Written by iLL Holiday
Success is a word often used to describe the process of achieving one’s goals. Even though it can be very specific, it also can be universally vague. For Sean Grant, success has been an ongoing journey as well as a present reality. In conversation with him, I learned that I need to re-examine my definition of success. Sean’s journey, from a South American village to becoming the ‘it-man’ for major brands looking to break into the Midwest market, has been riddled with setbacks, upsetting moments, and tremendously inspiring experiences.
Life in Guyana was not easy for Sean. He grew up in a small house with a host of siblings and relatives. Everything that he owned was also owned by family and sometimes friends, too. His upbringing planted seeds for his future philanthropic endeavors. It seems, by being forced by circumstance to share, he developed a willingness to make sure that those around him profited when he did. At the age of ten his mother and father split. As a result, Sean’s mother decided to move him and his siblings to America.
Coming to America was supposed to be a great opportunity to experience everything he was missing in Guyana. Much to Sean’s surprise, it was just the opposite. Even though he never had much in growing up in Guyana, bullying was something he had never experienced. He was teased for the off-brand clothing that he wore and the accent that made it evident that he wasn’t from New York. This made going to school very challenging for Sean. His boisterous persona turned into an introverted shell of what it was in his homeland. Withdrawing from others made him determine to himself that he would never be poor once he had to opportunity to make his own decisions.
One of the first decisions that Sean made as a young man was to leave college and enlist in the United States Army. He ended up serving and fighting in Kuwait and served one tour of duty. It was upon his return to the US that he met his wife and early business partner, Tanja. Tanja was stationed in the Southwest when they met and was ending her tour at the same time as Sean. They decide to move to New York and start their family.
While in New York, and expecting their first child, Sean decided entrepreneurship was for him. His first business ventures were a mixture of manual labor start-ups. He tried everything from a courier service to selling auto parts. Each business gave him a minimal return and even created more problems than they solved. The family then decided to move to the Midwest.
With their new change of scenery, they both settled into jobs in Indianapolis. This was a very trying time for Sean. He knew that his calling was in business ownership; not working for an hourly wage. After months of conversations, arguments, and a final resolution; Sean and Tanja cashed in their family savings to invest in inventory for the newest business venture, R&S Menswear.
One scripture that Sean often quotes is “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” Zachariah 4:10. Just as his life has been, R&S Menswear has also been a real life illustration of this. Before there ever was a storefront, there was a car trunk. Sean went into barber shops candy stores and beauty salons to sell men’s and women’s clothing right from his trunk. Eventually, he grew to rent a kiosk in the middle of the mall. Within a year, R&S signed its first lease as a tenant of Washington Square Mall. This was a point of celebration and validation. Sean and Tanja had grown a small peddling business into a full fledged shop. Even though they were the only two employees; that was just fine by them. They were now in business for themselves.
Today, the business has 2 locations in prominent malls that are managed by Sean and Tanja. But that growth does not begin to explain the business’ success. The success of the business can be seen in the faces of the employees. As a volunteer at the Pendleton Correctional Facility, Sean mentors men who are within a year of release. Many call him at home or at one of the stores as soon as they are released. Looking for work, residence, and clothing, they rely on Sean to assist them in getting settled back into society. Sometimes, this turns into long term employment opportunities for those who have a strong work ethic and desire to be in the retail business. Each employee that works at R&S Menswear has a story to tell of how the store and its owner were there for them just when they needed it.
He has also helped his family back in Guyana. A recent trip to his homeland was not to enjoy his American riches in the sun, but to commission a fresh water installation in a remote village in Guyana. Through his leadership in collaboration with an Indianapolis based church organization S.W.I.G. (Safe Water in Guyana), Sean gave the gift of fresh water to local Guyanese residents who desperately needed it. This gift has made local and international news.
Sean’s success has been all about helping people. He has helped himself and family by building and enterprise from the ground up. He helped his community by providing jobs and opportunities to Indianapolis residents for over 12 years. He helped his homeland by building a water purification system that allows villagers to enjoy one of life’s necessities. Even though Sean’s life begins within the context of a struggle to survive, it is now and will continue to be successful.
Read more about the water treatment plant here: http://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2011/09/09/new-water-treatment-plant-commissioned-at-highbury/