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This Entrepreneur Transformed His Business While Conquering His Student Loans

If you want to know what the American Dream looks like in real life, Adrian Harper is a living, breathing example.

Getting Started

In 2000, Adrian Harper arrived at as a freshman at St. John’s University in Minnesota, by way of the Bahamas from his birthplace of Jamaica. It was nowhere close to the California beaches he longed to see as a boy growing up, but it was a college education on a full-ride scholarship. After studying computer science and communication, he started getting work experience in business management and IT. Soon, Adrian went back to school in order to earn his MBA at California Lutheran University, where he was awarded his graduate degree in 2009.

That prepared Adrian to open the doors to his own company, Cloud77, a technology consulting and networking firm, in 2010. And it was where he had always wanted to be: near the sunny beaches of southern California.

For Harper, opening his own business was less of an “a-ha” moment and more of steady build of his career through roles that touched many different areas, including management and technology infrastructure support. Ultimately, Adrian says, he was compelled to make the leap to running his own business in order to meet the market need he saw for people who not only understood technology infrastructure, but who could also relay that information that to clients.

“Technology people often know the tech side but they don’t know how to communicate it,” he says. “I wanted to do both to benefit the quality of life [for clients]. It’s part of my passion to serve people.”

Facing Student Debt

Like so many entrepreneurial newcomers to the United States, Adrian had come for the education and stayed for the business opportunities. However, the path to personal and professional success was not without a hitch. He was saddled with student loans that he used to pay for his MBA, along with $40,000 in credit card debt that had slowly accumulated over the years. It weighed on him. More importantly, he just wasn’t personally happy, despite all his success on paper.

That’s when he had a mental shift in his outlook on success. “I realized, at a certain point, that I needed to manage my life the way I managed my business,” he says. Part of the mental shift was spiritual in nature, and part was material.

“If I could save a dollar here and dollar there for my company, I should also do that for myself,” he says.

To do that, he downsized in 2014 from the apartment with “a view of the swimming pool” which cost “40 to 50%” of monthly income to something smaller. He had a garage sale to sell his things. He refinanced his student loans with Earnest, slashing his APR from 6.55% to 3.32%. That cost savings helped him snowball his debt payments.

By September 2015, he paid off all his consumer debt, including student loans, that had totaled nearly six figures the year before.

Freedom to Grow

The sense of freedom he felt from getting out of personal debt inspired him to take another look at where he could conserve even more resources with his company. That’s when he decided to take a radical step with his company. Adrian said goodbye to expensive office space, and took his eight-person team virtual.

Today, the Cloud77 team holds face-to-face meetings with Google hangouts or at restaurants rather than in a brick-and-mortar office space.

“Everyone works from home and that makes people happy. I haven’t had any negative complaints,” he says. “Everyone knows their role and function, and we have great tools to collaborate.”

The results? Harper says business has continued to grow in the last year, with increased profitability, new customers, and projects and assisting more charitable organizations. Harper adds that his employees are happier, too, without having to deal with Los Angeles’ traffic on a commute.

“My philosophy is that we’re a tech company, so we should use tech to maximize. Today, we are almost 100% paperless,” he says. “We’ll be agile and quick. Most of our data is in the cloud.”

And his personal life? Adrian says his soul-searching—and cost-cutting—has given him a whole new sense of calm and prosperity.

“People are searching for abundance,” he observes. “But once you have gratitude for what you do have, you start attracting what you want.”

Adrian’s Advice for Entrepreneurs

  1. “Consult people who have been there to see the pitfalls. Look to experienced people for their wisdom and guidance and you can save yourself a lot of time.”
  2. “Make sure you have an experienced bookkeeper. From the beginning I sought people who had the experience to help guide me and teach me how to operate.”
  3. “Be honest with yourself with what you’re looking for. What you really want to do is already within you—dig deep and let it shine.”
Catherine New

Catherine New

Senior Editor at Earnest
Catherine New is a Senior Editor with Earnest, a next-generation bank offering better rates through better data, software, and design. You can read more from Earnest by reading their blog or by visiting www.meetearnest.com.
Catherine New