Taylor, Ephren W., II
Taylor, Ephren W., II
Ephren W. Taylor II started early on his career path. At age 12 he launched his first business, designing 3-D video games for computers and selling them to his classmates. In high school he co-founded a job-search Web site for teenagers called 4Teens Network—later renamed GoFerretGo.com—that grew into a multi-million-dollar company. Taylor himself became a millionaire at age 16 and was a multi-millionaire by his early twenties. In 2006 he became the youngest African-American chief executive officer of a publicly traded company when he was named to that post at City Capital Corporation, a company committed to socially conscious investing and community-building. In addition to his corporate duties, Taylor has burgeoning careers as an author, public speaker, and radio host. Taylor has long-term goals that go well beyond just building a business empire. As he explained to Otesa Middleton Miles of Baltimore's Crisis, "I'd like to change the block and change the world as well."
Taylor was born in Fort Gibson, Mississippi, in 1982. His family subsequently moved to Decatur, Alabama, and lived for short periods in Georgia, Massachusetts, and Florida before settling in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1993. His father was an electrical engineer at a nuclear power plant who in later years became a minister of the Church of Christ. His mother stayed at home with the children.
Recalling his early years on CNBC's The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, Taylor described a classic entrepreneurial attitude—he was always looking for creative responses to problems and needs. "On the playground, I was always one of those guys—whether it was pencils, erasers, drawings—I was selling it." He credited his proactive instincts to his parents' influence: "It was always instilled in me that you can accomplish anything, anything that you set your mind to." Taylor took a realistic approach to setting goals for himself. "I figured I probably wasn't going to go to the NFL," Taylor explained to Miles. "I needed to find a way to own the team."
He began figuring out how to earn money at an early age. His adolescent foray into the video-game business was itself a creative response to the high price of games. As he told the Web-based radio program Market News First, "My parents weren't going to cough up $40 to $50 a game, and they jokingly said, ‘Why don't you go figure out how to make one of your own?’ So I did. I went to the bookstore, picked up a couple books, taught myself how to program. I got out a game, and some of the students at school thought it was worth ten dollars a disc, and I just started selling from there."
Taylor's interest in business led him to seek training at the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership in Kansas City as a teen. Then, in 1999, he and high-school classmate Michael Stahl used $500 in savings to create his first real business—a job-search Web site called 4Teens Network, which gave high-school and college students access to job listings from employers like Wal-Mart, Target, and Citigroup. Renamed GoFerretGo.com, the site attracted some 30,000 registered users and was able to charge employers a fee for listing jobs. Taylor and Stahl's business grew to a value of $3.125 million by 2001. His participation in the business also led to an award in the 2000 Microsoft Teen TechFest Challenge.
Taylor left GoFerretGo.com and briefly ran an information-technology consulting firm called InTouch Connections before deciding—at age 19—that it was time to retire. He told Contemporary Black Biography that he felt burned out from business. "I wanted to hang it up permanently and just sit at home. But my wife had other plans."
Urged out of the house, Taylor drew on his interest in socially conscious investing to found Christian Capital Group. This venture led him into real-estate development, which has remained a focus ever since. He told CBB, "We were basically going into urban communities, taking housing and renovating it, and using the proceeds to fund churches and community organizations. I was getting so good at real-estate investment that a lot of the people who were participating to help these churches were able to retire from their jobs because of the income I was generating. Obviously that led to more clients, and more clients led to more money, which forces you into larger projects."
His used the concept as the foundation for his Amoro Corporation, which merged with City Capital in 2006. Taylor was named chief executive officer of the combined company the same year. City Capital operates under the slogan "Socially conscious investing to empower urban communities." Taylor described the company's mission in a press release: "We create true win-win-win developments and even share profits from the venture and other benefits with the community itself. Instead of telling a city what we want to build and what kinds of incentives we expect, we ask them to tell us their long-range goals for realization and community building."
Among the company's projects were a 200-home subdivision near Memphis, Tennessee; more than 150 homes in Cleveland's Seventh Ward, and the renovation of Kansas City's Historic Jazz District—which includes building 42 single-family homes as well as condominiums and shopping areas. The firm also uses its expertise to manage foundations for wealthy individuals. A notable example: City Capital manages the endowment for Snoop's Youth Football League, a program founded by rapper and actor Snoop Dogg.
Taylor's career so far has taken him into information technology, real estate, and social activism—and he continues to branch into new areas. He recently launched Amoro Entertainment, which will manage the careers of musicians and comedians, and he has been chosen to cohost The Soul of Success, which is broadcast nationally on the XM satellite radio network. He is working on a book to be published by John Wiley & Sons in 2007, tentatively titled Creating Success from the Inside Out: Develop the Focus and Strategy to Uncover the Life You Want. And in 2007, the Ephren W. Taylor II Entrepreneurial Academy—with a curriculum developed by Taylor—opened at Cheyney University in Pennsylvania.
Perhaps his most successful sideline has been as a public speaker. Since the fall of 2006 he has been giving talks on personal success to schools and colleges, but he's also busy as a proselytizer for socially conscious investing. He's spoken on the topic at Jesse Jackson's Wall Street Conference and before the Congressional Black Caucus. In 2006 he launched the 25-city Urban Wealth Tour, in which Taylor and an entourage of bankers and company executives descend on cities to meet with local political officials, community people, and investors. Taylor told CBB that the meetings aim to "spread a message of economic empowerment in the black community, what it means to start working together to take back our communities. Really, we're just trying to get us African Americans to get our money together. I feel that the last great struggle for African Americans is economic empowerment." Taylor's activities positioned him as an inspirational role model and catalyst to help others understand and achieve financial success.
At a Glance …
Born Ephren White Taylor II in July, 1982, in Fort Gibson, MS; married MeShelle Johnson; children Ephren III, Madison Elise. Education: Attended Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, Kansas City, MS.
GoFerretGo.com, cofounder, 1999; AmoroCorp, founder, 2000; City Capital Corporation, chief executive officer, 2006-.
Microsoft Teen TechFest Challenge, 2000; Kansas Department of Commerce, Kansas Young Entrepreneur of the Year, 2002.
Office—City Capital Corporation 256 Seaboard Lane Suite E-102, Nashville, TN 37067. Web—www.ephren.com.
Business Journal Serving Metropolitan Kansas City, September 1, 2000, p. 3.
Crisis (Baltimore), July 1, 2006, p. 10.
Diverse Issues in Higher Education, May 17, 2007, p. 20.
National Mortgage News, August 7, 2006, p. 13.
Washington Informer, June 15-21, 2006; p. 25.
"Ephren Taylor Becomes America's Youngest Black CEO of a Publicly-Owned Company: City Capital Corporation (CCCN)," Blacknews.com, www.blacknews.com/pr/ephrentaylor101.htm, (June 18, 2007).
"Living Black History: Age Is Just a Number to Ephren Taylor II, the CEO of Two Companies," Black America Web,www.blackamericaweb.com/site.aspx/family/blackhistorymonth/ephrentaylor222, (June 18, 2007).
Nine Figure Wealth,www.ephren.com (June 18, 2007).
"Microsoft and ACEplanet.com Announce Teen TechFest Challenge Winners," Microsoft.com PressPass,www.microsoft.com/Presspass/press/2000/may00/techfestpr.mspx, (June 18, 2007).
"The 2001 YoungBiz 100," YoungBiz, www.youngbiz.com/yb_mag_news/2001youngbiz100/main.htm (June 18, 2007).
"Workin' Hard 4 the Money," YoungBiz, www.youngbiz.com/aspindex.asp?fileName=yb_mag_news/2001youngbiz100/main.htm (June 18, 2007).
Interview with Ephren Taylor on The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, CNBC, January 10, 2007.
Interview with Ephren Taylor on Market News First, ww.mn1.com, August 25, 2006.
Additional information for this profile was obtained through an interview with Ephren W. Taylor II on April 3, 2007, and through publicity material supplied by Amoro Corporation, City Capital Corporation, and Envision Consulting Services.
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