At the end of every school year, before the school doors could even close, my mother had my brother and me with luggage packed, sunglasses on, and boarding passes in hand, destined to Antigua to stay in my father’s father, Raymond “Power” Stevens. Grandpa Stevens was a pharmacist. He opened up his own pharmacy after being one of the lead government pharmacists for Antigua until his retirement.
From a kid’s perspective, Grandpa was a cross between a giant and a super hero. He was well over six-feet tall. His super hero uniform: tight high-water, bell-bottom pants, pointy shoes, crooked spectacles, and shirt jackets. His super powers: speed; he drove super fast, especially when we had to go to church, and parked anywhere.he.darn.well. pleased. I mean, anywhere: thanks to his front and back bummer.
His other super power: The yell. From what I remember, he always seemed to be quarreling about something or telling somebody what to do.
He never scared me because I knew he loved me. He would call me his little vagabond and every night, when he came home from the pharmacy, I would help him count all of money that he had earned that day. He carried it in a briefcase. Yes, #gangsta.
Without realizing it, my grandfather became one of my earliest and most influential financial and business mentors. Here are five of the life and money lessons that he instilled in me during my summer visits to Antigua.
1. Carry yourself with pride. Do you remember in the 90s when those half-shirts with horizontal stripes were in style? And you wore them with your baggy jeans and Janet Jackson Poetic Justice braids? Well, I took it upon my fifteen-year old self to wear my little shirt that exposed my flat, sexy waistline and baggy jeans into town to visit my grandfather. As soon as I walked into the pharmacy, he yelled, “You come to tell me that you come into town in bra and panty?” By the time I got home to change, they story had changed. My grandmother and Jackie, the housekeeper, met me at the door to see what possessed me to go into town completely naked.
Even though I did not like being yelled at and certainly knew that a cut off shirt and jeans was far from being a bra and panty set or being butt-naked, I understood what he was trying to say: dress in a manner that highlights your beauty, but not objectifies your body.
2. Land never spoils: My grandfather owned a lot of houses and land by the time of his passing, which he was able to leave for his sons and daughter. He created this generational wealth by living as a disciplined spender, an avid saver, and as a man that invested his money in things that appreciated in value.
3. People equate value with price, so never lowball your products or services: My grandfather told me the following story: He would come to New York to shop for custom jewelry, one of the many things he sold in his pharmacy beside prescription drugs. (You know how us Caribbean folk do!) On one trip, he came across some beautiful earrings and statement pieces and decided to sell them in the pharmacy. He wanted them to sell them fast, so he thought that he would price them at a discount. Only a few people bought at that price. So, he decided to slash prices again, thinking that a deeper discount would promote sales, but even fewer pieces sold. So he got the idea to jack up the prices. He doubled and even tripled the prices… and I guess you know how the story ends. He was making money hand over fist.
4. Stop Grinning So Much. You are Not a Clown. In this country, there is a constant pressure on women in general, and black women in particular, to smile… at inappropriate times or for no reason whatsoever. Ask the average black women how many times have they gotten the smile-you-look-so-mad comment from some random person while walking down the street. My grandfather taught me that it is not my responsibility to make other people comfortable around me. I have more important things to do with my time. This piece of advice is valuable and one that I work on as a burgeoning entrepreneur and a woman that is coming into her own.
5. Invest in Your Education so You Can be Self-Sufficient. This is a no-brainer, but worth repeating. Grandpa had five children, each of them having pursued advanced degrees in medicine, law, and pharmaceuticals. Even though he would be HIGHLY upset to hear that one of grandchildren did not want to go the traditional route, he would still insist that you receive the best training for your field.
There are so many options for the creative and innovative mind these days. Even if the traditional route is not your thing, it still is important that you find ways to increase your knowledge base of your industry with a mentor, a certificate course, and self-study.
My grandfather has been gone for close to fifteen years. Up until his final moments, Grandpa Stevens was giving everybody and anybody the business. He pushed. He pulled. He demanded excellence. He died a multi-millionaire and as a visionary. And because of him, so will I (sans the superhero costume).
If you’re waiting for a sign that it’s time to make a change, consider this it. Money Therapy may be just what you need to break through your financial blocks and release your money guilt and shame.