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Philanthropy and finance going hand in hand

Cyril Josh Barker | 4/12/2011, 5:26 p.m.
At the age of 36, Ajene Watson has already become an accomplished businessman and philanthropist....
Philanthropy and finance going hand in hand

At the age of 36, Ajene Watson has already become an accomplished businessman and philanthropist. He currently owns his own company, AJENE WATSON LLC, located on Wall Street, which specializes in financial business development and has a private lending arm with the hopes of creating an equities fund next year.

"What we do is that we go into companies and provide them with tools to make them attractive to investors," said Watson.

But when it comes to giving back, Watson puts as much work into helping his community as he does into his business by focusing on enhancing education for young people through his nonprofit organization, Education Now.

He said, "I believe that it's a responsibility. There are so many things I want to give back."

Watson was born in the Morrisania section of the Bronx, where he lived in University Heights before finally settling in Riverdale. At age 16, he became an apprentice at a real estate appraisal firm in Riverdale. His job required him to go around the city and take pictures of properties.

A meteor at the firm worked with him, and within three years time, Watson became an youngest analyst at the age of 19 running all operations at the firm. There, Watson acquired several skills, including writing and perfecting business strategies.

After working for five years at the firm, Watson began working in other fields, including entertainment, promotions and even a stint in the record industry. He soon became an independent real estate appraiser.

After speaking on a panel in California, Watson became attracted to the finance industry. While in the Golden State, he linked up with the Worldwide Incubator organization and met several other prominent Blacks involved in finance. Watson was recruited by the Ruby Group and from there began his career.

"I loved it," he said. "I loved being on Wall Street. It became my fascination."

In 2007, he began his own company that today consists of a staff of 12 people located across the nation also working with several third-party firms.

But with much success came due diligence. Watson has been involved in philanthropy since he was young, serving in the Boy Scouts and AmeriCares. His late mother instilled in him at a young age that giving back doesn't always have to be in the form of monetary donations.

His latest project was building a computer lab at M.S. 390 in the Bronx, where his mother taught before losing her battle with lupus. The lab, named after her, includes 30 computers, four printers and a SMART Board. Watson donated half of the money for the lab, with the other half raised by his colleagues.

"I'm glad I took my mother's view. If I can be a contributor to helping someone else with education, I'm making a contribution to making the world a better place."

As for what's next for Watson, he wants to press forward with creating an equities fund to enhance his development services and get a management fund worth $200 million. As for his philanthropy, he plans on expanding Education Now by putting more computer labs in more schools, along with other equipment for education.