28 Days of Black Excellence: Roddric Sims
Roddric W. Sims is an entrepreneurship coach, small business consultant and community builder for those with an entrepreneurial spirit. He is the founder and CEO of SCG Small Business Academy, and the founder and principal consultant of Sims Coaching Group. His goals are to assist aspiring entrepreneurs and current small business owners to maximize their potential by helping them identify and overcome roadblocks to personal and professional success. His special, professional interest areas include mindset, goal-setting, lead generation, revenue growth, process improvement, business planning, and talent management.
Tariq El-Amin 00:01
Welcome to Black Excellence at UIC Office of Diversity, Equity and Engagement with Dr. Aisha El-Amin
Recording of Dr. Martin Luther King 00:09
[Applause] Believe in yourself and believe that you’re somebody.
Clips from 1995 movie “Panther” 00:17
That we study and master a bunch of different things.
Why are you here?
Study and master a bunch of different things.
I’m proud to introduce our new Minister of Information
Aisha El-Amin 00:26
I’m Dr. Aisha El-Amin
Tariq El-Amin 00:29
Welcome to Black Excellence.
Aisha El-Amin 00:26
Greetings UIC family and friends and welcome to UIC’s “28 Days of Black Excellence.” I am Dr. Aisha El-Amin, UIC associate vice chancellor for equity and belonging. It is my great honor to celebrate the history of Black excellence at UIC with powerful inspiring and informative conversations with UIC alumni, past faculty and staff. So each day we have a new guest, as you know, and each guest will share their story and tell us what they’ve been up to. I’m so honored to first of all, recently have met this brother in person, but also to have him as part of our Black History Month series. Roddric Sims is a UIC alumni graduate of Liberal Arts and Sciences, LAS, in the class of 1995. Since then, since 1995, he’s been up to tremendous things. So, I’m going to hand the mic over to Roddric and just kind of let him tell us about what he’s been up to for the last 10 years.
Roddric W. Sims 1:40
Well, first of all, thank you, Dr. El-Amin, and I truly appreciate it. It’s great honor to be here with you especially celebrating Black History Month. When I graduated in 1995, who would have thought so many years later, I can’t even count that I would be back doing something in its nature, especially virtually like what was that? But I’m proud to say that once I graduated, UIC, I had a 20 plus year career in the insurance industry. And then also spent, during that time, 10 years as a professional business coach as well. And then eventually transitioned out of corporate America into a role of owning my own coaching boutique, focused on entrepreneurship. And then went on to found my own online e-learning platform called Sims Coaching Group Small Business Academy, which is a game-learning platform to help small business owners evolve their business processes and elevate their revenue.
During that time, I’ve also written two books. The first book was on the entrepreneurial mindset called “The Four E’s of Entrepreneurship.” And the second book, which I published last year, was a book for small business growth called “The Profit Pathway.” You know, during that time, so I mean, that’s what I’ve been really been up to over the last 20 some plus years outside of all the other stuff that we all do in our personal lives. As far as community involvement, proud member of 100 Black Men of Chicago, and also Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. And as far as what I didn’t touch on, is that currently I am working my contract work at UIC. I’m a career coach. And I support students through the UIC CHANCE program.
Aisha El-Amin 3:47
So you haven’t been busy at all? [Laughter]
Roddric W. Sims 3:51
Not really. I left a whole lot out too, so…
Aisha El-Amin 3:53
Wrote a couple of books, running a business, you know…
Roddric W. Sims 3:58
It’s been interesting, but it’s been good. Yeah, I really can’t complain. I’m busy.
Aisha El-Amin 4:07
You have done so much. I mean, wow. I know you you’re kind of cringing at the 20 something but you know, we got it going on, right? [Laughter]
Roddric W. Sims 4:15
Yeah. They say this age is the new 30 right? Okay, that’s what I’m gonna go with it.
Aisha El-Amin 4:26
So tell us a little bit about your background. Are you a Chicagoan?
Roddric W. Sims 4:30
Yes, I tell people I was born and raised in Chicago, even though I was actually born in Arkansas… [Laughter].
Aisha El-Amin 4:37
I understand why you say Chicago [laughter].
Roddric W. Sims 4:42
But no, I spent all my life much of it growing up in Chicago. Then I stayed South Side, grew up in south suburbs. I went to high school called Thornridge High School. Then I had the opportunity to go to college and was going back and forth for a few different destinations and ended up selecting UIC because they had a pharmacy school. At one time, I thought I wanted to be a pharmacist. But, through some learnings and classes, also, you know, I had a part time job. As a pharmacist tech, pharmacy technician, I realized that that necessarily wasn’t my calling, and which caused me to obviously change my majors and go a different direction.
Aisha El-Amin 5:29
I love, I love that. First of all, South Side … go ahead and get give those props [laughter]. So, but I love that you laid out your path for our current students, right? Like you thought you wanted to do one thing, then you change to something else, and you still have become such a successful person. So sometimes students think, oh, I should know what I was supposed to do by now. And oftentimes, my rebuttal is, I still don’t know what I’m supposed to do. Right. And so as you look back at your time at UIC, talk about some of your fondest memories, as you think back.
Roddric W. Sims 6:07
Well, you know what? I would say obviously, the fondest was graduating [laughter]. In reality, things well, one is I reflect back on UIC what I didn’t… what I appreciate more now than I did before, was that when you go to UIC, it’s like Chicago is your campus. And so I spend a lot of time but all the other like a lot of other campuses across Chicago at Roosevelt, DePaul all across the city, you know, all around. And so it was very, like a different experience being at UIC because the whole city is your campus.
I really enjoyed that. I had the, I guess, honor of being able to join Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity when I was in college. The people that I pledged with during that time, I still consider my brothers. We’re 30 years strong in it. And so that was definitely something that was one of my fondest memories, that whole process and involvement and being able to be an advocate for African American students through fraternity as we’re doing events and building community, and fundraisers and community service. All that stuff was fantastic. So that was fun.
One of my fondest memories, and then probably the one that’s significant was getting a job offer. So I had a job offer before I graduated. So that was a very fond memory [laughter]. I, at that time, UIC did a minority career fair. And I was there with one of my fraternity brothers. And he said, “Hey, why don’t you apply for this company?” And I never thought about applying for this company, but why not? And you know, lo and behold, they reached back out to me. So it ended up being a good fit. I graduated making more than I anticipated that I was going to be with my psych degree. But again, it led to a 20-plus year career in insurance, something I had not had any idea what the insurance industry was about, but it educated me a lot and provided me a great opportunities, great income, great opportunity provide for my family. So I was definitely excited about that. So when I look back, that’s definitely one of my fondest memories of actually having a job offer before graduating.
Aisha El-Amin 8:42
Wow, a job and a degree. That’s winning, you know?
Roddric W. Sims 8:47
The double whammy, right?
Aisha El-Amin 8:48
Oh, all day long. With every journey, there’s challenges, as our students will face challenges, and I’m sure you faced challenges. But you got through those. So can you tell us what some of those challenges might have been and how you got through them to offer our students some advice?
Roddric W. Sims 9:05
A UIC, I think even though I was a President’s Award Scholar, I still worked my whole college career. Balancing college, school and personal life was a challenge. I’m just being honest. As you you know, continue to stay there and add more organizations, you want to get more active. You just keep adding on the classes and start getting harder. There were some times when I didn’t do as well as I anticipated, because I overloaded myself. And I had to take a step back and realize, hey, wait a minute. You don’t have to do it all at once. You can piecemeal it.
So it might have taken… it took me than four years to graduate. It did. But that’s because I had to step back and say, this is a marathon, not a sprint. At the end of the day, no one asked you how long did it take you to graduate? It just did you graduate? That was one of the main things I had to balance out. Because I had some family commitments and things that I had to take care of. I had to work, you know, I had to go to school. No stopping either one was not an option for me. So, the decision I had to make was to try to spread things out a little bit longer than most people would have.
Aisha El-Amin 10:30
I appreciate you, Roddric for just being candid, right? Because I think sometimes we go through things by ourselves in our own … and think no one else understands. So I appreciate that. I know you, you’ve talked about your relationship with CHANCE right now. And, people may not know that you’re also part of the the new newly established alumni association for Black students. So could you kind of talk about why you stay connected to UIC and maybe even talk about what the new alumni association is?
Roddric W. Sims 11:03
Okay. Well, so I took about a 10 year hiatus from UIC after I graduated because I was in my corporate career. But then I had the opportunity come back. And through my organization, I was really trying to make a bridge for students, especially African American students, to get a better understanding of the insurance industry. So probably about 10, 15 years ago, I helped try to … actually the CHANCE program… try to create a career to just educate students on the insurance industry where there was a lot more than just hey, ‘I sell insurance.’ So I did that for about a year or two. And it went fairly well, and then I had an opportunity to become a mentor for the College of Business. So I was a mentor for the College of Business for about two or three years at UIC. And that went fairly well.
Obviously, things in corporate America change organizational in different direction, which forced me to take a step back from being able to be as involved as much at UIC. But then I was able to again, be affiliated with 100 Black Men of Chicago. I was one of the founders who helped found what’s called a college affiliate chapter. So the college affiliate chapter for them into Chicago was called collegial climate. So I was one of the sponsors or advisors for founding the chapter at UIC. And so I did that. And so it’s like, over the years, I step away, and I come back, step away, for some reason, I just can’t get away from UIC. And then once I wrapped up my corporate career, and decided to launch my own coaching practice full time, I was happy to have the opportunity come over into the career coaching CHANCE program. I’ve been doing that for the last two years, and that affiliation and conversations, I was asked to… had the honor to participate on the founding board for Umoja: Black Legacy Alumni Coalition newly formed at UIC. So, it’s been, like I said before, it’s been, I would have never thought when I graduated, that I would keep coming back to UIC. So for some reason, I’m supposed to, I guess, stay around the university, because I just keep getting drawn back for various reasons.
Aisha El-Amin 13:28
And we want you here, [laughter] so you can’t escape even if you try to.
Roddric W. Sims 13:36
When you talk about your audience, and you want a great organization, it’s really the focus now to try to bring more of a community for alumni and students to connect, you know, not just in a virtual way, but it’s more of a face-to-face way just to continue to be a more community. Even as I’ve gotten older and learn what it’s more about, even my coaching practice is all about community. So the better we can build a community, more beneficial it’d be for current students or future students. And so I think we’re definitely a good trajectory with a Umoja.
Aisha El-Amin 14:16
No, absolutely, especially with with your leadership on that board. So as we wrap up, I would love to ask you to share some advice. If you could go back to your your former 1995 self or even when you first started your 90-whatever self, what is some of the advice that that you would give yourself and other students to kind of help you get through that period of time.
Roddric W. Sims 14:44
I mean, I want you know, being a coach, always a bunch of advice, right? So I have to say, I keep it to three things, right? So one would be get involved when you’re on campus and network. It’s amazing where people will end up. There are a lot of people that I went to school with, and you would think, I don’t know about this person, but you know, 5, 10, 15 years, I can go on to produce a tremendous things. So I’m very proud of a lot of the alums people I went to school with at UIC they’re doing some fantastic things. So you never know. So networking, getting to know the other students on campus, especially African American students…I would also encourage our African American students to learn other cultures while they’re there. UIC is a very diverse university. And that’s one thing, if I had the opportunity to go back and do it over, I spend a little bit more time learning a lot more about other cultures, because it’s in corporate America. I was forced to be around other cultures. And as the world is browning, and kind of more diverse, it’s only going to benefit you to understand other people’s cultures.
One of the benefits of being at UIC, there’s so much diversity of culture, that it’s not hard. The only way that you miss out is if you think you’re actively trying to avoid it. And the last thing I’ll say, being a coach and a business coach, or coach… I always encourage students I work with to take an entrepreneurial approach to your education in your career. And I’m not saying become an entrepreneur or start a business or anything of that nature. I just say, fundamental thing, when you start a business, you have to create a mission and vision for your, for your business. Understanding economics. So I just encourage students to, if they look at their education and start their careers to create a mission for your career and a vision for your career. Now again, things change, but at least you have a path to travel. You want to be able to create your path rather than let somebody else create it for you. So by having your own mission and vision of a career, and your educational path, you will be the one in control making the decisions versus some other person or some other organization.
Aisha El-Amin 17:03
Wow, what sage advice. Thank you Roddric. Thank you for being part of this series. Thank you for the legacy of Black excellence that you leave at UIC and for all that you put out in the world. I thank you for myself and on behalf of UIC.
Roddric W. Sims 17:21
I thank you for the opportunity and it’s much appreciated and I can’t wait to see the other alums you get a chance to interview. And this is something that I know that will be well received and well needed for us to continue to build our community as academic alums. And so it’s working for the future alums.
Aisha El-Amin 17:40
Absolutely. Absolutely. Thank you again.
Tariq El-Amin 17:47
Thanks for joining us find more inspiring and informative conversations with UIC alumni, faculty and staff as blackresources.uic.edu. That’s blackresources.uic.edu.