The Darryl Cheeks Story

I received a four-year academic scholarship (after attending Evanston Township High School) directly to the University of Illinois’ Business School in Champaign/Urbana, Illinois.  During my college days, I was elected to the Outstanding College Students of America and took a more serious interest in my religious faith where I began pursuing my minor concentration in theology.  I also began apprenticing for the ministry in 1988 with the Monroe Street Church of Christ and spent the next four years in that apprenticeship.    My major was accounting where I did receive my B.S. in Accountancy in 1990.

After my internship with Arthur Andersen in 1989 (during my junior year of college), I joined the firm on a full-time basis in May of 1990.  I also passed my certified public accountancy (C.P.A.) exam right after graduation.  I worked in Andersen’s entrepreneurial group for the next 3 ½ years and received a very prestigious honor where Andersen elected me to attend Harvard’s Summer Venture Management program (master’s level educational program for outstanding performing minority employees in fortune 500 companies).

In late 1993, I was offered a position in Abbott Laboratories’ Corporate Audit/Reconstruction Group.  I was one of the few minorities and one of the youngest employees to serve in this group.  Our responsibility was to fly all around the world, wherever Abbott had locations, and perform substantive testing and make recommendations for change management for under-performing company operations.  In 1995, I received another offer that I could not refuse.  I joined a company called Hoyt Fasteners as its chief financial officer (CFO).  Hoyt was a $7M logistical supply chain firm that supplied original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s) with Class “C” inventory parts in the manufacturing process.  I worked for this firm for close to four years and during this time, the company grew from $7M to $182M.  The growth was a function of $60M in organic growth, two mergers, an acquisition and an IPO by 1998; most of which I spearheaded as the CFO.

I was absolutely on top of the world at this time.  I was close to 31 years of age and the Executive Vice President and CFO of an almost $200M company.  However, things could not remain so good.  The board of directors of the newly IPO’d company (Pentacom Industries) relocated its corporate headquarters to Houston, Texas. While great for the company, not so great for me.  By 1998, I was newly married and desiring to raise my unborn children (at the time) with extended family in the Chicagoland area.  I was the assistant minister of the Monroe St. Church of Christ (an inner-city pulpit ministry on the west side of Chicago) and the founder and Executive Director of Soul Food Prison Ministries (a prison ministry serving the incarcerated population in the state of Illinois).  This prison ministry, in its 17 years, served over 100,000 inmates through Cook County Jail, a prison newsletter, ministerial care in the correctional facilities throughout the state of Illinois, a tape ministry and a half-way house for ex-offenders.

I made the decision to leave Pentacom, run my ministries and pursue the road of entrepreneurship.  By the age of 30, I had done the following:

  • Worked for 2 fortune 500 companies
  • Successfully spearheaded the significant growth of a company culminating in an IPO
  • Served on several non-profit boards where I additionally held the position of chairman/president of said board for a majority of them
  • Formed Soul Food Prison Ministries working with over 25 participating churches of Christ throughout the state of Illinois

To me, this served as a great backdrop for me to move forward on my own.  An additional thing to share, in 1995, I began working with a very close family friend named Hecky Powell who owned a restaurant in Evanston, Il called Hecky’s Barbecue.  His restaurant had opened in the early 80’s and had experienced unbelievable success.  For several years after opening his restaurant, Hecky had been named the Barron of Barbecue for the Northshore of Chicago.  Hecky approached me to work with him to find a way to get his barbecue into the mouths of as many people as possible but he did not want to go the franchising route.  So, every Tuesday, for over a year, we met at the Orrington Hotel in Evanston to devise a way to expand his barbecue product offerings.  Well, by late 1996, we came up with a plan to offer his products utilizing a food distribution model. We formed a company called Chicagoland Barbecue in December of 1996 and came up with the tagline – “One Restaurant with Take Out to the World.”  Our very first sales came in 1998 as we had two customers, Washington Square Restaurant on the south side of Chicago and Brookfield Zoo (the Backyard Barbecue).  We had $58,000 in revenue and lost over $320,000 in net loss.


So, I committed to go out on my own running my ministries and overseeing my food company, that has just experienced a disastrous first year in financial operations.  I thought maybe I should add one more leg to my revenue model since things were not looking to positive, in the short term, for Chicagoland Barbecue.  I decided to begin outsourcing myself as a virtual CFO to companies who needed to raise capital, were looking for merger & acquisition strategies and/or growth and turnaround consulting.  God blessed me!  By 2003, my food company surpassed the $10M mark and by 2006, my food company (now called the Chicagoland Companies) was serving over 600,000 troops worldwide in the Army, West Coast Navy and Air Force (nuclear silo) division.  We were also in over 5,000 outlets in the contiguous United States with an expanded product line of over 100 products.  It was also in 2006 that Chicagoland received a prestigious award from Diversity Business.Com that informed us  that Chicagoland Foods was named one of the largest minority-based businesses in the U.S.  Well, I felt the need to capitalize on this and about six months later, me and a couple of my partners started a restaurant concern called “Blues – The Art of Barbecue.”  We opened a series of restaurants on BIG 10 college campuses throughout the U.S.


By 2006, my personal consulting that I had started back in 1998 (the virtual CFO concept) was flourishing and I had more clients than I could handle.  As a result, I moved to open up a financial firm and called it Black Rhino Financial Group (BRFG).  This would be an organization dedicated to working with the small business entrepreneur (less than $10M in annual sales) that was either a pre-revenue company, early stage or mature business organization.  The service objective was to provide these companies with back office deliverables that would allow the owner to focus on their core competence while BRFG handled the accounting, taxation, finance, et.  We saw explosive growth over the years and this parlayed itself into our current offerings.  At present, the one firm is now four firms – Black Rhino Financial Group, Black Rhino Marketing Group, Black Rhino Legal and Black Rhino Consulting Group.  The name we market these four family of companies under is Black Rhino Collective (BRC).  I serve as the majority owner of the firms who all have their own separate Managing Partners that are responsible for the day to day running for the companies.  Currently, BRC serves over 400 clients worldwide, has operated in 42 different industries, boasts a staff of 30 employees and has helped raise 100’s of millions for our clients (through the finance division of BRFG).


So thankful and so blessed by God!  Lastly, I serve on the Executive Board of the University of Illinois’ Dean’s Business Counsel in Champaign/Urbana where I additionally have been given the opportunity to speak and teach on a variety of financial topics for its master’s and undergraduate programs for the business school.  I also have been an ordained minister for the past 26 years and have served the Waukegan Church of Christ for the past nine years as its ministering evangelist.   However, being married to my wife, Rebecca Cheeks and raising our four children – Gabe, Logan, Cole & Olivia Cheeks has been my greatest joy!





Black Rhino Financial on WGN

We spend a lot of time talking about startups, entrepreneurship and innovation on this show, but sometimes we overlook a key piece of that equation – financing. How do we finance the growth of tomorrow for our business, or perhaps more importantly, personally, as an entrepreneur, how do I also invest for the future. Joining me today from Black Rhino Financial Group is Darryl Cheeks and Percy Haley.

Listen to the full interview here: 

University of IL Eminent Speaker Series

University of Illinois College of Business speaks with Darryl Cheeks.

I never learned to juggle, but if I had, I  would not have desired to start with these implements. In today's business environment entrepreneurs and professionals are being called on not only to juggle various tasks but tasks that are not always aligned with one another and with which they may have very little knowledge, familiarity and experience.


Watch the whole video: