Winter ’21 Bootcamp Member
Company Website: http://www.inner-vision-international.com
This month’s Founders First Community Member Spotlight is Dwayne Bryant, the Founder and CEO of Inner Vision International, Inc. Inner Vision provides mentoring services and online learning to various educational institutions to improve in-school climate, student academics and parental involvement, and to reduce self-destructive student behaviors. When we caught up with Dwayne, he told us how he got started and how the business pivoted after his involvement with Founders First.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from your time at Founders First?
My most important lesson from Founders First was the module where we talked about recurring revenues. That’s when it was like an “Aha!” moment, like wait a second, we can’t just continue to do transactional business with different clients. We have to look into how we begin to create recurring revenues.
What would be the inspiration that caused you to start your business?
Well, I was that kid that I work with now. We work with students, primarily in urban markets, primarily that may have challenging home situations. I grew up in a single parent household with a single parent mom of six children. I understood how to connect with that particular population of students. I graduated college on a full academic scholarship, stayed out of trouble after high school, and never had any criminal history. I knew that I had a formula and a solution that, if I was able to connect with the younger students, they could be able to do the same things. So, I prayed that God had a purpose for me on this planet to work with young people. I resigned from my corporate career at Johnson & Johnson at age 27 and started Inner Vision International in 1997. Since then, we’ve direct mentored over 45,000 students and engaged over 2000 parents and about 1500 teachers. It’s my passion. Every time I’m able to unlock the key to a child’s mind it’s like I’m helping myself and the guy who I was. So that’s the type of work, and that’s why I do what I do.
Would you mind sharing how your business has been impacted by your participation in the Founders First accelerator program?
Sure. Let me say that Founders First came at the exact right time, when COVID hit around March 16, 2020. I got a call that week from all of our school districts saying we cannot continue business. You cannot be in schools. We had to suspend all our contracts, and all our revenue. I told my friends that after 24 years I can’t believe we’re going to be shut down. And so, literally Founders First came and just kind of erased it away and said listen, you can pivot, you can take this either as a crisis or an opportunity. And we decided to take this opportunity and run with it. Founders showed us how to pivot the business, how to create recurring revenues, and how to take what we were doing to a direct service platform, to create an online platform now that we’re piloting with the sixth-largest school district in North America. And it actually starts this week so we’re launching a whole new online platform thanks to Founders. They helped us be able to navigate that so that it will be successful, and to be able to launch it on a national scale eventually.
That is absolutely wonderful, Dwayne. We’re blown away. Did you have any inspiration and main goals or accomplishments in mind when you started all this?
I think the inspiration was dual. One, growing up, not having a father in the home, there was always someone that came, whether it was my godparents, whether it was my mentor in college, who were able to speak a word of life to me, and kind of help course correct.
When I was in St. Louis, I had a speaking engagement at a high school. After I spoke, a young man said, “Hey, I love what you had to say, but I think you’re going to be just like everyone else who shows up—you talk pretty words and you disappear, we never see you again.”
Come to find out, he had a 1.5 grade point average, he was selling drugs, and running in a gang—someone who society would have written off. As I began to work with him, mentoring him sharing with him what I was doing with Johnson & Johnson, this young man began to pick up books, he stopped selling drugs, he graduated from high school, he graduated from the University of Missouri-St Louis, and he’s now a productive member of society.
Once I saw what is possible to do it with one person, that’s when I began to understand, I can literally scale this and have an impact on more students. That’s when we began to create a curriculum.
As we begin to create the curriculum, we began to have results, as we had results, we began to get bigger budgets. I was able to hire people and began to duplicate what we were doing in multiple schools and multiple school districts.
That’s fantastic! What would you say is one of your most recent accomplishments or milestones?
Well, I will say, literally, we have an online learning platform that Broward County is piloting this week and we actually have two additional school districts. Another one in the top 10 school districts in the United States of America, actually three of the top 10 school districts in the United States of America. Now, Chicago has said yes, we want your content and will figure out how to use it. We’re in conversations with Orange County public schools right now. I think the biggest thing is going from a direct service provider to now being an online content creator.
What were the different revenue streams you were able to generate from the Founders accelerator program?
Since Founders First, we’re beginning to take advantage of subscription-based services. So, now can we give you our online content for parents? Instead of paying me to come in to do a workshop in person, we do a bundle for the entire school for one year. That adds up when you have 100 schools. We actually lowered the price level, but you have to look at the scalability of the quantity of schools, and I can do that sitting in my office with a few clicks.
In 2020, we had the lowest revenues we’ve had in 24 years. COVID came in and wiped out our revenue. We were down to only $110,000 for the year. But in the fourth quarter of 2021 we’re already at $95,000. Part of the revenue growth as well, and one thing we did with Founders First, is we create a new protocol business plan.
What drew you to the Founders First accelerator?
You had a number of different experts. There’s a wide range of quality professionals. Also, these people were not professors, these are entrepreneurs who had already seen it and done it. In teaching the business practices modules, they could tell us what worked for them and help us to be able to navigate what could work for us as well.
What are some goals you hope to hit within the next couple of years?
We’re going to scale our curriculum and content. I can only tell you a little bit about it, but we want to have an impact on 45,000 people, then 4.5 million, then 45 million and so on. We’ll do it through software and apps. We want to take advantage of virtual reality as well. Some of these things are hush hush for now.
How has the original vision that you had for your business when you started changed overall?
I would say it hasn’t changed much. Initially our mission statement was to motivate, educate, and inspire individuals to achieve their maximum potential in their personal lives and the communities in which they live. That has evolved to “transform the trajectory” of their personal lives and the communities in which they live, so pretty much the same thing, but being able to transform their trajectory so you can be motivated and educated and inspired. Now we’re able to do what [Founders First founder] Kim Folsom is doing for us.
The kids we work with become the visionaries for their families and their communities to be able to make sure that we’re able to help reset the human family because right now. After the pandemic, our young people are at a place where they’ve never been before in terms of learning. There’s domestic violence, suicide, and everything has heightened divisions between us, whether it’s racist or sexist or Democrat, Republican, Korea, China, or whatever it is. What we need is a level of stability and humanity, and hopefully the work that we’re doing with one child, 10 children, a million children at time will be able to help to reset humanity.
Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs?
Sure, for any entrepreneur that wants to expand or grow or even consider Founders First, I would say you don’t know what you don’t know. Period. And you don’t even know that you don’t know it, so what Founders First does is it teaches you things that you don’t know. And then, it gives you a roadmap and a consistent way to be able to learn. You go through the different modules, learn them, and then go back and review them again. It helps you course correct to keep your vision on track.
You know, obviously, if you’re an entrepreneur you’re smart if you get into this program. That means you qualify. You’re not the person who is just barely making it. But if you’re hearing the bootcamp is for people who already have demonstrated results, you gotta remember Michael Jordan had a coach and he said he would never play basketball unless Phil Jackson was his coach. That means that, as great as he was, he knew he can become greater with a coach. So, for me, Founders First was that coach. Kim Folsom was a coach for us to be able to do the things that we needed to do in order to get better.