Success, Power, and a Real Nice Guy

  Maceo Z. Keeling, Owner of Asheville Alliance Finance and Business Accelerators, (AAFABA).  Photo: Urban News  
Staff Reports

By many people’s standards, Mr. Keeling has enjoyed an enviable degree of success in his educational experience, business career and his family life. But when asked about his success, the witty and gregarious Maceo Z. Keeling quipped, “What success?”

Keeling’s style in his conversation and manner is an unusual combination of wit, common sense, education, poise and spiritual insight. He is a family man with a proud family legacy.

The California native graduated from Loyola Marymount University, a private Jesuit institution in Los Angeles. He has studied in Europe in a study-abroad program; completed Platoon Leader’s Class, Officer Candidate School, for the United States Marine Corps, Quantico Virginia; and even did a stint at Harvard University. One remarkable thing about this recently transplanted Asheville resident is that he accomplished all this by the age 25.

When Mr. Keeling and Helen, his wife of 26 years, are seen together out on the town, there is no doubt that she is his “cure.” They are a great, fun couple, very active in community and charitable activities, and the proud parents of two very handsome and successful sons, Baron Toussaint and Maceo III, who continue to reside in California.

We asked Mr. Keeling about his education, and he was quick to say that he credits his foundation and ongoing education to his parents. “College did not make me a success; my parents gave those colleges a confident, motivated, happy, eager person to lift the school’s brand.”

He went on to say, “My parents insisted on our exhaustive best performance. It was not enough to do well. In fact, in areas we did not do well, they insisted that we demonstrate a work ethic and effort to do well, which built the kind of mental and emotional stamina we needed to propel us forward.”

Who influenced him the most? “My parents and my sisters. In our home, we were required to listen, process what we heard, and then respond. This practice made me feel that I was being heard when I spoke. In many ways, it made me feel like I was important.

“My parents walked their talk too. They didn’t have great jobs when I was young. They sometimes didn’t know where the next meal would come from as they struggled to feed my six sisters and me in South-Central Los Angeles. They sacrificed and paid tuition for my mom’s continuing education.”

After a moment of reflection Keeling started again, “This is the example I bring to everything I do. They still “grind” after 55 years of marriage and numerous struggles.

Keeling defines success differently than many people do. “My definition has changed a few times in my life. I remember praying for the type of job where I got to wear a suit and carry a laptop to work. I got that job and made great money, but something was still missing. Then I wanted a big car, a big home, and lots of stuff. I was a consumer and was always looking for what I could get next. I was successful at all that. Today, I am looking for ways to pay my gifts forward. There is power in giving,” Keeling stated. “Today I define my success by how many people benefit from my work.”

This intriguing entrepreneur is a Renaissance man of sorts. He speaks fluent Spanish, reads music, sings, plays the saxophone, is an award-winning chef, writes poetry, and is writing a book titled Escape to Manhood, which chronicles stories from his life while sharing practical advice on the nurturing and rearing of strong, confident men in the America.

Why the constant drive? “Because the gifts I have been given are not for me, they are for others. Our anointing is the light we shine, so they can be a light to others,” he said in a more serious tone. As our conversation continued he became noticeably more intense and purposeful in his speech. He is a quick thinker, poised on his feet and deeply introspective.

“I am an odd one for sure,” he said. “I think I am often misunderstood for my BIG confidence. We were not born of a spirit of fear, but in power and love and of sound mind. We have a duty to make it do what it do! It gives us our personal power to create and participate in change.”

The owner of a consulting business called Asheville Alliance Finance and Business Accelerators, (AAFABA), at 70 S. Market Street, Keeling responded readily with a broad smile when we asked how it is doing.

“Business is outstanding! We are making a few nickels but we are really developing relationships all over town.” He grows more serious. “AAFABA is about real business, not theory. If you want theory go to school, or get a book. We marry the idea of wealth building to the reality of planning and execution. Even if you got all the right ingredients to make a cake, you can cook it too slowly or bake it too fast: either way you don’t get the desired result.

Maceo Keeling is a great believer in mentoring, and his advice to young people is straightforward. “Model successful behaviors, know your numbers, and get a coach,” he quickly responded. His own coaching included learning from his parents. “Frankly,” he says, “if I could talk to my parents and express my thoughts clearly and without fear, I could do the same with anyone.”

Considering future plans and opportunities in Asheville, Maceo Keeling answered with a typically wide range of aspirations and interests. “Asheville is my new home, it’s where I live now, and I hope to create lift right here in our community. I have my eye on the Block downtown and helping to redevelop that area. The Block is important to me, the black community, and it’s important to economic strength of Asheville at large. I am still practicing on my saxophone so I can play romantic ballads for my wife, and I’m working with a local publisher to get my book on the shelves.”

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