We had the good fortune of connecting with Ethan Brisby and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ethan, how do you think about risk?
I had to take incredible risks at times during my journey. My first major risk came when I quit my job at a bank in order to go back to college. Most of my family insisted I was trippin’ considering I had a “good job.”
From there, I continued to risk it all for my goals and dreams. In 2008 when my parents drop me off in Atlanta, I had $250, a 1996 Nissan Altima, and did not know how I was going to pay for my education at Morehouse College. Time after time, I stared adversity and defeat in the face by always daring to take risks.
After college, I continued this path when I ran for office. I wanted to find ways to increase youth programming in my community. I knew growth was on the horizon, so I wanted to advocate for affordable housing programs. Likewise, I knew the independence and generational opportunities that can come from excellent execution of a good business idea, so I took risks to help young African Americans launch and expand businesses. This was my platform. From 2014-2018, I went all in in the name of these economic development ideas.
I do not take for granted the things I am able to do as a result of risk and my faith; serving as a Planning & Zoning Commissioner, helping first time home buyers often even some of the most ill prepared buyers, and especially the success stories some I do not even know about that have resulted in the risks I took inspiring others to pursue their own idea of success.
The most recent risk paying off in my life is traveling solo to East Africa. I was honestly intimidated and a little scared at the airport in New York before taking off for Kenya. I just did not know what to expect, but that risk helped me to expand SHIFT Enterprise Academy, a personal development and business accelerator program I created into East Africa. I’ve hosted two virtual cohorts of 15 students and two pitch competitions. The program aims to help young adults develop the mindset to launch online businesses and or solve problems within their community.
If I believe something is worth it, I will take the risk. As I mature into the man I always wanted to become, I am a bit more selective about putting myself out there, but I know everything I have always wanted is usually on the other side of my fears. “To conquer without risk, is to triumph without glory.”
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
As an older millennial, and creative I began noticing the trend towards entrepreneurship in 2006 at the National Association of Black Journalist conference. There was an entire panel dedicated to “freelancing.” I was so inspired by this, I created a five year plan for my life, which included quitting my job, going back to college, and beginning a freelance career.
In the past 15+ years, I have generated income via: credit counseling, real estate commissions, property management, project management, contract work, public speaking, self-publishing, business consulting, and ghost writing, My most recent projects are:
1. Home Buying for Smart Buyers an e-course designed to help first time home buyers purchase property with purpose by viewing their transaction as an investment rather than a social status: https://comfortablyliving.thinkific.com/
2. “Launching into E-Commerce,” a program adopted by SHIFT Enterprise Academy the 501c3 non profit I first started in 2011 and later relaunched in 2017. This is a five week virtual lecture series designed to provide young adults with the framework for their thinking to solve problems in their own community. We have completed two cohorts comprised of students primarily in East Africa after my trips to this region in summer 2021 and winter 2021-2022.
3. “Five Proven Strategies on How to Pay for College: 10th Anniversary Edition:” This is an autobiographical book I first published in 2012 which details how I was able to apply time tested success principles to pay for my private education at Morehouse College. The tenth year anniversary edition (July 2022) features more true stories of how I navigated graduate school using basic life principles we often overlook in our hyper digital world.
I am excited about this work, because it touches base on the three economic development principles I have always championed for throughout my career; property ownership, business development, youth personal development. In my most lean years, I always found joy in aligning myself with these areas as part of my life’s mission. It’s never been work, but instead a calling. It’s been anything, but easy, and that’s quite alright with me.
I say this, because one of my major purposes is teaching. My hardships and experiences overcoming adversity and defeat help me to inspire my students and just about anyone I am able to spend meaningful time with in life. I tried to take a more linear career path like my grandfather and my uncles, but I did not find fulfillment in that. A linear path provides a higher probability of advancement and financial stability, but linear career paths do not always solve everyday socioeconomic problems. I am a problem solver, so I enjoy freedom to address issues that matter to me creatively, and I am ok with everything that comes with that.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is a great question. During the time I have lived in Houston, what is most encouraging to me about the city is my ability to experience various forms of African American culture. However, Houston unlike some other “chocolate cities” offers a myriad of international flavor to go along with many of the traditional American experiences you get in all popular US cities. So then, I want my friend to experience all sides of Houston culture. When she gets off the plane the first stop is the Houston Farmer’s Market off Airline to get all our fruits and vegetables for the week. I like to start my days with a smoothie. Before we head home, we are stopping at Fishman Seafood off Homestead for a “Clark Special.” Fishman is a local delight. It’s ducked off, and feels like you are at your uncle’s house when you walk in.
For the first day, after food and some time to freshen up, we’ll end the evening at the Rooftop Cinema. Hopefully its a night where we can catch Friday, Best Man, or another classic. Many folks I know who come to Houston want to experience the Breakfast Klub, so I would make sure my people get to experience all that comes with that the next morning. I’d have my favorite biscuits and gravy. While we are in the area, the Museum District is a must. Hopefully the weather would permit us to enjoy a smooth breeze and take in the vibrancy of the city as we check out of few museums. Early that evening, we would jump in with Let’s Do This Houston for one of their Midtown/Downtown biking tours. I have done a few of these, and it’s always a cool situation. After dinner at Blue Nile, the night cap is views and vibes at Z23 Rooftop bar.
The next morning after some good home cooked breakfast, we spending all day in Third Ward. There is so much here to see and experience from renting a segway or slingshot in the afternoon to The Spot and Locker Room at night. Lunch is at Soul Food Vegan and dinner is down the street at Phil and Derek’s. Due to the relatively short amount of time I have lived in Houston, when friends and family come into town we are exploring the city together. One of the Instagram pages that markets some of the best spots is My Southern Brand can help anyone plan a Houston escape.
One thing I know for sure though, is if the Astros are playing at home, we’ll catch a game with some good seats down the first base line. The Black Market is also a must to experience some of the local small businesses showcased twice a month. I used to take everyone that came to visit to the Buffalo Soldier Museum for the Black Market when the event was held there every other Friday. I would also include a trip to Galveston to be near the water. I am a beach bum, and never have a problem with laying on the beach on any continent.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The village that raised and continues to support my life could fill a football stadium. My mother is without a doubt that “Donda” encourager in my life. She made sure I knew from a young age, I could do and be whatever I wanted in this world. I’ve had so many positive male influences in my life; Jones, Mr. Booker, Bill Lartigue, Kris Erskine, my uncles, and of course my Morehouse family. The brotherhood is irreplaceable. Speaking of brothers, I have three blood brothers, and they each play a unique role in my motivation to keep going. If I had 1,000 tongues, I could not thank God enough for the soldiers he sends into my life; especially women. God always sends strong women of all races to be pillars in my life at various seasons. For this I am grateful.
Other: Online Professional Portfolio: https://sites.google.com/site/ejbenterprisesportfolio/