For 30-year-old Jonathan Passley, it isn’t a matter of when he hit rock bottom, but which time.

Adversity began at an early age after Jonathan was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age seven. He suffered from painful joint inflammation, often having to use crutches to get around. As an elementary school student, he was left watching his classmates run around and play while he was left sitting on the sideline.

Jonathan got through those difficult times with the support of his father, mother, and two older brothers. His family has always valued education; his dad, Harold, with a doctorate in religious education; his mother, Yvonne, with an undergraduate degree in religious education, his oldest brother, Josef, with a Ph.D in clinical psychology, and his next oldest brother, Oscar, with a doctorate in jazz education.

The obvious thing for Jonathan to do was get his bachelor’s and graduate degrees before moving on to his Ph. D. That wasn’t the path Jonathan chose, however.

Jonathan got through those difficult times with the support of his father, mother, and two older brothers.

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Entering Entrepreneurship

After enrolling in college at Morgan State University to study computer science, he and his best friend came up with a business idea on the way to a car auction.

They could purchase cars for a low price at the auction, fix them up and sell them for a profit. Jonathan had officially been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug.

The next thing he knew, he was writing up a business plan, conducting market research at local dealerships, and quizzing himself on business terminology using homemade flash cards.

When he was handed $1,700 in cash for a 1987 Lincoln Town Car – a $700 profit – he knew he wanted to be a business owner. His father, however, thought differently. As the head of an education-first family, Harold called Jonathan’s business plan nonsense.

The business ultimately dissolved when Jonathan recognized his partner lacked the passion he possessed, but – nonetheless – he was hooked on being an entrepreneur.

The Positives of Getting Fired

Jonathan decided to stay in school, but he changed his major from computer science to business administration. He contemplated starting his own business building and designing websites, but didn’t know when to take the leap.

At the time, he was interning for a phone accessory manufacturer — a job he loathed. He prayed for clarity which he was delivered in the form of being inexplicably fired. He took that as a sign and started his own business – PDR Web Solutions – the following day.

For Jonathan, that meant driving to a zip code dressed to the nines and walking door-to-door handing out flyers. When he got home, he would open up the phone book and cold call business after business.

Hearing “no” was what he came to expect after 30 days, but he didn’t give up. When he finally heard a “yes” he didn’t quite know what to say. A local pastor wanted to meet with him to hear more about his website services.

He was ultimately hired and the rest is history.

The Power of Networking

After the first lead, Jonathan built on his momentum by attending 2–3 networking events per week. With zero marketing budget, he knew word of mouth would get him the referrals he needed to build his business.

His goal with each networking event was to walk out the door with at least one viable lead. The method served him well as his business grew. Before he knew it, he was hiring an intern. Then another. By 2010, he had purchased his own office after his now-wife, Nikeita, told him he shouldn’t have interns working from his apartment.

Jonathan has developed into a marketing thought leader, helping other businesses grow their brands.

Now the business has grown to six employees and Jonathan has developed into a marketing thought leader, helping other businesses grow their brands.

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Another Bump in the Road

Despite his business success, Jonathan’s adversity wasn’t over. In April of 2016, he was finishing up work at his office when he felt nauseous. After throwing up blood, he went to the hospital where he was told he probably had an ulcer.

It turned out to be much more than that. Jonathan had to have two tumors on his stomach and one on his liver removed – cancer more than likely caused from the medications he had to take for his rheumatoid arthritis.

Though he was urged by doctors to undergo chemotherapy, Jonathan once again forged his own path and chose to go the holistic route. Thus far, he has had good results through the power of prayer, changing his diet, and focusing on his wife and seven-month-old son, Jaden.

Looking Ahead

Had Jonathan been asked eight years ago what he was hoping to build in a business, he probably would have described a business much like the one he has now. But as he’s climbed the ladder of success, he’s continued adding more and more steps to that ladder.

Now his mission is to help other entrepreneurs succeed, using the obstacles he has overcome to offer insight and guidance to those looking to build their own businesses.

It hasn’t been an easy road, but it’s one that has brought him to where he is today, and he wouldn’t change it for anything.