Michael McKenny is a husband, father, and son. He’s also a mentor, provider, community advocate, and one of more than 2.6 million African American business owners in the U.S.
McKenny is the owner and operator of theSpeedPro studio in St. Petersburg, Florida. As a business owner with the nation’s leading printing and graphics franchise, he is among a select group of Americans who have made the leap into entrepreneurship. As a black business owner, he is among an even more exclusive group.
Although 2.6 million may seem like a large number,data shows that African American owners make up between 2-6% of business owners in America. The figure isn’t surprising to McKenny.
“When I attend functions, such as chamber events, I’m frequently the only minority business owner in attendance,” says McKenny. “I have a huge opportunity to let minorities know that business ownership is possible if you are willing to put in the hard work, make some sacrifices and persevere.”
Being a pillar of the community is important to McKenny, but he’s a businessman at heart.
“I’m running a business. I’m here to make money. However, it’s important to give back to my community. I also want to inspire those who may only believe there is only one path to success. We are frequently met with the stereotype that you have to be a hip-hop artist or athlete in order to be successful. There are other ways. And most importantly: even if you have made mistakes in your past, they don’t have to define your future.”
Owning SpeedPro St. Petersburg is a family affair for McKenny. His wife of 16 years and a U.S. Army veteran, Holly, serves as general manager of his SpeedPro location. They have two teenage daughters. Their oldest works part time at the studio, as does McKenny’s father. Speaking of his father, Michael credits his parents for being an entrepreneur.
“My parents were my biggest cheerleaders,” says McKenny. “It sounds cliché, but it is the absolute truth in my case. When Holly was in the Army, without my parents, I’m not sure how I would have managed it. When I was considering starting my own business, I consulted heavily with my father. He is a great sounding board for his thoughtfulness, experience, patience and wisdom.”
Before making the leap into entrepreneurship, McKenny spent 15 years working for one of the country’s largest personal lines insurers. He worked his way up through the ranks until his trajectory became stagnant. McKenny says the tipping point to his decision to venture out on his own was when a program he implemented was executed company-wide.
“I got a mention in a PowerPoint slide and a gift certificate. After years of giving the company my all, I was still in the same position. It motivated me to start searching for opportunities that would fully benefit my family.”
McKenny, a music buff who majored in music management in college, says SpeedPro allows him to tap into his artistic side. Michael adds that his fellow studio owners are also among the best perks. “The owners are an exceptional group of people. They are quick to help one another, provide exceptional guidance and offer advice whenever I need it.”
During the initial months after opening, McKenny says he faced some difficulties that come with starting any business from the ground up. Now he’s hitting his stride, as well as sales targets. That has allowed him to hire an additional sales representative this month as well as add additional production equipment. McKenny says he plans to become even more aggressive in the St. Petersburg market to build his SpeedPro clientele.
Since making the bold decision to become an entrepreneur, McKenny hasn’t looked back. He says he’s excited about the opportunities business ownership is delivering. And with his oldest daughter already in an entrepreneurial mindset – she plans to operate a business that caters beauty products to Type 1 diabetics and give a portion of all sales back to Type 1 Diabetes research – he has a feeling this SpeedPro franchise may stay in the family years down the line.
“Two years ago, if you would’ve asked our friends, they would’ve said there’s no way my wife and I could work together. We are really opposites in a lot of ways. Now, our relationship is stronger than it’s ever been. Those differences make for a great team and great balance. I’m fortunate to get to work with my father. I’m working with my daughter at times. I expect that this can be generational. The sky is the limit.”
And that’s his message to fellow African American owners, particularly the youth. The sky is the limit. Business ownership is within reach in McKenny’s eyes, if you’re willing to put in the hard work, dedication, and focus that he has displayed.
For more information on the SpeedPro franchise opportunity and what it takes to be a successful franchise owner like Michael, visit speedprofranchising.com.