“At John Carroll, I was challenged to find the bigger ‘why’ behind what I do.”
André Alamina is a financial analyst at The Lubrizol Corporation and co-founder of TMM Media, a digital media startup on a mission to set college students and young professionals on the path to financial independence.
Q: Why did you attend JCU?
A: I was born and grew up in Belize in Latin America. My high school was a Jesuit prep school, and following graduation I attended the junior college arm of that high school—essentially a two-year college. To complete a bachelor’s degree, I needed to transfer to a larger program. My Jesuit high school had strong relationships with Jesuit universities across the U.S., and every year several of these universities would endow a scholarship to my school. I was identified as a potential fit for these scholarships, and after interviewing with a panel of people across the institutions, I was given the choice of three schools. John Carroll’s business school was the strongest, and what really attracted me was reading about its connections with businesses in the Cleveland community and how many students that graduated from the business program have success finding jobs there. My hope was to go to John Carroll and stay in Cleveland for work afterward. There was no guarantee it could happen, but I wanted to give myself the best possible shot at doing that.
Q: What story or experience best reflects your time at JCU?
A: My first summer in Cleveland, I didn’t have the money to go back home, but I also couldn’t afford rent. I was planning to stay with my friend a mile off-campus and walk to class, but two weeks before school started, I broke my leg. Walking the mile to and from school each day was no longer possible. I had no idea where I was going to stay or what I was going to do.
I still had an on-campus job working at the rec center, and many of the supervisors there were retirees who wanted to stay engaged with the JCU community. An older gentleman, Art, was the supervisor one night I was working after I broke my leg. He and I were sitting together talking about life and Belize, and midway through the conversation, I told him I was going to be homeless in a couple of days. He said, “If you’re interested, my wife and I can offer you something better than a cardboard box.” He had met me that night, and within a few hours of knowing me, offered to let me stay in his house for the entire summer. The house was directly across from the school, easy for me to crutch back and forth, and they didn’t charge me a dime. He and his wife fed me every day. They took me to my doctor’s appointments.
I call them my grandparents. They took me to buy my first car and have been a part of nearly every major event in my life since. They’ve become family, and that is symbolic of the strength of our John Carroll community, which extends beyond just people you meet on campus. It’s the students you go to classes with, but also the faculty and staff that will do everything for you as if you’re one of their kids. Me coming to the U.S. from Belize, I had a terrible accent. I didn’t know anyone. I was completely alone, and the generosity and kindness of Art and his wife is one of the best examples of just how nurturing and caring the John Carroll community is.
Q: What was the most valuable learning/lesson from JCU that shaped you personally or professionally?
A: John Carroll has speakers who come into school regularly to present on various topics. There was an alum that I heard in my spring semester of my junior year. His advice to us was to find the bigger “why” behind what you do. Something beyond just money or moving forward in your career or pursuing the things we assume will bring us happiness and success. Aligning your passion and your purpose. He said, “If you wake up every morning and you hate what you do, you’re doing the wrong thing.”
That has been a driving force behind a lot of my activities and decisions since then. The Teaching Money Mastery (TMM) Media project is based on my desire to help people my age and younger reach financial security as early in their life as possible, and that’s something that I wouldn’t have been able to come to terms with if I was only thinking ‘how can I increase my salary by 10 percent next year?’, or ‘how can I get my next promotion?’
Q: How are you making a human impact in your career?
A: Throughout my life, I’ve always been business-oriented. I’d started a few small businesses in high school importing clothing from Abercrombie, Aeropostale, and Hollister to Belize to sell them to my friends at school and screen-printing graphics on tee shirts and shoes. That led me to become a Finance and Economics major at John Carroll to take advantage of their strong business school. But through my experiences before and during school, and hearing stories from other students, I learned how not making smart financial decisions early in life can detrimentally impact your ability to achieve future success. Through TMM Media, we’re working to help as many people as possible achieve that level of security, so the people I come in contact with have some incremental improvement in their lives based on knowing or being around me.
We measure TMM Media’s organic reach and engagement, as you would expect, and we have seen steady growth in both. But what I really enjoy are the personal testimonials from people who reach out to me to ask questions about things they read or videos that we published. Or telling me, “I opened up my brokerage account last week. I just bought a few shares of this company. I’m really excited.” It’s those personal stories from people that have taken action from the content that we’ve put out that lets me know what we’re doing is right. That we’re actually having an impact on people and tangibly helping them make progress toward financial security. I wrote a book about getting started in investing that we give out for free to anyone who subscribes to our website. I’ve had people message me to let me know how much they enjoyed the book and how it’s helped them change their understanding of money and get serious about this topic earlier in their life than they probably would have otherwise. Those stories don’t show up in the numbers, but that’s been a big measure of success for me. Being able to gauge on a very personal level the improvement that our work is having on the lives of people that we interact with.