You may have seen George Ray, III as one of the 16 contestants on BET’s The Grand Hustle, a business-oriented reality TV series featuring and executive produced by rapper Clifford “T.I.” Harris. Or, you may have seen him as a dating coach on the Oxygen network’s Find Me, My Man, reality TV series. In real life, Ray is a Miami-bred hustler that understands the power of making the best of a second chance.
“I grew up during Miami’s drug wars and the Cocaine Cowboys era. I was a juvenile delinquent. I fell victim to the trap of selling drugs. And, I believed the lie that doing so was the only way to make it out of the hood,” Ray recalls. “After a few near-death experiences, my mother moved our family down south to a place called Florida City, the southernmost city in mainland Florida.”
His experiences in jail helped him realize that jail was not for him and his parents did not raise him to be a criminal.
“After watching Spike Lee’s Malcolm X movie, I was inspired to self-educate,” Ray says. “So, I started reading the dictionary to improve my vocabulary. I read books about politics, civil rights, and business legends.”
Shortly after that, Ray met and began being mentored by Miami Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. He joined her 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, a mentoring program that helps inner-city boys go to college.
“Seeing Black doctors, lawyers and millionaires who were mentors in the program gave me permission to aspire to be like them,” says Ray, who later graduated Talladega College, joined Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and earned an MBA. “It allowed me to see beyond my circumstances and provided me with a sophisticated approach to chasing my dreams.”
Ray leveraged his relationships with lawmakers to impact federal policies that can help youngsters avoid the school-to-prison pipeline. He recently served on a Rev. Al Sharpton-moderated panel on the topic at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference.
After working a regular job and not achieving the upward mobility he hoped for, Ray decided to take an aggressive approach toward economic empowerment.
“I struggled my whole life until I started my own business about 4 years ago. That’s when I finally discovered that there is more to life than paying bills,” said Ray, who owns a process serving firm. “My business has provided me with a chance to travel the world and learn how to create wealth. You can’t wait for anyone to put you on or for a perfect situation to arise.”
After achieving a measure of success, he decided to help others create their own success as an adjunct business professor, business consultant, and certified franchise manager.
“Currently, I am a professional business consultant where I help early stage and startup companies,” Ray added. “Aside from business, my other passion is acting. That has led me to play major roles on two prime-time reality shows.”
As a Grand Hustle cast member, Ray is vying for a six-figure salaried position in T.I.’s multimillion-dollar Grand Hustle business empire which he built from the ground up. During a recent interview, Ray offered this guidance for business success.
What makes a successful entrepreneur?
“Someone who is dedicated and focused on solving problems and being the best at the delivery of the product or service that they offer to customers. I think a great entrepreneur creates more than wealth, they create waves.”
Do you think anyone can be successful if he or she are taught?
“Yes, but some people are born ready based on their personality and natural problem-solving skills.”
What successful entrepreneur has had the most influence on you?
“It’s safe to say TIP, the Rubberband man. He is worth nearly $80 Million and has given me a front-row seat on how to get to the money bag. Observing his moves have has inspired some ideas that I plan on implementing to create wealth.”
What’s one of the most important lessons you impart when you’re mentoring someone?
“Believe in yourself and use your time wisely. Always surround yourself with people who can add value to your life, like knowledge instead of liability or debt. Stay focused because it is easy to get distracted.”
Following that, what’s one lesson you wish you’d learned sooner?
“I wish I were more confident in my abilities earlier on. Over time, I’ve learned to trust myself and my business instinct. If you start a business venture, it does not have to be the most sophisticated business or have the largest operation to be successful. Your work ethic will determine your trajectory. Starting small and finishing big is how most success stories were created. Consistency, persistence, and discipline are essential.”
What’s your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
“I read Forbes Business, Black Enterprise, and the WSJ. These publications help me stay current on what business leaders are trending in the market. I like to study the people who are successful and learn how they implemented their plan. I also keep up with new businesses that are trending and current market conditions.“
What’s your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
“‘The Mis-education of the Negro,’ by Dr. Carter G. Woodson is my favorite book. It’s an old book that remains relevant today. It represents the truth about education for Blacks in this country. Without getting too deep, it shocks and increases your consciousness. The book shows how the system is rigged to keep minorities legally oppressed. Sub-par education translates into illiteracy, poor mental and physical health, bad credit, and unstable finances. Awareness through education is key. Once we become aware of the issues that impact our communities and the way that the system works against us, we can address the issues head-on. Otherwise, we are left to the mercy of the system, which only aims to ensure that we stay oppressed.”
For more information on “THE GRAND HUSTLE” log on to BET.com. Join the conversation on social media by logging on to BET’s multiple social media platforms and following @BET.
Zach Rinkins is an award-winning speaker and multimedia journalist and author of I Am College Material! Your Guide to Unlimited College, Career, and Life Success (Australia Publishing).