by Catherine Brinkman

Rendel Solomon isn’t your normal uncle. In 2016 his 8-year-old niece Kaydence was introduced to the stock market, when he purchased her shares in Apple, Nike, and Disney as a Christmas gift. Recently, she received shares in Netflix, Amazon, and Microsoft, . “Gifts will always be educational,” Rendel tells me. So how did Kaydence learn about investing in stocks? Lucky for her, Uncle Ren took her downtown to Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile.” On the same block were Apple, Nike and Disney stores, literally lined up in a row. They walked into each store and Rendel explained that she owned a piece of everything in the store by owning stock in the company. “Do I get free stuff now?” Kaydence asked. Uncle Ren responded, “No, it doesn’t quite work that way.”  Kaydence, not missing a beat, asked “Do I make money when people buy stuff?” Based on his answer, Kaydence was hooked. The next stock she asked for was Starbucks, “Because Mommy buys coffee from there all the time.”

One Stock One Future Photo Gallery Featuring Kaydence Gordon

Rendel, who is clearly hyper intelligent, didn’t always use the best judgment when it came to money.  Growing up in Chicago’s West Garfield Park he received a solid understanding of the value of a dollar.  However, future thinking of what that dollar could do wasn’t something he thought about as a youth.   Having a Mother that worked two jobs, a Father that while he provided struggled with alcoholism; Rendel had an example of a work ethic.  His late Mother instilled the importance of a good education in her children as well.  Rendel became determined to get a strong education so he could help support the family, so his Mom wouldn’t have to work two jobs.

Rendel was privileged in a lot of ways. “I also had food, clothes that fit and a roof over my head,” he said. He saw the kids around him not putting education first or getting pushed by their parents to take school seriously. His Mother taught him an education was the way to improve his life. “I have the math gene and school came easy.” Taking advantage of his intelligence, he attended the Latin School of Chicago to get a better education than he would find in his own neighborhood. Attending on a scholarship, Rendel commuted 75 to 90 minutes each way. “I wanted to get out of the neighborhood for high school. It just didn’t seem like people in the neighborhood cared about school.”

“Traveling to downtown Chicago, I was exposed to different cultures.”  It was Rendel’s easy going spirit, his ability to excel in school and “being able to play basketball” that helped him acclimate to his new surroundings.

Still his only real thoughts about money was whatever was in his pocket for snacks before basketball games. It was in his senior year of High School his mom started to talk to him about scholarships for college.

Rendel didn’t listen to his mom when she talked about applying for small $500 to $2,000 scholarships.  He was accepted and given a full academic scholarship to Tulane University in New Orleans.  But this did not cover room and board.  This is where his relationship with money took a wrong turn.  He took out loans and got credit cards to pay his bills.  Junior year at Tulane, he and a friend were out grabbing burgers, when they looked at each other and realized they were about to graduate with little work experience.  They went to the career office that afternoon and started to look for internships and jobs.

Rendel, who majored in electrical engineering, saw an ad from the Procter and Gamble Company (P&G) and applied.  He was later invited to come for an interview in Cincinnati.  Knowing little about P&G before heading into the interview he thought to himself upon leaving, “Everything in my dorm room is from Procter and Gamble.”  He accepted P&G’s offer to intern and ended up working for them directly after college.

He worked as a project engineer, helping to design what the labs scientists used to make the products.  Instead of paying off his student debt from Tulane “I took my advance money and bought a nice car.” His mismanagement of money was so bad, Rendel had to call his mentor and ask for a loan.  Soon Rendel was making good money at P&G, but still neglected to pay off his student loans.  He was also becoming disengaged with being an engineer.

“You either help make money or help save money” he said about companies’ thoughts of how employees fit into business models.  Rendel, while he liked his job on the money saving side at P&G, he kenw he wanted to be on the moneymaking side, working in branding.   So, Rendel did a career rebranding.

He was accepted to Columbia University where he earned an MBA in Marketing and Media Management.  Rendel also received more debt.  He still had debt from Tulane to pay off.  Upon graduating from Columbia, he worked in the music industry in artist management. “I failed wonderfully.  I let the P. Diddy dream go, called my mentor and asked to work for him.”  Leaving New York with student loans, credit card debt and health care bills he headed back to Chicago.

In 2007 his mentor welcomed Rendel with open arms to Muller & Monroe.  Founded in 1999, Muller & Monroe is a private equity firm based in Chicago.  Rendel serves as Principal. “Ten years later and I am still here.  I love it.”  It was during this 10-year window that Rendel got his debt under control and began to think of his relationship with money in an entirely different way.  Then he thought “What if I could change the way kids think about money?  There are three things that affect people’s relationship with money; fear, exposure and accessibility.”

In March 2016, Rendel came up with the idea to teach underserved youth about money, stocks and the idea of owning a piece of a company. He founded “One Stock One Future.” By late June 2016, Rendel was officially a 501(c)3 and on July 21, 2016, he taught his first class of 40 students. Rendel wants to teach kids that when they invest in stock, they become owners of that company.

Rendel’s classes are roughly 90 minutes with 20-30 kids per class. “I don’t take it too far, too deep with topics or go fast. I want to give students a sense of hope, inspiration, empowerment, and opportunity. This is less about the monetary value of stock, and more about ownership in a company they believe in and can see everyday. My goal for 2018 is to roughly get 2,000 kids through classes.”

If you are Kaydence, Uncle Ren’s first student, you get one on one attention. “She wanted Microsoft this year for Christmas, since they own the video game, Minecraft. Before I buy her stock, I ask why she wants it.” Apparently, Microsoft was up for the week. Microsoft bought Mojang, the maker of Minecraft for $2.5 billion. Kaydence, as an end user of the game, knows people must play in order for the game to make money. Not bad for a nine-year-old.

His favorite hashtag is #ownershipmatters even when that means teaching one kid at a time.  Currently most classes are held in Chicago.  The plan is to expand into New York, Cincinnati and St. Louis in 2018.

For more information or if you are interested in volunteering or donating to One Stock One Future click on http://onestockonefuture.org. You can also find them on FB, Instagram, and Twitter @1stock1future.

About the writer: Catherine Brinkman has a sales career spanning 2 decades.  She has won numerous awards including Rookie of the Year and Silver Sales Associate for Dale Carnegie, a global training company.  In early 2016, Catherine started her own consulting business, partnering with sales and marketing teams to increase revenue. She works with everyone from Silicon Valley giants to small startups. She has a fun, comic approach to her consulting, having studied satirical writing at The Second City.  She can be found at cb@bhyconsulting.com and on Twitter @catbrinkman

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