Dr. Eric D. Nelson is serene, pleasant, and benign. At least these were my immediate impressions when I first met him. He didn’t appear exactly like the man whose growing-up story I’d read while preparing for our interview. He spoke so softly and eloquently like he had been soaked in God’s anointed water for a full three days. Listening to him and knowing the story of how he triumphed against multiple odds, he certainly went through the fire and doused by the water. He is an agency owner of Farmers Insurance and runs a few other businesses in Colorado. He is currently a minister at Heritage Christian Center in Aurora and does a lot of community advocacy in Aurora, and in Colorado at large. Here below is my conversation the Dr. Nelson.
Please tell me about yourself.
My name is Eric D. Nelson, a native of Albany Georgia. I am married with three children. I am an entrepreneur, author, veteran, community and political organizer and a life visionary. I am a former banker and business owner of an insurance company and an investment firm. I am a certified addiction counselor I, certified family mediator, child family investigator, restorative justice facilitator, unlicensed psychotherapist, and a former adjunct faculty member at the Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
I hold a B.S. in Theology from Union Bible Theological Seminary, a Master of Divinity in Theology from United Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Theology and Apologetics from Christian Bible Institute and Seminary, Houston, TX. I received an honorary doctorate in Public Service from Denver Institute of Urban Studies and Adult College. I also hold multiple post-graduate certificates from the Colorado School for Family Therapy. I am also a former elder at the Potter’s House Church of Denver, and currently a minister at Heritage Christian Center.
Can you briefly walk us through your journey so far?
I served briefly in the military for 8 weeks and got discharged after finding out I had a genetic sickle cell trait. I moved to Colorado in 2000 and I decided to stay. Since arriving, I’ve been heavily involved in the community. I’ve been a community activist, fighting for people’s rights in terms of racial disparities and inequities in the community. I’ve stood with BLM, and several Faith Coalitions, city commissions, fighting for different issues that affect the community in terms of equality and fairness, like the workplace environment for women and men as well. I’ve also been an adjunct professor at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and I taught in the Department of Ethnic Studies. I taught African American History, which really gave me a keen look into the education system and understanding what our children are learning in their high school years that prepare them for college and I was very disappointed. This led me into politics. When I was asked to run for school board, I told them I didn’t know anything about K-12 education, but when I delved into it and saw the disparities: graduation rate was below 30%, kids were struggling, especially kids of color and I said, why not?
This explains the reasons I retained the experiences in a classroom with the kids not even knowing about African American history and about the inventors or African American leaders in the community or the contributions they’ve made to society. I was just disappointed because growing up in the south, we learned that all through our elementary and middle schools and high school years, so that by the time we get to college, we were well versed in knowing our history. Conversely, what we have here, is African American history being more of an elective. So, I said you know what, I’ll run, and I put everything on the line in terms of my voluntary commitment and being dedicated to the community.
Tell me about your businesses and how your products serve the community?
I am a franchising owner of Farmers Insurance. As your local Farmers® agent in Denver, Colorado, I help customers identify the insurance coverage that best fits their needs. This process is straightforward and personalized to help make clients smarter about insurance. Having been in this business for a long time, I know the secret of insurance and that is why I easily help my clients better understand their coverage options – whether it’s auto, home, renters, business insurance, life and so on.
I’ve been in the industry since 2002, and we’ve run the agency for the past 6 years now. I initially worked with another agency and grew it successfully, but I sold it off and became an independent agency after the market crashed back in 2009.
Why should people choose your business among many others?
If you have not worked with us, then you don’t know us. We are different. Clients choose us because we are sincere and offer excellent service, commitment, honesty, care, and thoughtfulness in delivery.
Clients choose us for the simple fact that they need an agent that they trust and someone who will always be straight up and educate them on the products and services that they need. You don’t find many agents out there that actually talk to you and tell you, “Here is where it pays and here is where it doesn’t pay.” We take the time to educate clients on each product and let them know how everything works, rather than tell you half-truths. We are committed to this because we are looking for longevity and loyalty.
How did you step into your dream and subsequently got to where you are?
To get to where I am today, I have had to study, study, and study the craft of what I set out to achieve and go after it with action. Even at that, I would say I’m still dreaming. I’m still searching for higher ground and basically a higher form of advocacy with supporting my community. I never envisioned being the businessman or the entrepreneur I am today, because being a teenage youth back in those days, I’d probably have a job all over the city. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but for some odd reason, my heart was always drawn to community. So, I figured out probably about 20 years ago that my quest, my career, would be something within the community, I just didn’t know what it was.
The business side of me provided a financial foundation to have something to stand on while I followed my passion to advocate for certain people in the community, because I really enjoyed helping people. I just never found other avenues other than public office. From having the opportunity and being elected on the school board to seeing how it shaped and revolutionized someone’s life for the better, I realized I could do more in helping my community and supporting change in laws that would better my community. No one should have to worry about dying or being brutalized after a police contact. No one should ever worry about how they are going to eat or feed their family. No one should ever have to worry about if they will be able to afford to live in their respective communities. No one should ever have to worry about being evicted during a global or national pandemic. No immigrant should ever have to worry about their human rights, protection and being mistreated in our state, lest our country. My next step is running and becoming a legislator. I really want to be in a position where I can assist other legislators to pass bills that supports and improves the lives of every citizen respectively, for generations to come.
Do you think your passion for the community stems from your experiences?
Yes, it did. I was a troubled youth. I grew up in a single parent household where my mother struggled to raise four boys and a girl. Our father was never around, and she did the best she could. I was always pulled to and fro, different situations with the guys, and if it wasn’t for a group of community people that I later found out were part of a Greek fraternity and a part of the freemasons (my dad was a freemason), and it changed my life for the better. When they took me in and mentored me, it really helped me get out of the streets, because I didn’t have that fatherly structure or discipline. It made a difference in my life, and it’s something I never really let go. As I grew up, I always wondered why I was drawn to supporting youth. This is because I was one of them, falling to the wayside, needing mentorship, guidance and a strong male figure. I’d seen murders before I was 16 years old, just by being out there in the streets. I could have easily been killed myself. This group took me out of that atmosphere of gang violence and being a lady’s man. They gave me a different perspective in life, and that’s what has motivated me to what I am today, and I want to continue paying it forward. I want to help other youth who didn’t find love at home to find love and tell them there is something better. I want to make them know that there are people who care and can relate.
Would you recommend that the government puts in place a free or an affordable structure to help the youth stay on the right path?
Absolutely, the youth need to be kept on the right path. Growing up, there were after school and summer programs to keep the youth out of the streets, but these programs cost money and not everybody could afford them. I was a boy scout for so many years before my mom had to stop paying because she couldn’t afford it. So, I feel like if there were reasonable programs out there that people can financially afford, that would really help when it comes to pulling kids out of difficult and dangerous environments.
What specific factors or decisions contributed to your success as an entrepreneur?
Being driven and motivated is a big part of it. I mean the drive of never giving up no matter what the circumstance. I experienced lack and developed the drive to be successful, never accepting failure and never making excuses. Another important factor is being a great and careful listener. A lot of times people struggle in not knowing who God is, and it’s been my strong faith in God that helped me through the trials and tribulations. You must believe in yourself and God, otherwise you will find yourself running up a hill and always in an upward motion. I grew up in a very Christian household though we weren’t at church every Sunday.
Do you have people who doubted your business decisions earlier on?
No one really doubted my business decisions due to my being focused and being positive and driven. However, I didn’t know much about self-marketing when I went independent, and my wife was nervous that it may not work out. But I opened it up and business blew in. It was remarkable.
It wasn’t until I ran for higher office that people doubted me. Some doubted my chances as a first-time candidate. No one would think you could really win as big as I won later. When they saw my numbers and my stats and that I trailed the incumbent president, they were impressed. They thought my background would ruin my chances, but I knew I had done nothing wrong that’s uncommon or imperfect, someone would dig up. I was not going to step aside or stand down. This is something I still believe in, and it’s about community.
What are your biggest challenges in your journey?
It’s hard to say in an ever-changing society. Every day is different from the day before, and every day brings its own challenges. My journey has both been rewarding and challenging. When I stepped up to run for higher office, my background and mistakes were just exploited. They threw up a lot of issues that I had clearly explained and some inconsistencies that startled a lot of people. I let them know that nothing that they have found to discredit me is present. They were all old news but real challenges. I’m the first to tell you that I’ve never been a perfect guy but I’m not afraid of anything either. I have explained my past again and again to the community, but I don’t think I should keep apologizing for certain deeds that were brought up that made people look at me differently.
What has been your motivation?
My motivation is my family – my wife, my mother, and my children. I do my best every day to make my mom proud of me because she’s poured her heart into raising us and along the way I failed and made so many senseless mistakes. So, my life has been a quest to minimize those mistakes, apologize for where I went wrong, what I’ve done wrong. As I become somebody, I want to continue to make her proud and make the people around me proud. Can I improve in other areas of my life? Of course, I can. I am a work in progress like most. I also want to make my community proud to say there is somebody there who cared enough and didn’t even get paid for it. I want to make sure I have enough resources to take care of my family.
My wife has been a strong benefactor in my life. She’s been very supportive and holds down our household, which has given me the opportunity to volunteer in our community, even much more than I have for the past 6 years.
What is your guiding principle?
My guiding principle is my faith which allows me to live and let live; to do right by others; to make amends when mistakes are made; and to be supportive to others. I want to be a better person today and tomorrow- than the days before. Every day I wake up, I ask myself what I can do to assist someone today and do it in the right manner, and just being loyal to everything God handed to me.
What advice would you give me on resilience?
My advice is to never give up. You’re going to face challenges and face trials and tribulations. If you want it bad enough you got to fight for it. It also reminds me of Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quote where he says, “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in the moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in the time of challenge and controversy.”
How do you unwind when you’re not working?
I watch a lot of movies, I love music, fishing and walks in the parks or trails around lakes and beaches. I enjoy various sports along with playing the piano, exercise and reading various books.