Ralph Walker is the owner of Ralph Walker Designs, which is a company dedicated to building websites, online marketing, and more. Walker started his entrepreneurial journey in Atlanta and came back to Detroit to house his ever-growing business in the Motor City. Walker is committed to creating opportunities in the tech world for aspiring persons.
Your journey started in the city of Atlanta. What were some of the lessons that you learned in business and entrepreneurship there?
My earliest lesson was to never fear price. If I know there is value in my product and it’s presented in the right way, then never be scared to charge. If you get customers, you are doing something right. If you don’t get sales, increase the value or decrease the price. When I moved to Atlanta in 2009, I was 21 years old. I didn’t know anyone, and I moved there to get a job in the graphic design field. There weren’t too many companies at the time in Detroit that was hiring graphic designers, and a few companies in Atlanta were, which drove me to move. On my pursuit of finding a graphic design gig, no one would hire me, so I had no other choice but to go into business for myself. I took my cold calling skills I learned from National City, which is now PNC Bank, and started calling companies around the area until I started getting meetings. One of the best lessons I learned from this was, have patience and have a stable income until you are secure enough in your business to go full-time. It doesn’t matter what type of job you have if you know the bigger goal. Don’t let your current situation dictate where you’re going to be in a year, but let it be a starting point for where you are going.
Ralph Walker Designs arose from you not being able to secure a job. How did you gain the capital to start your company?
I had a part-time job at Bank of America while I built my company. My goal was to make a steady income of $2,000 before I could leave my job. I was married at 23 and had two children by 25, so my priorities were a little different than some people. I couldn’t just dive into full entrepreneurship without making sure my family was secure. It was very scary at times. I was only making $900 a month at the bank and sometimes not making any money with my business. The beautiful part about my business is that it’s a service-based business and a skill-based business, so the business overhead was very minimal.
How has bringing your business home to Detroit helped you?
It was a huge leap of faith. My wife was crying, wanting to come home and things really started to pick up for me in Atlanta. After much prayer and research, we came back home. Making the decision to come back to Detroit has been the best decision I could have made, not only for business but for my family, as well. I have two sons that need to be around their cousins and I have grandparents that taught me lessons that I would have never gotten on my own. Detroit has been a real blessing to me and is the reason I started the “Why Detroit” campaign. In the coming weeks, we have a video that’s coming out that’s going to introduce companies here in Detroit and give advice to established business owners to create better quality marketing campaigns. This will help individuals understand that the small business owners need to become the pillars of this great city and not the major corporations.
What are the benefits of knowing skills such as SEO optimization and coding?
Search Engine Optimization is the best thing going, especially here in Detroit. Not many companies really understand what SEO is and how it works, so if there is no understanding, then there is no value. In Detroit, there is a huge learning curve that is taking place when comes to having a reliable website and what it takes to have a good online presence. I understand that business owners need a company to teach them what they need before they invest, so we’re giving free classes at the beginning of the year to established business owners. With this method, we can help grow the businesses here in Detroit. One thing I tell my clients is that marketing is not for the customer that you have, it’s for the customer that you don’t have. The customers you have will follow and stay updated with the company.
Generational wealth, when you see these two words, what comes to mind?
My last name. When you think of Johnson & Johnson, Jack Daniels, and Jackson-Hartsfield Airport, these are the names of companies that have been around and will be around forever. I wanted to name my company something that my family would be proud of in the years to come. I am extremely proud of how far my company has come, and even more elated about being a successful black man in this industry. I pray for this city every morning that I wake up and that my team and I can have a tremendous impact on this city going forward.
Black minds have been the catalysts behind fixtures such as the can-opener, the stoplight, and even some of the original models of the IBM computer. How important is it for black faces to be a mainstay in the tech world?
We are leaders, we have brilliant minds, and hopefully one day my name can be listed among these names that have made an impact in this industry. We aren’t really a tech company, but more of a marketing and branding company. My goal is to become a household name. Our goal is to become the company you think of when you think of being online or growing your business. When you think of coffee, whether you drink it or not, the first company you think of is Starbucks. We need to be that for the state of Michigan, but we are starting with Detroit and metro Detroit first.
Could you see a hub of downtown Detroit being the next Silicon Valley?
It’s very possible, but honestly, I want diversity when it comes to the city of Detroit. What I mean by that is, when you go to Atlanta, it’s some of everything in just about every metro city. It’s not like Chicago where the only thing you go to Chicago for is Michigan Ave, and whatever else they may have going on in the downtown area. Outside of the downtown area, Chicago isn’t popping, and I don’t want that for us. I want our experiences to be diversified throughout various cities, which means our transportation system must get better which we are working on.
For more information, visit www.ralphwalkerdesigns.com.