By: Andrew Porter
Kenneth Duncan is on the verge of success. Born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Duncan graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Real Estate. UGA is connected to many of Duncan’s successes and failure’s alike. During his time at UGA, Duncan pledged Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. , the Zeta Pi Chapter—an accomplishment near and dear to his heart. Post graduation, Duncan has joined a consulting firm and embarks on a new adventure—the creation of an online business and lifestyle magazine that captures the important moments before individuals become successful entitled Right Before Magazine. Duncan runs the site and views this as his magnum opus to date. I sat down with Duncan to discuss his magazine and the impact it has on himself, his community, and his future.
What prompted you to start your magazine?
Duncan: I think the biggest prompt for it was always being motivated by other people. I like seeing others around me succeed and that pushes me to go harder. One of the ways I like to get motivated is by reading success stories or hearing about people in Forbes. I like reading Fortune magazine and seeing the richest people in the world. I idolize people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. In the Forbes 30 under 30 list, you don’t see a lot of people of color. The people of color that you do see come from Harvard, Princeton, Georgetown—places where there’s a lot of privilege. I have a lot of really smart friends that are floundering or stuck where they are because they don’t have privilege. I want to shed light to people who don’t have the same background that I have; to show that there are people who have less than you who have more challenges than you who are really pushing forward and persevering.
What do you want your goal of Right Before magazine to be?
I want to build a community. I want everybody to be able to inspire each other and help where they see fit. Starting at UGA, just seeing more community between us and our smartest people and pushing each other and then branching out to black people in general. Long term I want to see the black community take things into their own hands and build things from the inside out.
So basically, you want to use Right Before magazine a tool to help teach?
Yes and no. I feel like its collaborative learning—almost like a Google doc—where everyone has something to pitch in where we all have our own talent or challenge that we might have had and we come together and collaborate for a collective goal.
Do you consider yourself to be an entrepreneur?
Probably a serial entrepreneur. I want to have a lot of money one day. I enjoy the finer things in life, but also I am more of a philanthropist in nature just naturally. I enjoy giving back to the community seeing people really be successful and thrive.
What are some of your entrepreneurial adventures?
I started a company called Transcendence Management Inc. Transcendence Management Group is the embodiment of what I want my life to be like. Not just one or two companies but a conglomerate of companies based on the idea of transcending. Not just doing the bare minimum but going above and beyond what everyone else is doing. Everything I do is under the umbrella of Transcendence Management Group. I tried to do a Greek step show at UGA around Homecoming time; I just didn’t have the preparation to do it. Probably my best learning experience so far was a party last year for Georgia/Florida. I just chose a really bad partner, which lost me thousands of dollars. Now I’m looking to move into Real Estate investment in Atlanta after I make some money from my current job.
What made the Homecoming step show unsuccessful?
I think to have a Homecoming step show you have to have the buy in from all D9 orgs. I needed the participation and work of every D9 Greek org. I was looking to have every organization represented. I think the biggest mistake was doing everything myself and not having everyone’s buy in.
What happened with the party in Jacksonville?
I actually had two options going into the party. I knew UGA would show out. My two options were to pick an Alpha chapter down in Florida that only had one member to market the party or I could choose a party promoter from Miami who was referred to me from another Alpha. I chose the party promoter because I thought he would have more pull. The party promoter ended up being a whack promoter and didn’t bring college students. Had I gone with the Alpha bruh from North Florida, he was guaranteeing 300-400 people. I didn’t believe in him, but I probably should have bet on him before I bet on a complete stranger. I went with the party promoter and lost a couple thousand dollars.
What did you gain from those experiences?
I think the first thing is don’t go into anything just blindly trusting people. I do believe that trust is earned now. The second thing is don’t be relying on someone else to make you money. I really relied on another person to come through. Even though UGA came and showed out in decent number, I wasn’t self-sufficient and everything I do pretty much from here on out, I’m self-sufficient.
Do you feel like right now you’re in your Right Before success moment?
I think this is my right before success moment. I views success as the people around me getting where they want to be and me helping push them there. Right Before Success to me is really us as a community and minorities in general becoming successful on our own in America. I think right now we are looking for people to save us, but I really want us to save ourselves.
What makes you passionate about your magazine?
I like seeing people around me grow. I feel like that’s what life is about. Growing and seeing relationships grow and blossom and having an impact on people’s lives; that brings fulfillment. I try to give parts of every one of my checks to go to scholarships and contests to UGA’s campus because that gives me satisfaction seeing them go where they want to go and in return I hope that everyone will help me go where I want to go.
How tough is it for a person like you who has been in a business and finance track to switch over to something like journalism dealing with creativity, design, and graphics?
It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The hardest thing about it is that in business you can validate based off of dollars and cents. You really can’t quantify the returns in Journalism. I read my website and view the statistics every day on who reads my website and I try to quantify the numbers, but honestly if one person reads the article and says I like it, that’s all that makes a difference sometimes.
What’s been your most fulfilling moment up to date?
The most fulfilling moment in the process is having people reach out to me and tell me they support me. It’s really just seeing people recognize what I’m doing. A lot of times people notice things and not really tell you, but I have people vocally telling me “we see what you’re doing, we appreciate it, and good luck.” That’s what motivates me to keep going. If one person is inspired by it, it makes it worthwhile.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I really see myself mentoring, teaching and helping educating people who may have not had the resources—mentoring, teaching, father figure, fraternity structure—that I had. Really just using the rest of my life to be a mentor. Giving people a sense of hope that they didn’t previously have and bringing the advantages of privilege to those who are underprivileged, hopefully leveling the playing field.
How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as a person who didn’t give up. One of my favorite poems is an Alpha poem called “Don’t Quit.” I think a lot of people can learn from it. That’s what Right Before is all about: not giving up and perseverance. I came out of college and didn’t have any money coming out. I had offers at Ernst and Young and Deloitte and I lost my internship offers. I had a lot of rough stuff happen, but I didn’t give up. I haven’t made it yet but as my story continues to grow and in a couple of years when I’ve found success, hopefully I can reach back and say, “Hey, look giving up is not an option.”
What do you want the audience that reads this article to know about you and your magazine?
The biggest thing I want people to know is that this isn’t my magazine. This isn’t for me. I’m fueled by my failures I’ve had before. This is an opportunity for all of us to come together, collaborate and share our biggest ambitions and challenges with each other and to learn from one another. This is for anybody that has a goal and a dream and is looking for a support system. If you have no more fans just know I’m your fan. If you need money I can help you with that. If you need resources. If you need that one person to be your support system and give you that push, that’s what Right Before is about. It’s about anyone that has a goal or a dream and is on the verge of success.