Serial Entrepreneur’s Diary: Five Things I Learned

by Kevin Michael Briscoe

Yimaj “Steve” Kalifa has mastered the art of reinvention – and he’s been so successful at it that corporate executives and federal agencies are now asking his advice. Life often has chapters, he likes to say, but sometimes you have to write completely new books to be successful.

Kalifa grew up near Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and was the first to recognize the power of context and the environment. He needed to get closer to the center of the world economy, where his outsider status would open up new opportunities for him that Native Americans and industry veterans may overlook. He moved to Los Angeles 30 years ago.

Soon he discovered Rap Pages magazine. It was owned by adult entertainment mogul Larry Flynt. However, the drop in advertising revenue and falling profits in 1999 made Flynt ready to listen to an offer to sell.

Khalifa bought the tarnished magazine and flipped it, cutting costs and improving the product. But the competition was tough. Vibe, Source and XXL fought for the same bullets and the same celebrity photo shoots with Rap Pages. Within a few years, Khalifa knew he had to close the publication and find something new.

Yimaj “Steve” Kalifa.

Courtesy of Yimaj Khalifa

Thanks to his extensive network, he soon met three Los Angeles-based doctors who ran a small healthcare company. He offered to help them open new branches. Soon he was crossing the country, learning new markets and navigating new regulations. As he grew this company into a $ 300 million giant, he soon realized that an empire of his own was within reach. It would just take a combination of cash and opportunity.

He had the money, and the opportunity came to him during a sales call in north-central Pennsylvania. “I went to Allentown, Pennsylvania on a trip and the owner offered to sell me the entire building for $ 30,000,” said Kalifa. “Coming from LA was a great price. That was the first property I bought. But from that point on, in every state I bought property in, I’ve rented it back to the three doctors. It was a lot of work that I started on my own, but that was the beginning of Capital View General Construction Inc. “

Capital View General Construction is now a multi-million dollar company specializing in commercial, street, and residential construction and renovation projects in Colorado Springs, Denver, and Washington, DC. The construction company and Mechanical Solutions Inc., a Denver-based heating, ventilation and air conditioning company, make up the bulk of Kalifa’s business portfolio.

He also runs Capitol Medical Supply Inc., a Washington, DC long-life medical device company, and Source Cuisine, which outbid former owner of Taylor Gourmet in a bankruptcy auction in 2019 to restore four locations of the popular DC sandwich shop open.

His associate, political commentator Armstrong Williams, estimates Kalifa’s current personal fortune at $ 100 million.

Businesswoman sitting in the office smiling during a video call

The value of hard work can never be diminished.


But like many entrepreneurs, Kalifa has suffered some setbacks. He was outbid in 2017 by venture capitalist and sports franchise owner Mark Ein to buy Washington City Paper, a weekly alternative newspaper. Even now, like most restaurants, Taylor Gourmet is suffering from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic and struggling to make payrolls while making declining profits.

Ultimately, Kalifa has turned every setback into a setup and gained a perspective that governs its day-to-day management of its portfolio. In his own words (with a gentle editing for clarity), he shares the five lessons that have kept him in business over the past 30 years:

Hard work pays off

“I’ve learned the importance of working hard and doing my best in every job I take on. Even if I am not successful, I can accept the result and be satisfied when I know that I did my best because I know that I did my best, ”said Kalifa.

Two professional IT programmers discuss the design and development of the blockchain data network architecture on the desktop computer display.  Technical department of the labor data center with server racks

Never diminish the value of the experience – good or bad.


Experience – good or bad – is a good thing

“From startups to publishing, high tech, banking, construction, and healthcare companies, I’ve made many companies over the past 30 years. Some were successful, others less so. But all experiences have prepared me better for the next acquisition or the next startup. All experiences are useful, whatever they are, ”he said.

Diverse business people put their hands together in a stack to support the concept

Reliability and reliability are important in the business world.


Reliability and Reliability

“As the head of several companies, I have learned how important it is to be reliable in all aspects. Trust, reliability and sticking to your word are qualities that cannot be bought and that show a person’s true character. Your reputation precedes you in the business world, so it is important to take advantage of these traits and apply them not only to business situations but to life in general, ”he said.

The brain power behind a successful plan

Setting goals is the first step to success.


Have a goal and take risks

“It is important to have a detailed plan to achieve your goals, but I would not be where I am today if I had not stepped back from my original plan and taken risks outside of my comfort zone. However, it is important not to blindly take these risks. You should always weigh your options. It’s a challenge, but without it we wouldn’t go to new levels, ”he said.

Thoughtful woman standing against blue wall

Don’t be afraid to dream big.


Dreams big; Don’t miss out on opportunities

“Many often reject certain opportunities as ‘too big’. But you never know if this opportunity will be the one that will change your life or lead you to a more successful path. Do not be afraid of failure, ”concluded Kalifa.

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