By Ayana Bryant-Weekes
The process of getting to know who you are can be a beautiful, painful, terrifying, and exciting process. Taking the time to try new things to figure out your likes and dislikes is a large part of improving yourself. This process consists of indulging in self-care practices that replenish and rejuvenate your soul and help to ensure that you are living your best life. Consider what that process looks like for an ambitious woman. An ambitious woman not only has to spend time getting to know herself and her brand, but she also has to figure out what it is that makes her brand genuine. She must pay close attention to her audience's likes and dislikes all while being mindful of how they react to her content. Many women spend countless hours separating themselves from their brand. Ebony Cochran is not one of those women.
“Anything I wanted I paid for it with cash. That is until I wanted to buy a condo. The owner asked to see my credit report and a bank statement. I wasn’t worried about the bank statement because I was ‘balling,’ but I was mentally transforming from a welfare recipient to a 6-figure earner and didn’t understand the process of credit.”
Ebony Cochran is a credit consultant, wife, mother, and self-proclaimed frugalista. The 32-year-old debt survivor’s introduction to the credit industry in 2008 was a pride-shaking experience as she took her first steps to improve her credit. Like many self-made success stories, Ebony lived by the “Cash is King” mantra. “Anything I wanted I paid for it with cash. That is until I wanted to buy a condo. The owner asked to see my credit report and a bank statement. I wasn’t worried about the bank statement because I was ‘balling,’ but I was mentally transforming from a welfare recipient to a 6-figure earner and didn’t understand the process of credit.” After Ebony was denied the condo, she went to the library the next day to begin researching credit. “
My process to becoming credit conscious took a little longer than expected because I was ignorant when it came to credit. I made it my business to be my clients’ shortcut and guide to better credit.” At 20 years old, with her two-year-old daughter Taylor “LA” in tow, Ebony started and successfully ran her third business for ten years — an income tax preparation company called The Tax Place. The venture paid very well, but Ebony quickly learned this was not something she was zealous about. Essentially, working without interest, Ebony began praying for something to be passionate about. During her time at The Tax Company, she purchased office space in Southfield that she let sit, and eventually Ebony decided to walk away, but not without a plan.
The Tax Place was sold to H&R block, and in order to retain clients, Ebony had them hire her for two years in a non-compete agreement that expires this year. In her downtime, she continued to work on improving her husband’s credit, and after posting his results on social media, requests from friends and family to fix their credit poured in. Those requests were initially met with denial. “This is a husband perk; this is not for everybody.” The only thing Ebony wanted to do in her next venture was to help people, so she continued to fast, pray and work on her husband’s credit consistently for six months.
“Once everything I did for myself worked for my husband, I was comfortable enough to start my enterprise. “I remember hearing God’s voice say, ‘This is what I want you to do’, so with nothing to lose, I started taking clients in the Southfield office.”In deciding what the name of this initiative would be, Ebony dismissed the thought of naming it after herself. The perfect name came after some in-depth research which led her to the origin of her name—Ebony—a form of black wood. In September of 2014, the same day as Oprah Winfrey’s' "The Life You Want Weekend," Ebony Cochran started Blackwood Credit Services. “I was at the conference getting notifications that people were actually signing up! I had no credentials, but no one cared. They saw the results.”
Ebony began seeing and sharing client testaments and improved credit reports which led her to create “Testimony Reports.” “All clients have a story. 80% want to be perceived as having a perfect life, but the other 20% want others to see [their stories] and to show that following a consultation, they were able to purchase a home after living on their mom’s couch.” Blackwood has grown from serving an impressive 400 clients in its beginning stages to servicing over 1800 clients.
Consistent success is usually followed by expansion, but this mom-and-pop credit repair powerhouse is taking her time when it comes to taking this venture to the next level, “I love the mom-and-pop feel — it’s [our] secret sauce.” When you work in an environment where your mom is literally the receptionist and your clients' trust and affectionately refer to her as "mom" as well, it can be a difficult decision to move on from something that makes your brand so unique. However, despite her contentment with the size of her business, Ebony didn’t want to shortchange herself on an opportunity for growth; she saw this crossroad as a potential trajectory change and decided to step out on faith. “I’m all about trial and error.”
“This year I went for two weeks without face-to-face interaction with my clients, and my bookings dropped dramatically in comparison to last year’s numbers.” Ebony temporarily modified her business model to include some of the practices of bigger businesses by replacing her in-office meetings with over-the-phone consultations. During that time frame, she noticed that client conversations narrowed, and her clients didn’t have the same comfort level as when consultations were done face-to-face.“People want to see me and sit with me, and the person who referred them probably sat with me too.
When people sit with me, it becomes a therapeutic experience. When the client and I discuss credit on the surface, it digs up all this other personal stuff.” Through that experience, she was able to see the direct impact Blackwood Credit Services had on the lives of others. Most feel that part of getting to know ourselves, as businesswomen, is drawing a thick line between our personal brand and our business brand. On the contrary, Ebony considers her personal and business brand to be one in the same. “There is no separation. I practice what I preach, so the things I teach my clients, I do every day. Problems come when there is a big separation between brand identity and personal identity because [people] don’t know who you really are. People relate to me because I’m consistent.” Because she’s passionate about this venture, it’s easy to fuse Ebony, The Debt Survivor, and Blackwood Enterprises into one identity.
“A lack of education and knowledge in our community is something I want to target and break down every day, credit just happens to be the avenue I’m using.”
Social media is your introduction to all three personas, “Ebony is Blackwood. Because I need you to basically strip in front of me, my social media has to be on point strategically. You’re going to base booking me off of what you see. [I’m] not saying that my social media life isn’t my life; I just let you in on what I need to let you in on, but I need you to trust me and let your guard down. If you don’t tell me you’re staying on mom’s couch, it’s hard for me to get you off of it.” Her commanding personality makes you listen, but it’s her message that is most compelling, “A lack of education and knowledge in our community is something I want to target and break down every day, credit just happens to be the avenue I’m using.”
For this consultant, surviving her own debt was the first step to walking in her God-given purpose, and when people started listing God as the one who referred them to Blackwood Credit Services, Ebony was confident she was taking steps in the right direction.
In 2017, Ebony set out to expand her reach beyond credit consulting and educate people who didn’t necessarily need credit services—the answer? Content. She started The Debt Survivor University and began teaching in a classroom setting on five subjects related to Surviving the Debt Crisis. She recorded the sessions and distributed them. Now, in 2018, Ebony is all about travel and self-care.
True to both her business and personal brand identity, she took her audience on an educational journey. Starting the year off with multiple vacations booked, each well under $100 total, Ebony took her frugal flight findings to The Debt Survivor University with a webinar on How To Book Penny Flights. With a determination to live her best life, Ebony’s 2018 self-improvement list includes travel, attending more career-driven conferences, praying with specificity and a project she’s been secretly working on.
Always looking to educate and inspire while saving a few dollars in the process, Ebony Cochran is now a licensed insurance producer and has partnered with a policy writing company for the Go Fund Yourself Project, a campaign aimed at getting 1,000 people signed up for life insurance and retirement plans. In a similar fashion to how she sparked the credit-fixing flame, Ebony is ahead of the curve; actively promoting financial security through insurance policies while the subject is still new.
To find out more about Blackwood Credit Services, visit www.thedebtsurvivor.com or follow @ebonycochran on Instagram.