Life lessons from a millennial entrepreneur
Growing up, Harrison Rogers watched as his family found less-than-ideal education options for his sister with autism. As a small business owner, he’s working to change that for hundreds of families in Arizona.
Overseeing operations at his company’s multiple locations of Lexington Life Academy, which provides autism education and special-needs services to families throughout Arizona, keeps Harrison Rogers pretty busy. So when the 28-year-old gets some down time to plan his next business move, it’s often well outside of traditional business hours. Fortunately, Curt Kleiner, his Wells Fargo banker, is usually just a text away.
“Late at night when I have a thought about how to move my company forward, I can text Curt and he’s able to help me set things in motion,” said Rogers. “I’m very grateful to him for that type of support because without it I wouldn’t be able to set my company up for the future.”
Rogers’ opportunistic outlook for the future, coupled with a desire to seek out help to reach those goals, are both common traits for entrepreneurs of his generation, according to the results of the recent Wells Fargo Millennial Small Business Owner Study.
The study also identified similarities and differences between millennials and older small business owners — and how millennials like Rogers are redefining what it means to be a business owner.
“Harrison’s got big goals, but part of my job is to help him think through both the near-term and the long-term impacts of those decisions, and to help him put a business plan together that keeps him on target at both levels,” said Kleiner.
Finding a solution
After dropping out of high school and starting a carpet cleaning business, Rogers turned his attention to the foreign stock market. His knack for late-night currency trading helped him fund an in-home care service for adults with autism, a business decision inspired by his own childhood.
“Watching my single mom try to take care of both my autistic sister and our other siblings, it was difficult for her,” said Rogers. “I was lucky enough to make some money early on, and I knew I could put it to use and better this industry.”
From this desire to fix a problem has come a multi-faceted business, including the Lexington Life Academy, that seeks to provide the best care for people with autism and other cognitive disabilities, from early diagnosis all the way through to independent living.
“When a parent finds out their child is developing a little differently, they want answers and to find a solution,” said Rogers. “We want to be the company that says, ‘Here it is — here is sanctuary, here is hope.’”
And his commitment to improving the lives of people with autism continues to grow. He’s now buying both personal and commercial real estate to provide places for adults with autism to work and live independently.
With such a varied and aggressive business strategy, Rogers relies on support from Kleiner and the financial resources available from Wells Fargo. Sometimes that means an after-hours text chat with his banker, and other times it’s working with Wells Fargo to secure financing for his real estate purchases.
“Harrison’s motivation — as much as it’s about providing for himself, his family, and the families of his employees — is also about truly wanting to make an impact on the lives of those families that trust their children with him, and that’s a big responsibility,” said Kleiner.
Today, Lexington Life Academy has six K-12 schools across Arizona. Rogers plans to open 10 more by 2018.