Sweet Dreams

A few smart real estate deals have helped the Washingtons open a trio of ice cream parlors

up her franchise research and by 2003 she opened Maggie Moo’s, a premium ice cream franchise in the Adams Morgan section of Washington, D.C. Again, homeownership made things happen. The Washingtons used their primary residence to secure a Small Business Administration loan of $265,000. A year later, when Kerri met resistance from the banks to finance a second store, she and her husband decided to sell both condos and were able to open the store later that year. Then, realizing that their home was now valued at $1 million, they refinanced and paid off some of the debt on both stores. The cycle continued, when they refinanced the “fixer-upper” and bought a third Maggie Moo’s.

Fast-forward to today. The Washingtons–who exemplify BLACK ENTERPRISE Declaration of Financial Empowerment principle No. 1: I will use homeownership as a foundation to build wealth–have made a series of smart purchases and refinancing decisions to build their net worth.

If you think the Washingtons must be high-flying M.B.A.s, they are quick to tell you that’s not the case. Neither went to college, but what they lack in education they make up for in moxie.

Today, their stores bring in about $900,000 a year, of which the Washingtons take home about 20% to 25%. They also bring in another $140,000 a year–an amount that includes Darryl’s salary as an Air Force recruiter and their rental income.

What’s their secret? DOFE principle No. 2: I will be proactive in managing my budget, credit, debt, and tax obligations. Kerri has used QuickBooks for more than five years to track spending. Furthermore, they spend moderately and buy only used cars. But what’s most critical? “Without good credit and budgeting, nothing would have happened for us,” says Kerri.

The Washingtons’ Advice:

Refuse to rent. “If you’re paying rent, you can find a way to afford a home,” says Kerri. Explore the plethora of first-time home buying programs. To get started, see what special programs may be sponsored by your state government or other organizations. Go to www.hud.gov/buying/localbuying.cfm and click on your state.

Consider credit royalty. Credit is king. Bad credit will hold you back. Establish credit early and be fastidious about paying consistently and on time. Don’t have a bunch of credit cards. Even if you don’t use them, lenders will see that you have lines available that you could run up. Lastly, know your credit score. To learn more, go to www.myfico.com.

Express your entrepreneurial spirit. You may only have an inkling of an idea, and maybe a business is five or more years away, but start researching now, says Darryl. The more you know about the market, the pros and cons, the better you’ll be able to plan and set goals. Put your thoughts in writing and create a business plan to make your goals more real. For information about starting a business, the Washingtons recommend the SBA. (www.sba.gov).

Lastly, read, read, read. The Washingtons favorites: BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine; The Millionaire Next Door (Pocket; $22) by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko; The 7 Habits

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