His story is a testimony to the intense work ethic and level of commitment needed to overcome life’s obstacles and always deliver results.
Born to a teenage mother and raised by his grandparents, Clay could have easily fallen become a statistic. Instead, he worked at a very young age as a baseball umpire, as well as on a framing crew, and was supporting himself by age 13.
Clay was awarded a full basketball scholarship to Commonwealth Christian School, where he graduated with a high school diploma. While there, he led his basketball team to the state championships and in 1986, the National Association of Christian Schools Basketball Championship. Then Clay attended Carson-Newman College on a full basketball scholarship. He won conference championships and took his team to national tournaments while developing his coaching abilities. After finishing school at Carson-Newman, he followed his passion for coaching and leading people by joining the coaching staff at his alma mater. Over the next few years he coached a series of successful basketball teams at Middle Tennessee State, Bristol University, and Milligan College, where he coached the team to victory in the Tennessee-Virginia Athletic Conference Championships with a 27-9 record, the school’s best record since 1948.
After coaching, Clay went into the sports entertainment business with friend and NBA great John Lucas. Together, they formed STAND (Students Taking Action Not Drugs), a series of summer sports camps for at-risk children in the Bristol, Virginia area. Clay drew in the participation of nationally recognized athletes and entertainers—from Evander Holyfield and Reggie White to Wesley Snipes–who volunteered their time to help. Then Clay started the NBA-sanctioned youth summer camp, Stars of Tomorrow, which helped over 3,000 children in areas of Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia every summer. He also founded the Harlem Road Kings Comedy Basketball Team, based out of Morristown, Tennessee, which boasted NBA greats such as Meadowlark Lemon and Sweet Lou Dunbar. During this time, he was also responsible for taking basketball sensation Al Harrington straight from high school to become the first round draft pick for the Indiana Pacers—where he became a star professional player.
Expanding the Playbook
After the NBA strike in 1998 and 1999, Clay switched gears and invested money in an environmental cleaning service. He decided to concentrate on hurricane cleanup, securing projects working as a minority contractor. He was the first contractor in the Carolina area to bring in helicopters to do tree removal for plush golf courses and resorts.
Clay expanded his service’s capabilities by obtaining trade certifications, contractor licenses, insurance and bonding. He began doing business with the North Carolina Redevelopment and Housing Authority, performing vacancy cleanup in government housing. When he realized he was competing against other contractors who were taking two weeks to finish one apartment, Clay discovered the true value of self-performing work. Running two teams in twelve-hour shifts, Clay’s crews began working around the clock, 24 hours a day and often, seven days a week. This approach made it possible for him to turn over one apartment unit per day with zero punch list items. His team quickly proved to be faster and better than the competition. Clay soon became one of the most sought after vacancy prep, turn-key contractors in the country. For the next three years, he lived on the road, going from hotel to hotel with a crew of 15 men. In all, he worked on remodeling over 40,000 housing units across the country.
In 2002, Clay ventured into developing his own private label for an exterior coating product that could be applied in both the winter and the summer months. This development facilitated his creation of the first minority-owned paint material product in the country. Within the first year of starting out in the Richmond, Virginia market, Clay achieved the Million Dollar Top Producer Award from the paint manufacturing company.
In the summer of 2006, Clay obtained his Class A Contractors license, giving him the opportunity to work on larger-scale projects. With his team, he moved into self-performing framing, insulation, drywall and ceilings for residential and commercial builders. Despite all of the challenges Clay faced, he had set a goal to be recognized as one of the top builders in the Richmond market, so he went out and secured funds from private investors who were eager to make money in the booming real estate market. Within one year of building custom homes, Clay had built and obtained over $10 million worth of assets and houses. He had built five high-end, fully decorated Parade of Homes houses and won 25 awards finishing first place in every category. Clay had done something that had never been done in Richmond or national markets and his homes were featured in over 15 magazines. House Trend Magazine did a 16-page article recognizing him for his exceptional work.
A Slam Dunk
When the economy took a turn for the worst, Clay, like many other homebuilders, ended up sitting on properties. That’s when he read an article about Governor Mark Warner’s Small, Women and Minority-Owned (SWaM) business initiative. Healthcare and institutional systems were looking for minority contractors to establish diversity in the industry. Once again, Clay saw a huge opportunity to set out to break ground in the commercial construction market. This time, he would work with the government.
Within 24 hours of receiving SWaM certification, Clay’s business was awarded a $140,000 contract to perform interior building work for the Medical College of Virginia. His team completed the project in less than one month and has since been awarded a combined total of over $1.2 million in work at the hospital. Team ACP’s workload has only grown, branching out to major projects at the University of Virginia, College of William & Mary, Howard University and Old Dominion University, to name a few.
Today, Clay continues to apply the same college coaching spirit and hard fought determination to building Team ACP. Positioned for growth, Team ACP’s experienced construction professionals have partnered and secured contracts totaling over $80 million and continue to tackle multiple projects across the state of Virginia.
Sylvester D. Clay has come a long way, but his commitment to a strong work ethic remains the foundation for all of his success.
See Sylvester’s latest Wikipedia Entry here: http://sylvesterdclay.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/sylvester-d-clay-wikipedia-the-free-encyclopedia.pdf