Ypsilanti residents and entrepreneurs Willie Johnson and Lynwood Powell want to help young people avoid some of the financial pitfalls they encountered as young adults.
“When I got to college, I was handed credit cards right and left. I thought it was free money,” Johnson says. He and Powell are co-owners of Bad credit is childish, an umbrella credit repair company whose services include Time Travel Credit Repair for adults and BCIC Academy for youth. BCIC Academy is an online platform designed to teach teens about financial literacy topics.
“As a parent, you want to make sure your own child doesn’t make the same mistake,” Johnson says. “Why do we still agree with kids going to college, getting credit cards and graduating already in debt? They can’t get a house or a place to stay because we don’t never learned how to build credit.”
Before starting Bad Credit Is Childish, Powell worked for local schools as a paraprofessional and later as a social worker. He says he is passionate about education and empowering his community.
“I was in foster care when I was younger, and it was my social worker who raised me and empowered me through life’s challenges,” Powell said. “So when I became a social worker, I had that in mind. Someone helped me, and I always wanted to give back in that way.”
He sees his credit repair business and BCIC Academy’s virtual financial literacy classes as a way to empower the children he worked with, as well as their parents.
“If only parents knew how powerful building credit is,” says Powell. “It’s not something we’re taught in high school or college. I wanted to take that layer off and let people know that you can achieve those goals, like owning a house or owning a car or a car. business or just be financially free.”
Powell says people lose a lot of money through ignorance.
“If you don’t know, you pay more,” Powell says.
Powell and Johnson have known each other since they were young adults working together in the same factory. They both believed they had the potential to do more with their lives, but they were held back by a lack of knowledge about money and finances.
They started comparing notes and sharing their wins as they tried to improve their credit scores. Johnson was thrilled when he was able to get a $2,400 medical bill completely erased from his wife’s credit report, for example.
“At that point, we knew we had a service to provide, because the things we were doing were really working,” Johnson says.
Soon after, the two established Time Travel Credit Repair at 301 W. Michigan Ave. in downtown Ypsilanti and started attracting customers by word of mouth.
They have both found satisfaction in helping adults increase their credit scores and achieve their goals. Johnson says helping someone buy a car or a house can be “life changing” for that person.
Rhonda Douglas took advantage of Johnson and Powell’s credit repair services when she moved for a job. She says her credit “wasn’t great”, but she wanted to make sure there wouldn’t be any problems if she needed to buy new appliances, for example.
“By the time I settled in and showed up at my new job, I was in the saddle and my credit was up,” Douglas said.
A few years after launching their business, Johnson and Powell came up with the slogan “Bad credit is childish” and changed their company’s branding accordingly. And in 2021, the duo decided to launch the BCIC Academy.
Bad Credit is co-owners of Childish, Lynwood Powell and Willie Johnson.
“We include a lot of things in the academy that are really important, like the credit scoring system, monitoring your credit, and identity theft,” Johnson said.
They started by visiting Cass Technical Secondary School and Ypsilanti Secondary School, as well as a boys and girls club, to spread the word on their online platform to teach young people about financial literacy. Individuals can pay to take the course themselves, but Powell and Johnson want to offer the course at a reduced rate for schools to use.
“We’ve already been contacted by schools to include us in their summer school or even in their school curriculum,” Johnson said.
Taryn Willis, logistics coordinator for BCIC, explains that Eastern Michigan University’s Upward Bound program has considered incorporating BCIC Academy into this program. The BCIC Academy team has also connected with students in a new media course at the University of Michigan, with the possibility of these students becoming BCIC interns.
Appeal to a former NFL star Michael Vick as Brand Ambassador also helped spread the word, not just here in Michigan, but in the state of Virginia, Vick’s home, and in other places in the United States where Vick has supporters, Johnson says.
Willis says Powell and Johnson don’t keep their trade secrets to themselves, but share them with their entire team.
“They also allow team members to learn about their own credit and do things to fix it,” Willis says. “It’s exciting to learn the same things they teach the masses.”
The team also shares its victories, such as in a recent meeting where an employee mentioned that her credit score had improved by dozens of points.
Johnson and Powell will continue to do credit repair with adults, but they’re especially excited to launch the academy and help young people establish and maintain good financial habits.
“We want to empower kids from an early age so they don’t make the same mistakes we do and have a bright future,” Powell says.
The first session of the BCIC Academy starts in February. More information is available here.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and project manager of On the Ypsilanti field. She joined Focus as a news editor in early 2017 and occasionally contributes to other Broadcast Media Group editions. You can reach her at [email protected].
All pictures of Doug Combe.