At the age of 24, African American businessman Kendall Vonkeith Fontenot accomplished his goal in creating one of the largest minority owned “Buy Here, Pay Here” auto dealership in the state of Louisiana and is expanding to Las Vegas, NV. His aim was to achieve his goal of retiring his family and become financially free.
He is also the youngest African American to own a “Buy Here, Pay Here” auto dealership in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and a member of the National Independent Auto Dealers Association. This young successful African American entrepreneur wants to share his motivational message and practical success tips during Black History Month.
“My efforts to be successful according to my dreams and aspirations feel like running a never-ending race,” Fontenot says. His main competitor is a tough one – himself. He has been a salesman from the very beginning, always looking for strategies to move up a little more. “At age seven I started selling pencils at school. Then at age 10 I started selling candy at school.” He expanded to the internet three years later, selling “tennis shoes and throwback jerseys online.”
He found his future at seventeen. “I started a car audio business and was selling car audio, rims and tires, and other car accessories. Then a year later I got licensed and started selling cars out of the newspaper from my mother’s home.”
Cars have been his passion since he started that business in 2006. By 2011 his business was flourishing, but that’s not to say it’s always been easy. “My auto brokerage has gone through ups and downs like any other business,” he continues. When Hurricane Ike hit Baton Rouge in 2009, the bottom fell out in the used-car business; people were focused on repairing damage to their homes. “No one was purchasing vehicles. I got deeply in debt because my inventory was not selling.”
Hurricane Ike was blamed for at least 195 deaths. Due to its immense size, Ike caused devastation from the coast of Louisiana all the way to Corpus Christi, TX. Flooding and other damage added up to an estimated cost of $29.5 billion.
Under pressure, Fontenot came up with a new strategy. “I restructured my company into a ‘Buy Here Pay Here’ operation, selling mostly vehicles under $10,000.” Since then, Ultimate AutoPlex has continued to grow, with expansion into the Las Vegas market planned for 2013.
As a self-made, successful entrepreneur, Fontenot wants to be a visible, active role model for young black men and women who dream of making their mark on the world. “I want to come face-to-face with young people and pass along a motivational message,” he says. “I want to see more successful African Americans in the business world.”