FAMDO – Don Franco – For All Minds Desiring Ownership:
Talking with the Modern Day Revolutionary
Have you ever met a modern-day revolutionary?
Well, Don Franco the author of The FAMDO Way: A Commentary and Solution to the African-American Crisis is a social entrepreneur with a business plan and a manifesto.
Franco is executing a business strategy that, he believes, will not only revolutionize how African-Americans spend money in the marketplace and are viewed in the media, but equally important, how they will obtain a relevant education. He also stresses the importance of raising money in the African-American community to support effective non-profit organizations in urban communities through his for-profit venture, FAMDO – For All Minds Desiring Ownership – Inc.
During Franco’s adolescence in a single-parent household, he witnessed poverty, teenage pregnancy, abortion and low self esteem, all of which now allows him to identify with many of today’s inner-city youth whom he seeks to empower. After spending his freshman year of high school at the perennial basketball powerhouse, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, VA), Don returned to his hometown, Linden, New Jersey, where he became “Player of the Year,” before attending Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond on a four-year basketball scholarship.
Although Franco’s basketball college career did not go as well as he had hoped, he did graduate with his business degree. And his education allowed him to work for some of the most prestigious corporations in the pharmaceutical industry, where he held various sales, marketing, and training positions for 17 years. These companies included: Eisai, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, and Hoffman-La Roche.
Based on his business experience, Franco presents a credible plan for FAMDO, and how it will take the lead in equipping black youth for 21st century success. As Franco says, “It’s great that the Civil Rights Act in 1964 was passed to allow African Americans to enjoy such places as theatres, restaurants, and hotels without racial discrimination. However, if African Americans can’t afford these and other opportunities in the 21st century, then what good is it having access?”
Franco gives props to the Civil Rights Movement but asserts that it’s time to turn the page and focus on a “never-before-seen solution” to overcome a “never-before-seen crisis.”
Thus, Franco’s plan advocates African Americans owning more businesses, schools, investments and homes. He believes that these are the investments that will bring true wealth and change to local communities. A determined visionary, Franco has identified long term trends, technological advances and attitudes that will facilitate the change FAMDO is proposing. His personal dedication to see more success in the African-American community, especially among youth, is driving him to change capitalism, media, education, and philanthropy as Americans know it.
WRR: Your company’s plan is a threat to free enterprise as we know it, as it looks to revolutionize how African-Americans spend money in the marketplace. How does your company plan to pull this off?
Don Franco: Well, when you look at companies that have done great things in our capitalistic society, their aim was always to change the world and revolutionize the way things were done in the marketplace. A few companies that come to mind are E-bay, Google, and Microsoft. By leading this social-entrepreneurial company (FAMDO), our goal is no different. We simply want to see more success coming from the African-American community and we have identified four key components that will help us execute our plan. These components are: technology, solid African-American role models, key influencers (that being the stylists and barbers in our communities), and the annual spending power of the black community, which is currently $1 trillion. My 17 years in corporate America and personal background lends itself perfectly to the FAMDO plan.
WRR: There is a sense of purpose that moves you on a high level, when did you grasp it?
Don Franco: Excellent question! I am definitely one who believes each human being has a purpose. I fully grasped that FAMDO was my purpose right around the year 2000 when I was doing very well in the pharmaceutical industry as a sales trainer. However, my heart became heavy when I observed the conditions of African-American communities across the country. I began to feel as if I could really be an agent of change and I said, “If no one else would reach back to our communities and empower them—the way I thought empowerment was needed—then I would do it.” Many say that your purpose lies in your misery, and the condition of our communities is definitely my misery and I felt this was my calling. I think my great concern for our communities, especially the next generation, is evident in the book.
WRR: How would corporate personnel, contractors and small businesses owners profit from your company, FAMDO?
Don Franco: I think the world is increasingly becoming more transparent and I don’t believe the traditional organizations in the black community will be able to properly empower our corporate executives, contractors, and small businesses the way they have in the past. With the buying power of the African-American market reaching a trillion dollars, we will need to be more demanding than ever in regards to who we spend our dollars with. Tough questions, such as: “How many African Americans are in the company and in management?” “How much of the company’s advertising dollar is going to black-owned media outlets?” and, “How much of the company’s business is done with black-owned minority suppliers?” will have to be answered and made known to the community. And if the need to lead in this new age of transparency presents itself, FAMDO is ready and willing to do what’s necessary to ensure more successful corporate executives, contractors and small business owners are coming from the black community.
WRR: How do you make the time to be effective on so many levels? I mean when do you sleep?
Don Franco: When you are walking in purpose, you become extremely focused. You learn that “less is more and more is less.” You don’t get bogged down with ventures or opportunities that are not part of your purpose. So, I have learned to use a nice two letter word, and that is: no. Also, when I began thinking about starting FAMDO in 2005, I considered the cost. I looked at my relationships with my wife, children, extended family, church, and finances, and thought it was time to launch the company. It has not been easy but I am stronger for the process and I believe the company is now just hitting its stride. I believe a season of good-night’s rest will soon arrive for me and all who have a close relationship with me.
WRR: How do we unhook people from their daily thought patterns to dream as big as Nelson Mandela, President Obama and The First Lady, Oprah and Bill Gates? You seem ready to manage such a squad.
Don Franco: Well, thanks for the compliment but I still have a loooong way to go. And, that’s if I ever get to that level of success. That said, I do have some insight as far as what it takes to be one of vision.
First, I would inform the potential visionary to seek purpose in the task they are about to undertake. Having a sense of purpose is crucial while looking to do something great. Secondly, get involved in a continuous-learning program that centers around things you enjoy. Get as much information on your area of expertise via the internet, TV documentaries, newspapers, magazines, books, and other resources that would give you the facts and statistics which are needed to build convictions because…people can only go as far as they see. By studying and learning the facts, one will become more knowledgeable and see that they don’t just have to exist the way the world seems to have cast their role. Lastly, draft up a plan and execute it. Knowledge is not power until we do something with it.
WRR: Once you have FAMDO to the point where it runs itself so to speak where do to turn your focus?
Don Franco: My focus will be on Christian ministry in New Jersey.
WRR: Don, how do you think desegregation is working out now that we don’t own a thing in our communities?
Don Franco: Desegregation in this country has not been perfect and I believe the African-American community did its best under the circumstances. After all, there are many blacks that were able to enter the middle class over the past forty years (although this current recession is causing many to fall from that classification) and, I believe it is a process that African Americans are going through to get to that place where we need to be. As far as business ownership goes, the current level of ownership is quite disturbing. For example, according to a University of Texas study, African-American businesses produced only four-tenths of one percent of this country’s total business revenues at the end of the 20th century. Or in other words, out of $100 that was produced in American business revenue, African Americans should have been producing $13—due to African Americans being 13% of the U.S. population. But our businesses did not even produce 50 cents of that $100. And this is important because three out of four (75%) new jobs are created by small businesses. Now, I think a new generation of leaders will rise up from the community and start companies that would address the ownership issue because the conditions are forcing us to do so. These new marketplace leaders will focus on servicing—not just African Americans—but the marketplace at large.
WRR: Bernie Madoff stole billions of dollars of other people’s money and dreams. What are your thoughts about him and his associates from Wall St. to the Federal Trade Commission who make such things possible?
Don Franco: It sure would be easy to cast judgment on Mr. Madoff; however, being one who has never had that type of influence, I would just say that he didn’t have the integrity nor the proper team around him that could have told him no. Being told ‘no’ from a competent team would have obviously prevented a lot of misfortune for him, his company and family, the investors and others. As far as those who exacerbated the financial mess on Wall Street, it is pretty sad. When all is well, and Wall Street executives are making the big-time money, they get to spend it on themselves and their families. But, as soon as losses are evident, they look to the taxpayers for bail outs.
WRR: Are you intimidated by the sheer scope and magnitude of FAMDO?
Don Franco: Not at all. As previously mentioned, I believe this is what I have been called to do so I have no apprehension at all. I cannot walk in faith and fear at the same time. They simply cannot co-exist within me. Now, others may look at FAMDO and its plan to equip the underserved and think FAMDO would be quite intimidating. However, this is not their purpose, it’s mine! So come what may, the African-American community deserves a company like FAMDO.
WRR: How would you like to see our school systems upgrade its commitment to our children?
Don Franco: As I mention in the book, I would like to see more being taught on purpose, media, technology, African-American history, and business, especially entrepreneurship. Now, if the mainstream schools do not begin to teach these topics, I definitely see FAMDO playing a role in the education of African-American communities. With technology and money, FAMDO can partner with churches, mosques and other key influencers (i.e., cosmetologists and effective non-profits in local communities) and begin a progressive curriculum. Furthermore, distance learning will be an essential way to learn in the future and I see FAMDO playing a role in this type of learning.
Click here to order a copy of The FAMDO Way: A Commentary and Solution to the African-American Crisis
Groomed to be an accomplished dealer of funky music from childhood, T’challah has studied all genres of music as an avid listener and drummer, guitarist and singer. He began Dee-Jaying parties at eight years old. He graduated from Essex County College where he majored in communications. T’challah has done approximately sixty weddings and 105 award ceremonies. A graduate from The Center for Media Arts with their “Golden Ear” Award, T’challah studied to become a recording and video engineer. He has worked for Hype Williams and Erik White as a live sound engineer and on videos for successful Rap Artist D.M.X., Ja-rule, and Nelly. He’s currently producing Hip-Hop and R&B acts with Erik White and Michael “Moon” Reuben.