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Douglas Ernest - My Story


My career story starts out in Milwaukee, WI in 1990. At the age of 17 years old

enlisted in the US Army at a E-1 entry level Infantry private. When I was a teenager, there were these commercials on television all the time that sang to the tune of “be all you can be in the Arrrrrrrrrmy”. At some point in those teenage years I had this wonderful idea that I was going to join the military, fly around in helicopters, play camp in the woods and get a bunch of money to go to college. So I worked hard to graduate from high school early, get myself in basic physical shape and I signed up for a two and a half year contract with U.S. Army Infantry.

Within six months of signing that contract I was finished with boot

camp, Infantry training, and Airborne School, and sitting on M113 Infantry vehicle in Saudia Arabia preparing for war. My plan to fly around and have fun in the woods firing weapons was halted when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August of 1990. My intent in life for joining the military was to earn money to pay for my education like my ancestors have, but I was given so much more by this experience in a hostile war environment.

At that young age in life I learned to appreciate life and the small things in life maximizing every moment of every day whether working or playing. Furthermore, I developed a skill to always think of the awfully tough times in that theater of war for seven months. That initial career gave me critical thinking skills, courage, and the ability to lead small groups of people.

Being a person who was pursuing higher education I completed my two and a half years in the service and was honorably discharged from active duty and started my academic career in UW-Milwaukee. After six miserably cold months in Wisconsin I applied for a warm climate TCU ROTC Texas one of two U.S. Army Texas scholarships and was awarded. This award also allowed me to use my GI Bill benefits simultaneously with my scholarship and paid for my education at TCU.

The years I spent at TCU were empowering; I was going to the university full time, working weekends and some evenings for the U.S. Army, and working part time at a civilian career auto sales positions to pay my non-educational expenses. Those years were breakthroughs in my life: learning polished time management skills, team player cohort coaching, military leadership training, and corporate sales indoctrination. The combination of those training sets gave me the basic direction and confidence to start my own business after TCU graduation in 1996, but I had eight year commitment to the Army for the beautiful scholarship.

Corvette Warehouse was started right after leaving college. The company I had worked for a few short months was closing and I was able to rent the building next store then started with three Corvettes for sale that I purchased on my credit card at eighteen percent interest. From that point I worked like a madman doing eighteen hour days seven days a week; within three years had the highly acclaimed seven figures sales business. This went on for a couple of great years and then the recession came.

Recession meant that hobby two seater cars were not in high demand and what seemed my dream had now turned into me being $300,000 in debt with no assets except a lease I couldn’t afford. That recession seemed short compared to 2007-2009 but it hurt. I had gone from a six figure income to being buried in debt with no income while simultaneously serving weekends in the U.S. Army. My military part-time career demanded so much of me for a small amount of money and my business was failing. It was so hard to go on at this point. I was making zero working seventy to eighty hours a week and I wanted to give up. My father who is now deceased had encouraged me to keep going and keep trying and that I did.

The recession passed and our classic car industry had great growth. I made a decent living and immensely enjoyed my life with customers and the cars that I loved. Business and the U.S. Army was good for years. So I loaded up!! I borrowed a million dollars to buy classic corvettes, and I started personally backing auto loans on classic cars by borrowing money and lending it out at higher rates.

Business was again good for a few years until 2007 when the next recession hit. This time it didn’t feel like a recession, it felt like a depression. I had about forty corvettes at that time with over $1,000,000 valued inventory and $500,000 worth of receivables that I was personally liable for. Receivables being the notes for the car payments that we build up and then would later collateralized and sold when the loan performs for six months or more. The dreaded recession came again and completely wiped out our market this time crushing it. Cars were devalued fifty percent in what seemed a 45-60 day time period. The liquidity markets had dried up and banks were not lending money to our customers nor were banks financing cars for my inventory. My loan was called because of the turbulent financial markets, and I was this time $1,000,000 in debt that was secured with classic auto loan receivables and cars that had depreciated fifty percent in a short period of time.

At this point I was done. Mentally and physically I had given it my all for years and now I was financially ruined and so deep in debt with nothing to show for it.

I tried to get out of my lease and was planning to continue a career in the U.S. Army but my landlord refused to let me out of my lease at his occupancy was under fifty percent in his commercial complex. Boy am I thankful to Mr. Neil Felder for not letting me out of my obligations. By him refusing to let me out of this lease, I went to work once again doing eighty hours a week. I bought cheap corvettes that were falling apart, and I began to sell parts, accessories, and service. I basically did whatever I had to do to keep the business going.

During this time of business I was a Captain in the U.S.Army Reserves. The positions I was privileged to hold throughout the years: Squad Leader, Platoon Leader, Company Training Brigade Level S-4 Leader -This training that I received at the Brigade level (what I would refer to as the Executive leadership level in the military) was priceless. I was working on projects with what I considered the smartest people on the planet. People who worked full time in civilian careers, went to college full or part-time while simultaneously working for the U.S. Army on the weekend. Having the influence of my colleagues, my Soldiers, and the leadership from my commanders kept me driven in my civilian career to keep my business open.

I was so fortunate and eternally grateful to have served with my fellow brothers and sisters in the U.S. Army from all socio-economic backgrounds, from different countries, and from all “walks of life”. These experiences shaped my career path and gave me the intestinal fortitude to push and drive forward in whatever task I am working on in my life. It’s like a blur those years of working eighty hours a week, sleeping at my business, living on minimum to no income…

Years later our auto markets took off like a rocket ship, and our company is the strongest it has ever been. The worst is hopefully now over. The “turning point” in my life has now passed, and the company has been fortunate to pay off those once awful, lingering, personally-backed debts. The roads I have traveled were chiseled one step at a time. I can create, fix or grow at my discretion after these experiences. My life and my career are filled of wonderful experiences with lots of blank open canvas searching for knowledge, growth, and fulfillment.

This is the story of Douglas Ernest.

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