About the Author

Born “the son of a sharecropper,” Robert L. Gatewood grew up with an unconventional sense of independence, and the belief that there is no such thing as a free lunch. These values were instilled in him by his father, a Baptist Minister, and his mother, a loving homemaker. They raised Robert and his 13 siblings in a small rural home where resourcefulness and self-respect masked a shortage of material possessions.

Always inquisitive and quick to challenge the status quo, Robert spent his early school years in a segregated educational system. At the age 13, he started his first business, a shoeshine stand. Robert ended this venture abruptly during the first month of school integration after he was called “Shine” by one of his new white classmates, whose father owned the barbershop where Robert had set up shop. This early dilemma set in motion an ongoing quest for the elusive balance between, often-conflicting, racial dignity and economic advancement.

Robert received his undergraduate degree in Political Science, and upon graduation, he declined an offer to attend Syracuse University Law School , choosing instead to enter the business arena. After serving as an officer in several corporations, he started several businesses of his own. He soon realized that his knack was in starting businesses, rather than operating them. This acknowledgement manifested itself in his becoming a champion for small and startup businesses. Robert often provided his services and expertise at little or no cost.

Robert eventually went back to school to get his MBA degree. He explains he did so “to have some alphabets behind my name.” As his education and experience grew, so did the size and stature of his clients, which soon included several national companies and a government agency.
In spite of his notoriety as an accomplished marketer, his primary motivation continued to be the desire to level the marketing playing field for disadvantaged businesses. This passion was eventually shared with an equally strong desire to level the playing field for disadvantaged consumers, who Robert felt were often ill-prepared for the very tactics he imparted upon his clients. He reconciled these seemingly conflicting applications by adopting a strict, self-imposed code of marketing ethics, and by refusing to assist certain types of organizations and tactics.

According to Robert, “It’s not within my power to determine who will win the battle of wills between buyers and sellers. It is only my desire that the playing field is somewhat level.”

To ensure his message is available to all, Robert lectures at Washington DC-area colleges and speaks at organizational events.