By Phillip Brown
Photos by Ryan Honeyman
Boxing and business – dual passions that have fueled Calvin Brock’s life. The entrepreneurially-minded pugilist knew from an early age that one day, he would compete for a world’s championship, and he would come to appreciate the lessons learned along the way, especially from UNC Charlotte’s Belk College of Business.
Brock’s dream began one Christmas morning. A typical eight-year-old, he excitedly opened a gift from his uncle. As he ripped away the
wrapping paper, he discovered two pairs of boxing gloves.
“I couldn’t figure out why he gave me two pairs, because my sister was my only sibling, and back then, girls didn’t train to box,” said Brock, a 1999 Belk College alumnus. “But with the gloves, I started boxing with kids in the neighborhood, and I loved it. I begged and begged my parents to let me start training, and they finally relented when I was 10. But the trainer at the gym said to come back when I was 12.”
And return he did. He began with the North Charlotte Boxing Club (now the Charlotte Boxing Academy), and also trained with the Police Athletic League. The young fighter struggled, losing his first four contests, and just when he thought he would have to leave Charlotte to train, his father stepped in.
The senior Brock ordered instructional boxing videotapes, and became his son’s trainer. After enduring two more losses, Brock won his seventh boxing match, and his aspirations started to materialize.
“I started going on winning streaks, winning second place in the National Junior Olympics at age 15, which ranked me the No. 2 amateur boxer in the country,” said Brock, who continued to compile titles statewide and nationally, including the Silver Gloves. He would win the national Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship in 1998. As a senior at West Charlotte High School, Brock vied for the 1992 U.S. Olympic team; it would take eight years, but he won a spot on the 2000 squad and competed in Sydney, Australia.
Although dedicated to boxing, Brock knew that his chosen sport was part of the entertainment business, and success, in part, hinged on branding and promotion. A scholarship to Northern Michigan University, home of the Olympic Training Center for Boxing, evaporated due to funding cuts. So, the budding entrepreneur did what many others have to do when faced with adversity – be prepared to change course. He enrolled at Central Piedmont Community College, and later transferred to UNC Charlotte, where he majored in finance in the Belk College of Business.
“I owe a great deal of my success to UNC Charlotte and the Belk College. All along, I knew that to build a boxing career, I would need to learn the finer points of business,” Brock noted. “Belk College taught me the marketing, accounting, the economics that I needed. College makes you a well-rounded individual, and in business school, there were lots of team projects that enabled me to learn how to communicate, delegate and negotiate – all key skills needed in the entrepreneurial sport of boxing.”
Following graduation, Brock worked briefly for Bank of America, but he continued to train and compete professionally.
Calvin Brock, the Boxing Banker, became his own franchise, and he assembled the team to advance his career, which meant selecting the right trainer, promoter, publicist and corner personnel.
“Boxing is the most entrepreneurial sport there is; I was the living, breathing embodiment of the product, so all my decisions had to be very strategic,” said Brock.
And all his planning and discipline enabled Brock to reach the pinnacle of his chosen sport. The crescendo came on Nov. 11, 2006, when he challenged Wladimir Klitschko for the heavyweight championship of the world.
A seventh-round loss to Klitschko and subsequent retinal damage from a 2007 match against Eddie Chambers would end Brock’s boxing career prematurely.
But, his passion as an entrepreneur enabled him to reinvent himself and launch the national venture Jack and Landlords, a guarantee company that works with leasing companies to eliminate the up-front security deposit for renters. Through Jack and Landlords, landlords still receive a full month’s rent guarantee for damages, while tenants spread out the guarantee across 12 months at a reduced rate.
Brock said such an arrangement is mutually beneficial to landlords and tenants. For landlords, it is an opportunity to reduce turnover rates and reduce operating costs and disputes associated with deposits. For tenants, it eliminates the need for a large cash outlay to move in and could result in a rent reduction starting in the second year.
Recently, Blueberrie Private Rental Leasing, based in Las Vegas, partnered with Jack and Landlords to lease 4,600 properties. Instead of an up-front security deposit, tenants will pay a smaller amount that is added to each month’s rent during the first year.
Key to his new opportunity was taking advantage of the many lessons he learned along the way, including working for someone else and getting to know the customer. After boxing, Brock worked in commercial real estate, and recognized that security deposits, while essential to business leasing, were a “pain point” for residential renters. Identifying the pain point is where the entrepreneur excels.
“Learning about customers’ pain points enables you to uncover the niche to meet their needs,” said Brock. “If customers have a need, there’s a demand not being met, which gives an entrepreneur an opportunity to fulfill.”