The mythos of the American entrepreneur often entails two things: someone with a compelling, unique or brilliant vision who is willing to take huge personal risks to achieve them. The fact is, however, that most famous self-made business people in the United States over the last 100 years have primarily gotten to where they are through a far less romantic route, that of borrowing large sums of other people’s money.
David becomes Goliath
However, every once in a while, you encounter a true Horatio-Alger-type story of an entrepreneur who came from nothing and risked it all to pursue their singular vision. David Zalik, the founder of GreenSky , stands with Ray Kroc, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison as an American entrepreneur who is truly self-made, the product of an insane work ethic and the willingness to take risks that would leave most people neurotic wrecks.
In the mid-2000s, Zalik saw a huge opportunity to create tremendous value through connecting a high-end subset of retail consumers with instant point-of-sale loans. Zalik pitched his idea to a few banks — he knew that he did not want partners who might try to adversely influence the direction of the company’s grand strategy — but no one was willing to back up his radical idea. Eventually, Zalik made the decision to effectively reverse-mortgage his entire real estate empire, which represented his entire net worth of around $12 million. If GreenSky would have failed, Zalik would have lost an entire lifetime’s worth of accumulated wealth and would have had to start over from absolute scratch.
As it so happened, GreenSky quickly proved its worth in the marketplace. Starting out in the home improvement sector, Zalik was able to connect high-end homeowners, who typically had FICO scores in the 800-plus range, with some of the top lenders in the country. He was able to offer instant point-of-sale loans to these homeowners through the general contractors that would come to their homes and give them estimates. Because so many of these deals were falling through due to lack of customers liquidity, GreenSky instantly proved to be able to create a multi-billion-dollar-per-year market.
Stream Energy was recently featured on a patch.com article on the basis of its commitment to giving to deserving causes. Stream Energy is a leading direct selling and connected life services company, providing their customers with energy, wireless, protective, and home services. Stream started out merely as an energy company but expanded its business to include connected life services (such as international wireless plans, Virtual MD, digital voice service, and more). Stream currently provides services to nine states (New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Georgia, Ohio, Texas) and Washington D.C. In the state of Texas, Stream Energy was named as one of the state’s Top 10 Most Trusted Retail Electric Providers. Annually, Stream takes in over $8 billion in revenue, some of which it gives generously to deserving charities, causes, and needy people.
Stream Energy is so committed to giving back to the community that it has created a separate arm in its company called “Stream Cares” in order to do so. Theses philanthropic efforts includes donating money to victim of natural disasters, homeless children, and veterans. When Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston neighborhoods, causing lives, homes, and pets to be lost, Stream Energy funded Houston’s recovery effort with some of the proceeds from its direct energy sales. In addition, Stream helped ease the financial burden of its customers who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey with some of the proceeds. Another natural disaster where Stream extended its helping hand was when a series of tornado struck Northern Texas in 2016. Stream not only mobilized its members to assist the Salvation Army in its efforts to raise money for the victims but also matched the amount of money raised—doubling it. Stream Energy philanthropic efforts also includes working with Habitat for Humanity and the Red Cross in giving to local grassroots programs, teaming up with Dallas-based Hope Supply Co. to improve the lives of 1000 homeless children, and working with Operation Once in a Lifetime to provide moral and monetary support to veterans and their families.