Boxing and business – dual passions that have fueled Calvin Brock’s life. The entrepreneurial-minded pugilist knew from an early age that one day he would compete for a world championship, and he would come to appreciate the lessons learned along the way, especially from UNC Charlotte’s Belk College of Business.
Brock’s dream began one Christmas morning. A typical 8-year-old, he excitedly opened a gift from his uncle. As he ripped away the wrapping paper, he discovered two pairs of boxing gloves.
“I couldn’t figure out why he gave me two pairs, because my sister was my only sibling, and back then, girls didn’t train to box,” said Brock, a 1999 Belk College alumnus. “But with the gloves, I started boxing with kids in the neighborhood, and I loved it. I begged and begged my parents to let me start training, and they finally relented when I was ten. But the trainer at the gym said to come back when I was twelve.”
And return he did. He began with the North Charlotte Boxing Club (now the Charlotte Boxing Academy) and also trained with the Police Athletic League. The young fighter struggled, losing his first four contests, and just when he thought he would have to leave Charlotte to train, his father stepped in.
The senior Brock ordered instructional boxing videotapes and became his son’s trainer. After enduring two more losses, Brock won his seventh boxing match, and his aspirations started to materialize.
“I started going on winning streaks, winning second place in the National Junior Olympics at age fifteen, which ranked me the No. 2 amateur boxer in the country,” said Brock, who continued to compile titles statewide and nationally, including the Silver Gloves. He would win the national Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship in 1998. As a senior at West Charlotte High School, Brock vied for the 1992 U.S. Olympic team; it would take eight years, but he won a spot on the 2000 squad and competed in Sydney, Australia.
Although dedicated to boxing, Brock knew that his chosen sport was part of the entertainment business, and success, in part, hinged on branding and promotion. A scholarship to Northern Michigan University, home of the Olympic Training Center for Boxing, evaporated due to funding cuts. So, the budding entrepreneur did what many others have to do when faced with adversity – be prepared to change course. He enrolled at Central Piedmont Community College, and later transferred to UNC Charlotte, where he majored in finance.
“I owe a great deal of my success to UNC Charlotte and the Belk College. All along, I knew that in order to build a boxing career, I would need to learn the finer points of business,” Brock noted. “Belk College taught me the marketing, accounting, the economics that I needed. College makes you a well-rounded individual, and in business school, there were lots of team projects that enabled me to learn how to communicate, delegate and negotiate – all key skills needed in the entrepreneurial sport of boxing.”
Following graduation, Brock worked briefly for Bank of America, but he continued to train and compete professionally.
Calvin Brock, the Boxing Banker, became his own franchise, and he assembled the team to advance his career, which meant selecting the right trainer, promoter, publicist, and corner personnel.
“Boxing is the most entrepreneurial sport there is; I was the living, breathing embodiment of the product, so all my decisions had to be very strategic,” said Brock.
And all his planning and discipline enabled Brock to reach the pinnacle of his chosen sport. The crescendo came on Nov. 11, 2006, when he challenged Wladimir Klitschko for the heavyweight championship of the world. A seventh-round loss to Klitschko and subsequent retinal damage from a 2007 match against Eddie Chambers would end Brock’s boxing career prematurely.
But his passion as an entrepreneur enabled him to reinvent himself and launch the national venture Jack and Landlords, a guarantee company that works with leasing companies to eliminate the upfront security deposit for renters. Through Jack and Landlords, landlords still receive a full month’s rent guarantee for damages, while tenants spread out the guarantee across 12 months at a reduced rate.
Brock said such an arrangement is mutually beneficial to landlords and tenants. For landlords, it is an opportunity to reduce turnover rates, lower operating costs, and decrease disputes associated with deposits. For tenants, they eliminate the need for a large cash outlay to move in and could realize a rent reduction starting in the second year.
Recently, Blueberrie Private Rental Leasing, based in Las Vegas, Nevada, partnered with Jack and Landlords to lease 4,600 properties. Instead of an upfront security deposit, tenants will pay a smaller amount that is added to each month’s rent during the first year.
Key to his new opportunity was taking advantage of the many lessons he realized along the way, including learning by working for someone else and getting to know the customer. After boxing, Brock worked in commercial real estate and recognized that security deposits, while essential to business leasing, were a “pain point” for residential renters. Identifying the pain point is where the entrepreneur excels.
“Learning about customers’ pain points enables you to uncover the niche to meet their needs,” said Brock. “If customers have a need, there’s a demand not being met, which gives an entrepreneur an opportunity to fulfill.”
How did the concept for Jack and Landlords come about?
After boxing, I worked in commercial real estate and recognized that security deposits, while essential to commercial leasing, were a “pain point” for residential renters. Then, I researched and discovered that landlords across the country were increasingly leasing without security deposits and assuming the risks to avoid the downsides that come with security deposits.
How was the first year in business?
2014 was our first year in business. We brought on one customer. We were happy with just the one customer because the customer served as our beta test. This allowed us to get all our systems in sync to handle large volume.
What was your marketing strategy?
Landlord association newsletters, LinkedIn, and cold calling.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We attracted one customer in 2014. Our first customer was a privately-owned residential property management company in Arkansas.
How do you define success?
Success to me is defined as obtaining one’s goal.
What is the key to success?
The key to success is to never lose sight of one’s goal and to constantly put action towards obtaining one’s goal.
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
Boxing is an entrepreneurial sport to its fullest. Making the transition from boxing to the business world were the toughest days ever. As a boxer, I was the product getting sold. When injury suddenly ended my boxing career, I had to find a product to sell. Sell what? Where? How? Getting those answers are way harder than said.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Without adversity, there is no feat. Life in its nature bring all sorts of adversities. Each day has adversities but we all push forward when we don’t check out.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Follow your heart. God has placed dreams inside of people to carry out. That is why civilization has been advancing, throughout the world, since the beginning of mankind. If you don’t chase your dream, God will give it to someone else who will.
This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
Check out our Books page to see the top books recommended by entrepreneurs, professional athletes, and executives.