By Andrew Keith
Ancel Briley maxed out four credit cards, accumulating $12,000 in credit card debt between his sophomore and junior year of college. He was chasing his dreams.
What most people would’ve rationalized as poor fiscal responsibility, Briley saw as an opportunity to chase his passion of being an entrepreneur.
“Everyone basically told me no, don’t do it. Don’t start your business using credit cards, but for me it was worth the risk. I had to make minimum payments on the cards for a long time. It took me probably two years to pay them off,” he said.
The now 23-year old Athens, Georgia, entrepreneur actively maintains two fully functioning businesses he started as an undergraduate marketing student at the University of Georgia. AJ Briley Photography is his freelance photo-journalism business and Black Fire Media is Briley’s home improvement marketing agency that provides media consulting to home improvement firms.
Starting a small business requires not only monetary sacrifice, but hours of dedication, he said.
“I’ve done a lot of 100 hour, 120 hour weeks,” Briley said, “and my personal credit is now terrible, it’s like a 520 or 530 now which makes it hard for me to do things that I’d love to do with my business.”
Briley’s personal struggle with his credit score affects not only his everyday life, but how he has to run his business, which is familiar to the many people who take risks to launch start-up companies. Briley has emerged with two functioning businesses, but the use of his personal credit had ramifications and an expert in credit card use warned students of those pitfalls.
“The trouble is you want a history of credit and you want to have a good report with credit,” said Arjun Goel, a doctoral student and research assistant who also teaches finance at UGA. “I typically recommend spending just 10 percent of your available credit and make sure you make timely payments.”
The finance expert elaborated, “If you don’t have good credit you’ll have to pay increased interest rates on car loans and mortgages.”
Indeed, Briley has already seen the effects of this. Recently the young entrepreneur sat down with multiple banks attempting to take out a $250,000 Small Business Owner (SBO) loan to jump start his business but was denied because of his credit score. But, he has no regrets over the decision he made to start his own businesses.
“Working a bar job at Bar South and other jobs throughout college made me realize I never wanted to work for someone,” explained Briley. “I wanted to have my own thing.”
While the barriers to entrepreneurship are vast, Briley said some of the hardships have become ways to refine his company’s processes. After being denied the loan he wanted to upgrade his company’s software, Briley has turned his attention to improve smaller details and reduced inefficiencies in his daily operations.
“One of the things I was told when I started was it’s the little things that turn your company from a $1 million dollar company to $100 million dollar company,” Briley recalled.
The ambitious Athens resident has his sights set on that mark. “That’s my goal… to one day turn Black Fire Media into a $100 million-dollar company,” he said.
Andrew Keith is a journalism student at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.