I grew up in the 12th Street corridor, on the west side of Detroit, in the ’60s. The neighborhood was packed with speakeasies and bars. It was one of the areas hardest hit during the ’67 riots. I was 17 years old when that happened. Let’s just say I had a lot of new clothes afterward. I didn’t burn anything down or shoot anybody or anything like that, but I took advantage of the open stores. I was a kid.
Anyone I knew making big money was working in the automobile plants. My high school principal came to me a month before graduation and said, “Cedric, have you ever thought about going to college?” I said, “No, I’m going to work at Ford.” He said, “If I could get you money to go to college, would you go?” I said, “I guess.” Well, he did, and it changed my life.
After college, I was a Navy officer for eight years in the Bay Area. When I came off active duty, I ran into an old high school buddy. He was driving a Mercedes-Benz convertible, and I was driving a Honda. He told me he was in commodities trading. I said, “Sounds great. What’s that?” He said, “You’d be a great salesman. Let me introduce you to my boss.”
I had no idea I’d make a lot of money doing it. I was singing and playing guitar at the time in clubs around the city. I had dreams of being the next Bob Dylan or Richie Havens.
I worked in finance for 25 years. In the ’90s, I got an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in economics online. Before I founded Harley Stanfield, I was an executive vice president for Salomon Brothers.
Interview Air Date: January 27, 2010