A successful entrepreneur at just 24, Richard Carthon talks business, religion, family and Barack Obama – and why the people around you are so important in life.

Richard Carthon had aspirations to be a lawyer and a professional athlete while studying business law and business management at Tulane University in New Orleans. However, his entrepreneurial calling in life proved stronger – especially his desire to be CEO of his own company.

Richard in his number 8 jersey at Tulane University, New Orleans

Richard in his number 8 jersey at Tulane University, New Orleans

Business Calling

As such, Richard Carthon can now proudly say that at just 24 years of age, and a recent graduate from university, he is the founder and chief executive officer of his tech business, FollowMyCal. As he explains: “It is a calendar platform that puts the personal, professional, and social events in your life into one central location.”

Despite this clear vision for the business, he actually had no idea that he would be starting it while he was studying his degree – other than acknowledging a fascination for business and entrepreneurship. As he explains: “I had no idea that I would be interested in the tech field. I knew that I wanted to own my own company one day… I didn’t know in what. I just knew that someday I wanted to do something.”

As he continues, when talking about where it all began: “In my junior year, I was in a business fraternity called Alpha Kappa Psi; and one of my fraternity brothers talked about an idea he had and that he needed some help. So I told him I would do that with him. We ended up creating an app together, and through that process I learned how to fully make an app business. Ultimately the business failed, but the lessons and the business savvy that I got from it helped propel me to create my own business during my senior year of college.”

Richard presenting the FollowMyCal app

Richard presenting the FollowMyCal app

The key investments: not just finance

Between September and December 2015 the plan gained full momentum. By May 2016, Carthon had managed to secure investment, which was vital for growing the business even further. In the time since, he has had a great deal of support – from family, colleagues, and his investors, but also from the wider circle of people around him. As he explains: “I tapped into the local community of business entrepreneurs and I got into an accelerator programme called The Idea Village.

“They’re a non-profit, and they paired me with a mentor and other business owners who had gone through the accelerator programme. It was a great mentorship. I secured a lot of great relationships and gained knowledge based on these relationships. I was able to insert myself within the New Orleans community and have basically just been building on top of that. I’m a big advocate of networking and building relationships with people; because I believe people get you to where you’re trying to go quicker than you can by yourself. And that has been monumental in where I am today.”

Richard Carthon’s parents and sister supported him at his college football games wearing their Tulane 27 jerseys.

Richard Carthon’s parents and sister supported him at his college football games wearing their Tulane 27 jerseys

A plan mapped out

His aspirations for the business are grand: “The next steps for us is looking for high growth. We’re finally at a place where we feel we can test our platform to see how the market will use it. So, we’re really making a big push to start getting more users on our platform by aiming to get 10,000 users by the end of April 2018 and to generate revenue. We believe that if we’re able to generate revenue while growing our userbase, we can then go and do our big fundraise that we want to do. At that point I can bring on my full-time team, start bringing in revenue so we can start covering our costs, and become profitable.”

Turning the business into a success is about finding value for customers, and making it quick and easy for them to share this value with others. However, the long-term goal is about turning it into a success for Carthon to push forwards with his larger aspirations. “The vision is that I want the business to grow and be one of the greatest platforms available. I want to get to a place where I’m put in a position where I’m ready to sell it, or if it makes so much sense for me to IPO, I’ll do that. But more than likely, we’ll reach a threshold and we’ll sell.”

He continues: “From there, I want to be a serial entrepreneur. I have a tonne of other ideas that I want to develop. But I realise that I need to be focussed on what I’m currently doing and how I’m getting there before I pursue some of these other opportunities. FollowMyCal is teaching me so much about the business world, about the importance of relationships, and how incredible it is to create a plan, execute it, and just see everything start to fall into place”.

“But it’s also showing me the bad sides of it too. I’ve learned how to deal with certain people that will say one thing and do another. And it’s all a big lesson. The way I look at this, I’m young, I’m 24, and if I can get all this amazing information before I’m 30, hopefully by the time I’m 40, I’ll be cracking out a tonne of businesses and doing all kinds of amazing things.”

The Carthon family take a selfie with the famous Arch of Cabo San Lucas, in the background, during their 2017 family vacation

The Carthon family take a selfie with the famous Arch of Cabo San Lucas, in the background, during their 2017 family vacation

Key drivers

Carthon’s aspiration in life is certainly admirable, and is a huge testament to his personality and drive. However, there are other influences behind him too. “My greatest motivation is my faith. I’m a Christian. I’m a Roman Catholic, and I believe that I was put on this earth for a higher purpose. Basically, what I’m able to accomplish in this world is to further who it is I serve. When people ask me how did you get to where you are, it’s because I know that I’m serving someone greater than myself. My second greatest motivation, of course, is my family – both my current family and my future family. I want to be able to provide the ultimate future for my family, for my future wife and my future kids.”

Mom and Dad

Family plays a large part in what has made Carthon the person he is today: “I look up to my parents, both of them. The different aspects of who they are and what they have taught me, shaped me into who I am today. I have met multiple influential people along the course of my life that have shared an immense amount of wisdom with me as well. However, I would say my two biggest heroes are my mom and my dad.”

Richard Carthon, at graduation

Richard Carthon, at graduation

Creole culture

Culture was one of the most important lessons he learned from his parents. He explains: “I feel deep roots of the creole side of who I am. My mom is creole and is from Lake Charles, Louisiana, which is about a three hour drive from where I grew up in Shreveport. To this day, I still feel a lot closer to my mom’s side of the family than I do my dad’s who were in Shreveport with us.

“The creole culture sense of family first, of knowing the importance of who you are and where you came from, being there for each other and making sure you can provide for one another, and just being a good person to other people are traits that make who I am today. I have learned when it comes to helping others, especially people you do not know, if it is within your means, do it. Helping others is not a question, it’s who we are, it’s what we do. Having these character traits, participating in crawfish broils and zydeco dancing -it’s just who I am. It’s part of my upbringing.”

He still tries to integrate this background into the way he currently lives his life – “I’ve been doing a lot of interesting things of late, such as currently being vegan. And the month before that, I was pescatarian, and I think next month I might try the… I think it’s Mesopotamian diet. But it’s finding the blend of how can I keep the heritage of Creole food and the greatness of it.”

Proud parents take a picture with their son, Richard, after he graduated College, with numerous honors

Proud parents take a picture with their son, Richard, after he graduated College, with numerous honors

Barack Obama: my hero

When it comes to the political sphere, his influence is a popular name that continues to pop up throughout the creole community: “I mean Barack Obama would be choice number one of who I admire. And just considering his platform and what he accomplished while he was on it… he stood for things that make sense, like affordable healthcare. The affordable healthcare act helped ensure most Americans had health insurance, thus making sure if something happens to them, that they’re okay. Most importantly, Obama believed in the importance that all people have certain rights.”

He further elucidates: “One of these rights included the right to marry, regardless of sexual orientation. People are going to love who they love. Just because a person that is of the same gender – male, female, what have you – gets married, they should be entitled to the same benefits that heterosexual marriages receive. For example, the way our current systems were set up, if a couple was not married then they could not put them as their beneficiary if something happened to them.”

“Lastly, he is the epitome of being a black role model. Being black in America can place you in a really strong disposition in the sense of you can’t mess up in any capacity because the expectation is that you are going to mess up. Also, no matter how much adversity you go through, you can’t respond negatively or with any signs of hostility. For eight years, Barack did an awesome job of never letting anyone twist him the wrong way, saying the wrong thing, and just being firm about everything he did even with all of the pressure of the world on him… for eight years, he didn’t let himself slip. And I think that should be admired by all.”

With such great influences around Carthon, it’s unsurprising he is headed on such a positive trajectory with his creole culture at the heart of it. And there’s little chance he’ll slip either. Carthon has a bright future ahead…

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