15 years to cover the tuition for the 4 years at NCA&T. Utilizing the effects of compounded interest, we may only need to contribute for 10 years and let the growth of the fund take care of the rest of the expenses. If (or when) our children get scholarships, that fund will cover any school supplies they need, Graduate School, or even earlier education such as Private Elementary School. As you can see, I’m very focused on numbers 🙂
We haven’t set a timeline on moving out of our townhouse but we’ve actively set a number that we are going to save each month to build up our down payments for property.
SM – Are your goals tied to amassing wealth or being debt free? Why?
UR – Amassing wealth. However, I’m completely fine with having debt as long as it is good debt. Good debt is associated with real estate. Bad debt is consumer debt such as having high balances on credit cards from buying unnecessary things. These are items that I cover in my Complete Personal Credit Course.
TR – Yes, we’re definitely wealth-driven.
SM – What has been the biggest challenge in balancing marriage and business growth?
UR – Time. As long as we’re on the same page with time, we are good. We are both in a great space with the amount of time that we spend with each other and the amount of time that we spend on our businesses.
SM – What’s the most valuable thing your spouse does to support you in your business and personal goals?
UR – My wife is my peace. As long as home is peaceful, it allows me to flourish in business. She is never really negative towards anything I’m trying to accomplish unless it has to do with anything involving a motorcycle 🙂
TR – I think the most valuable thing that we give each other when it comes to goals, both personally and professionally, is autonomy and space. We respect each other’s individual dreams and aspirations and give one another the latitude to achieve them.
SM – What will be your biggest impact that you leave on the world?
UR– My biggest impact will be helping Black Folk bridge the wealth gap. Money creates change, so I want to be able to teach our people how to properly use money as a tool for independence.
TR – In 2019 I founded Makeup Mogul University — the world’s FIRST online business school exclusively for Makeup Artists and Beauty Pros. Inside Makeup Mogul University (MMU), Beauty Pros learn how to implement my signature DO-KNOW-GROW Formula™ to launch their first classes, courses, trainings, and digital and physical products (like their own makeup line!) so they no longer have to exclusively rely on providing physical services to generate income.
My mission is to completely revolutionize the way that Makeup Artists and Beauty Pros do business and empower them to make REAL money from their gifts, skills, and talents. That’s the legacy that I want to leave on the world.
As a millennial couple, Uri and Tiyana Robinson represent a growing class of young black entrepreneurs who have decided to change the narrative when it comes to financial wellness; something that even the current pandemic could not stop. In just the past couple of months, Uri has launched his Project Alpha Community which focuses on financial education, and Tiyana was just recently named one of the Top 50 Pioneers of Style by ‘The Root’ magazine. What a way to crush it during Quarantine!