If you want the formal version of my biography, that a PR professional wrote, check out the section below titled “PROFESSIONAL BIOGRAPHY.” If you rather have the casual, we’re hanging out drinking Red Stripes version, here it goes…
I Never Thought I’d Be Doing What I’m Doing Now…NEVER.
I grew up always thinking I’d be a ‘businessman’ (funny thing is now I’m a business, man). My early interests were in entrepreneurship and business. My hobbies in high school included writing business plans and reading the Forbes 400 list (I know, crazy, but I was fascinated with creation). Of course, I did other stuff that normal red blooded teenage boys do like played sports (soccer, football, and tennis were my favorites), had girlfriends (Too many to count. Not bragging, just saying), and got into trouble (basically flunked my senior year of high school).
The last two years of high school were particularly a low point in my life. I recall feeling everyone around me had lost hope. As a result, I started to lose hope in myself. A conversation with a counselor at the time was very telling. She sat me down and tried to convince me how “school is not the best thing for me and I would be better off learning a good trade like plumbing.” WOW, her message was basically, don’t aspire to college young man because you won’t make it.
A year later, by the grace of God and heavy support (i.e. yelling and slaps upside my head) from my parents, I entered college and what do you know, I continued right were I left off in high school: sports, girlfriends, and getting into trouble. As I believe we all have at some point, in my freshman year of college I experienced a “moment of clarity” and unlike “moments” in my past I hadn’t taken action on, I finally started doing things differently.
The Moment That Changed My Life
Strolling through the bookstore with my then girlfriend (and now wife, Jill), I was simply on a mission to accompany her before hitting the movies. Bookstores were completely foreign to me. As a matter of fact, prior to that point in my life, I had NEVER read a book cover to cover. Scouts honor! I got through all those former English class literature exams, book reports, and homework by skimming or visiting my boy Cliff. It all changed on that visit to the bookstore, though. While standing next to Jill as she perused for a book she intended on reading, I saw a book awkwardly positioned on the shelf. From a quick glimpse, I was captured by the title “Why Should White Guys Have All The Fun?” I laughed to myself and grabbed it, just to see what kind of author would title a book something like this. On the cover, confidently smirking, with a big cigar in his hand, was the book’s author – Reginald F. Lewis. Hmm, I thought. This is one bold dude, but who is he and how is he having all this fun? So, I walked over to a nearby couch, plopped down, and started digging in the first chapter. 20min later (feeling like it was only seconds), Jill told me she was ready to go. I was on the 4th chapter. I thought, what the hell, I should buy it. At the age of 18, it was the first book I purchased for non-academic reasons.
Over the next 3 days, I would devour every word of the book, reading it cover to cover twice. I then committed to maintain several of the rituals Reginald articulated in the book (like developing life mantras, reading newspapers daily, and most importantly, training my belief system). That one book has had such a profound impact on my life, I still give it as a gift for birthdays (and I give it to my white friends, too. Don’t let the title fool you–it’s not a book about race, it’s about the quest for excellence).
As a result of the inspiration developed from the book, I shot off in a new life direction like a rocket. I changed every aspect of my life: recommitted spiritually, started eating healthier, exercised with purpose, became a mentor, aggressively pursued my studies, and most importantly, began believing in myself again.
After graduating from college with honors, I entered the professional world as an analyst at an investment bank. At the time, it was my “dream job.” I was making ‘real’ money, had the opportunity to learn from the top financial minds in the world, and did I say I was making money?? From the outside, it looked like I was Charlie Sheen–winning! While most of my fellow college grads were taking “any old job” and struggling financially, I was ballin’ (ordered my shiny new BMW, copped a Presidential Rolex (well, it was fake but you couldn’t tell me otherwise), had an amazing apartment, and first fell in love with European tailored suits). I was living THE life…or so I thought.
Two distinct things happened that led me to exit the investment banking world:
1) I started getting terrible stomach aches every Sunday night as I prepared for the work week. At the time, I didn’t realize it was anxiety. Our bodies are conditioned to inform us when we might not realize what’s happening. I listened.
2) A co-worker was praised for not attending his child’s birth and instead coming to work for a big project. Yeah, sickening!
A Succession of Business Failures
So, I quit and started a business. Everyone said “Paul you’re crazy to quit such a great job.” But one of the mantras I had created for myself years earlier was to “always listen to your gut, first.” I took my little bit of savings, moved in with Jill’s parents (because they lived near the city) and started my first company. That business lasted about 8 months before it collapsed. I then went on to found, run, and subsequently run into the ground three more businesses.
In just 5 years after working at the investment bank, financially the tables had completely turned. No new car, no new clothes, no business, I was broke. However, one thing I always had was Jill. She was my rock. Since my ‘moment of clarity’ in the bookstore at college through the ups and downs, she was by my side. While I had always envisioned being secure in a profession before getting married, I felt I didn’t…I couldn’t wait any longer. Jesse Powell can
better explain to you what I was thinking.
A few weeks after getting married, I landed a job at Kaplan Test Prep and became the director of one of their ‘super’ centers. I became the first African American and youngest director for a facility of that size. I loved the work. The team I had was amazing, my bosses were cool, and most importantly, I loved the service side of the job. In particular, I loved that I had full discretion over a tuition assistance program that allowed me to discount (down to a $1) the cost of our tutoring services. While my bosses had no idea, I had nearly all of DC taking courses for $1, especially the High School students I met. There was a certain affinity I had towards the students of public schools in DC. If you read any press about DC public schools, you can see how many of those kids are simply written off. I was so compelled to help them because while in high school I, too, was written off.
A Community Organizer and Service Provider Is Born
Over several years of interacting with schools and volunteering my time after work and over the weekends with various community programs focused on youth, I realized many were missing strong academic resources (materials and instructors). Initially I leveraged my position at Kaplan, but after the demand outstripped my personal supply, I created an idea and wrote a business plan to form a non-profit group to be an “academic engine” for youth programs. I pitched the idea to my bosses for support and got denied. I pitched the idea for support to our competitors, and got denied. I even pitched the idea to local DC government and never got a no, but never got a yes either. Guess that’s politics.
The Turk & Me
Around this time of pitching my academic engine idea, I had a chance meeting with a Turkish businessman. The story of our first meeting is so amazing, it deserves it’s own post but bottom line, it is a perfect example of the power of stepping outside your box. Over casual conversation, with the Turk, he suggested I come to Turkey and pitch the academic engine idea to his team (it so happened that he was the CEO of a large educational holding company).
So not even knowing exactly where Turkey was on the map, I flew to Istanbul and pitched my idea. In what could be a scene out of a movie, seated at a long walnut brown table, with over 24 thick, rich leather chairs surrounding, I shook hands on a deal that would change my life more profoundly than Reginald Lewis’ book. Through my newly created deal, I would receive investment to develop my academic non-profit in barter for me working full-time to manage the U.S. academic investments of the firm.
With no contract, just a handshake, I flew back to the States, quit my job and started work in my new career as both the Director of my dream non-profit and the head of U.S. investments for this behemoth international firm…not a bad week!
Over the next several years, I stayed busy. I led the growth of both entities beyond my dreams. On the non-profit side, we served 1000s of low-income students, working with many of the equity holders in the community (schools, volunteer programs, churches, government, and businesses). On the investment firm side, we created one of the largest study abroad programs, a private university, and several dormitory investments (which is actually a very good business). I also had time to squeeze in going to business school at Georgetown and learn to speak Turkish.
A Matchmaker Is Born
By the summer of 2008, I was fully immersed in both of my growing projects and little did I know, 100 DC high school students in a summer camp would change my life, yet again. At the time, my non-profit was managing a program for low income high school students and to kickoff the summer long camp, I went down to work the registration table. As I greeted each student, I asked them basic intake info, with one question being “do your parents live in the household?” After slightly over 100 students enrolled, not one…NOT ONE of the students had two parents in their household. Slightly more than half lived with neither, making auntie, grandma, or big sister/ brother the more likely household ‘parent.’ I could not believe what I witnessed…NOT ONE. Knowing how impactful parents are in the development of a child and to think these 100 would not be blessed with it.
Driving home from camp that day, I couldn’t think of anything but those children and what, if anything, I could do. Over dinner that night I discussed what I discovered earlier that day with my wife. We pondered what could be done to help strengthen the nuclear family. Jill and I talked for hours, trading solutions back and forth. We ended the conversation jokingly saying, well maybe we could become matchmakers.
The next morning, I woke up, and with that “matchmaker” comment still on my brain, I started googling everything matchmaker related. Over the next few days, my research continued and I eventually ended up jotting down a list of matchmakers I’d like to call to get further information about the profession. I blocked out a few hours about a week later and started dialing. Out of 10+ calls, not one matchmaker took my call or called me back. I recall one getting back to me via email, offering to schedule a call if I first paid them. WOW! The limited response drove my curiosity even further. I discovered there was a Matchmaking conference taking place in New York in just a few weeks so I jumped on a train and headed north. My goal at the conference was just to check things out and see what I could learn. What I saw was shocking. There I was in a room with 100+ of the world’s top matchmakers and not one of the full-time matchmakers was african-american. Not one of the matchmaker’s was under the age of about 40. And I counted only one male matchmaker. Looking around the room is when I had my lightbulb moment–there is a seat for me in this industry. I need to become a matchmaker.
How Do You Train To Become A Matchmaker…Head To Denver!
So, just like when I returned from Turkey years earlier, I came back home from my New York excursion and scheduled a meeting with my Turkish employers to leave my position. And just like leaving the investment bank, just like leaving Kaplan, most of my friends and family said I was crazy to leave such a good job. But this time, they thought I was certifiable. Think about this for a second, I had just graduated from business school, was managing two successful organizations, building an amazing professional network, traveling around the world, and making more money than I ever had…and I wanted to become a matchmaker
When my mind is committed to something, I’m locked in. So I parted ways with the Turks, converted my non-profit to an all volunteer organization (no longer having the financial support from my friends from across the pond), and dipped into my family’s savings. I structured a full year ‘matchmaking training program’ that would help me best understand the profession. My self-training included studying over 213 books, attending conferences and coaching certifications, pro-bono client practicing, and my capstone was flying to Denver to train under someone I consider to be the best Matchmaker on the planet, Rachel Greenwald.
After 60-70 hours per week of training for a full year, in the winter of 2009, I launched my matchmaking firm! At that moment, I realized I was no longer jumping around my purpose. Becoming a matchmaker and lifestyle coach allowed me for the first time in life to “connect my dots” (as Steve Jobs famously said) and be fully immersed in my purpose from head to toe.
In the last 3 years, Paul Carrick Brunson (also known as The Modern Day Hitch) has become internationally recognized as one of the most successful matchmakers and relationship coaches. As a pioneering African-American matchmaker in the world, Paul has served over 400 clients directly and collectively through live events and social media, matched over 3,000 people on dates.
Paul’s unparalleled ability for successful matchmaking and coaching comes from really knowing and understanding his clients and their needs. Like his clients, he is cultured, well-traveled, well-educated and trained – he holds a graduate degree from a top business school, as well as additional certifications. His professional career started as an investment banker and most recently included a senior position with a top international firm. He is also a philanthropist who co-founded and chairs a foundation that focuses on school rehabilitations in the U.S. and Jamaica.
Understanding that a matchmaker is truly a guide to help clients achieve self actualization, Paul received his life coaching certification. Next, Paul further immersed himself in the art and science of matchmaking by training with Harvard Business school graduate, New York Times bestselling author, and matchmaker, Rachel Greenwald. Lastly, to ensure he was as knowledgeable as possible about the dynamics of human relationships and love, Paul
undertook a literary review of hundreds of books and academic journals on psychology, sociology and behavioral science. Paul then put his acquired learning to the test by practicing pro-bono throughout 2009.
Paul’s expertise and unique understandings of love and relationship have made him a sought after expert on dating, self-actualization and relationships. Paul’s understanding and insights into romantic and lasting relationships have been featured on Dr. Drew’s LifeChangers, ANDERSON, the Washington Post, Essence, Extra, The Root, The Grio, AOL Black Voices, ABC news and Hot 97. In addition to participating in numerous relationship and community-focused panels, Paul also served as the first male speaker for the 2011 Black Enterprise Women of Power Conference and was the keynote speaker for the 2011 iDate Matchmaking Conference, the largest internet dating conferences in the US.