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Wolfpack Wealth Group gives financial advice in Schenectady

Outlook

Wolfpack Wealth Group gives financial advice in Schenectady

Company helps people improve credit scores and better navigate the traditional banking system
Wolfpack Wealth Group gives financial advice in Schenectady
Urban Co-works, 433 State St. left to right, Earl Page and Deshaun Kunath, founders of the WolfPack Wealth Group.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

SCHENECTADY — Earl Page is used to people asking him for business advice. 

For a long time, this advice was doled out informally, in response to questions from people in the community. 

Page, a small business owner, often found himself explaining how to start and grow a small business – the need for business credit, and how to get business credit, among other things. 

One day his friend Deshawn Kunath heard him fielding queries and said, "We need to do something with this." 

From that simple observation, the Schenectady-based Wolfpack Wealth Group was born. 

The company, founded by Page and Kunath, both Schenectady natives, provides the sort of advice Page used to offer for free when approached by friends, family and other members of the community.

At Wolfpack, the men help people repair their credit, improve their credit scores and better navigate the traditional banking system. 

They also teach small businesses how to grow, save money and better brand themselves. 

A big part of Wolfpack's mission is helping lower-income, minority Capital Region residents – a demographic Page described as "very overlooked" – build wealth and become successful entrepreneurs. 

Studies show that black and Hispanic families lag far behind white families in building wealth by saving money, buying homes and investing in retirement. 

According to a 2017 paper from the Federal Reserve, in 2016 the median wealth of white families was $171,000. For black and Hispanic families, it was considerably lower – $17,600 for black families and $20,700 for Hispanic families.  

Page, 46, said he "learned business on the streets," by running his own small businesses. Kunath, 22, graduated from the University at Buffalo last year with a degree in finance. Page coached Kunath in Pop Warner football and has mentored him ever since. 

William Rivas, a well-known Schenectady community organizer and activist, serves as Wolfpack's acquisitions manager.

"Me, coming from where I come from, I never had any idea of the power of money," said Rivas, who grew up in Schenectady's impoverished Hamilton Hill neighborhood. "As long as you stay in that wheel of poverty, you never learn anything different from what you're conditioned to. Even when I'd get a raise at work, I'd still find myself living paycheck to paycheck."

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Getting people out of that wheel of poverty, by making them savvier about business and finance, is one of Wolfpack's main objectives. 

A lot of people don't understand "the language of business," Rivas said, which makes it difficult for them to make good financial decisions, especially if they come from what he termed "a place of lack." 

"We want to help people shift toward thinking from a place of abundance," Rivas said. 

One of Wolfpack's goals is to teach people how to build wealth – and to see themselves as potential business owners. 

"Our kids are being taught to be employees," Rivas said. "There's a generation of people who feel there's no opportunity." 

Page, who serves as Wolfpack's chief executive officer, entered the world of business at a young age, acquiring a popular Schenectady nightclub in his early twenties using money he saved working through his teens and into young adulthood. 

The nightclub was popular but troubled, and it often attracted police attention. Page eventually decided to shut it down, but he ran it long enough to learn about business – about cash flows and how the IRS works, for instance. 

After Page closed the nightclub, he opened a barbecue restaurant. 

But that went poorly – his business partner, who was also a friend, stole from him – and the restaurant failed. 

Page eventually got a job as a cable technician at Time Warner, and made good money. But he was laid off during a company restructuring, and decided to become a private investigator and process server. 

"I started (my private investigator) business with no funding," Page said. "I had to borrow a camcorder and a laptop." 

He began saving money – 40 percent of each check. He also built business credit by establishing lines of credit with vendors, and was able to successfully apply for a loan. Today, he is busy with Wolfpack, but still has his private investigator and process-serving business. 

Much of Wolfpack's advice to clients concerns credit – specifically, how to use and manage credit wisely. 

Tips include keeping credit card balances under 30 percent, paying more than the minimum balance and not opening too many lines of credit. 

Another piece of advice: Second jobs don't work. 

"Most people, when they run into money trouble, they get a second job," Page said. "We say, 'Second jobs don't work. You need to get a better job, or you need to maximize the job you have.'" 

Kunath, Page and Rivas believe that, for some people, going into business is the best way to achieve the financial stability that comes from accumulating wealth. 

"Business is a vehicle for you to able to pursue your passion," said Kunath, who serves as Wolfpack's chief operating officer. "A lot of people get stuck and they don't know what to do next. We pride ourselves on always knowing what to do next." 

Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

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