Today we’d like to introduce you to Kofi Gyebi.
Kofi, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born in Ghana and raised here in the states and attended college at Bowling Green State University. My family didn’t come here with much yet it’s strange to say I own a company that focused on personal finance and here I am the Founder of 400LB Elephant. When I got my first job at Yankee Autobath in Dayton, OH my mom always used to tell me to save at least $50 She said one day it’ll add up to a lot of money. That is the only financial advice I got growing up. I opened up my first bank account when I was 12 or 13 years old. Like many of my peers, I went to college because that was drilled into our head as the only way to make money so we wouldn’t have to live paycheck to paycheck (many people go to college and live paycheck to paycheck). In order to attend college, I took out loans. When I was 18 years old I a bit apprehensive to sign the student loan documents, I tried to read the contract but was rushed because I needed the money to sign up for classes.
Fast forward post-graduation and I owed $17,000. Luckily, I had a few scholarships and was paying out of state tuition. Unfortunately, I graduated on the tail end of the Great Recession. My first job out of college was as a security officer in Atlanta. A place where I had no contacts, friends, and was knee-deep in debt. That $17K eventually grew to $33K six years later due to poor repayment strategy. To be honest, I never intended on fully paying my student loans back unless I got super-rich. Three years ago, I was asked how much I owed in student loans and sadly I was unsure. But I would pay $40 to $120 at my loans quarterly. There was never an emphasis nor consistency on making payments from anyone in my social circle. My first introduction to paying off my debt was a guy named Dave Ramsey from Tennessee. At the time his principles were up my alley and within one year, I paid off my debt and became debt-free, May 1, 2017 When I’d share I was debt-free people would pull me to the side and ask me how I paid off my debt. I buckled down and paid off $33,000 in one year. Meanwhile there was no eating out, used my refund checks, bonus checks, got a roommate, I would have sold stuff if I could but I don’t have a lot of stuff.
Money Meet Ups
As I started to share my story helping people with their debt, I built a website and started a blog. After creating the blog, it actually sat dormant for about a year. Within that time, I really got into personal finance books. In my past life, I worked in the banking industry and did similar side work, the only difference was now I have identified my life’s work. Inspiring people to pay off their debt is priceless. It truly is. I started coaching people and knew that there were a lot of people in need of my services. Money is a taboo subject and 400LB Elephant strives to talk about the elephant in the room. A few years ago, we hosted a money meet up and someone talked about spending a few hundred dollars on coffee. When I started the company, I had a hard time coming up with a name and my friend Marcus Blackwell confirmed that it was a good name. I was at “Playing with Fire” screening and I heard a young woman say that she didn’t know many people that looked like her paying off large amounts of debt. The reality is sometimes you have to see that it can be done before you truly believe in yourself. This was a young black woman, and that day changed my life forever because that same week, I filed for my LLC.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Show me an entrepreneur who has had a smooth path and I will point out a liar. When you start a business, sometimes your own friends won’t follow you, won’t share your page, won’t like a post; a tweet, a Facebook post, nothing! It hurts because your friends are your first points of contact, if not them I don’t know how to build up an organic following. You have to just jump in and get your hands dirty. Going to local events, networking, and being the face of a business is hard for an introvert like me.
Some days you see other people with large followings and you get frustrated or you compare which steals your joy. You can’t compare your story to someone’s highlight reel and too often we compare. Comparison is a thief of joy! Another challenge was starting the business. Where are you supposed to start? There are all these websites out there but how do you know if you’re getting scammed? Building a business is a lot of work if you work a full-time job but you have to put out a product and market yourself despite not knowing what path to follow. Plus at the time, I didn’t personally know a lot of people that were debt-free and running a business. I learned my first lesson of running a business is to never offer services if the client hasn’t paid. This person signed up, we had a class and they straight ghosted me. That was a tough pill to swallow.
400LB Elephant – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
400LB Elephant strives to help young professionals reach their financial goals. Thus far, we have helped people pay off $36,000 in debt, save over 15,000 increased charitable giving by 13% I’m a financial coach that helps professionals pay off their debt. In addition to our current success, we help with credit cards, student loans, car payments, mortgages, personal loans, and most important of all we help people create sustainable budgets. I love my work because I get to help people, get them through the forest of debt, and it’s amazing to see them succeed. Our niche audience is attorneys, it happens to be the largest demographic we serve. Our blog 400lbelephant.com where I share my journey, sum up the best finance books and all things related to money. The company does charitable work like volunteering with local not for profits to teach the basics of finance.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
My proudest moment is pushing through some tough times and keeping it going if I’m being honest… This has been hard! I took a leap of faith and went to a Financial Conference (FinCon) this past September in Washington D.C. with little knowledge on the conference, networked, joined a mastergroup with some folks I met at the conference. FinCon was good, I met so many good people. I mention FinCon because I didn’t plan to attend but I pushed through and it was worth it. That’s the ultimate goal is to help people get rid of their debt. The more I keep moving, the more people I get to help. I look forward to changing lives!