By Bridgett Harris
If you ask veteran, entrepreneur and community advocate James Flowers about his greatest achievement to date, he won’t pick a moment from his long military career, nor any awards for his work in the community. While he is certainly proud of those accomplishments, he says his biggest achievement lies in the success and strength that he and his wife, Shunna Flowers, have instilled in their children, aged 24, 21 and 14.
“They have taken what we have taught them to heart and they see my example and they don’t let anyone stop them,” said Flowers. “I can look at the titles and the awards I’ve won and all that stuff — but that’s just stuff that I’ve done. My kids are the truest result of my labor and my efforts.”
Born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, Flowers was a middle child, with two older brothers and two younger sisters. He says he was a brainiac in school and he always knew that he wanted to do something besides staying in his hometown. He enlisted in the Army right out of high school.
“I graduated from high school on Friday and left for basic training on Monday,” he said.
Flowers spent 23 years in the Army, stationed all over the United States, as well as a tour in Germany and two deployments. He served in many different roles, including as Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Prevention (SHARP) representative and program manager, and as an equal opportunity officer.
During his second deployment in Iraq, the vehicle Flowers and his fellow soldiers were riding in was hit by a roadside explosive device. In danger of being abducted, Flowers and his crew were fortunate that other members of their team noticed they had been hit and rescued them.
“We were all fortunate to — thankfully — have no serious injuries,” he said.
Flowers made Fort Carson his final duty station before retiring and then set about making himself at home in Colorado Springs, involving himself heavily in the business community and in other roles devoted to helping others. He runs his own DJ business, and he and Shunna are partners in a legal services business called LegalShield. Flowers credits Shunna with playing a major role in helping him achieve his goals.
Flowers spoke with the Business Journal about his entrepreneurial efforts and his community advocacy.
Tell us about your community involvement.
I’m on the Fountain Valley Chamber of Commerce. That role is important to me because we need to help the business community in Fountain grow. There’s a stigma that Fountain is a low place, but there are a lot of businesses down here that people really should come out and support. There is a person from the city council who shares all of the advances and improvements this area is making with the Chamber each month, and it is something we need to share. I’m also active in the school district. I want to make sure these kids are getting the best education and guidance they need so that once they leave school, they’re prepared for college.
Why is community involvement so important to you?
When I decided I was going to live here, I decided I was going to be active in the community. If you don’t get involved, you’re not going to be able to know what’s going wrong and you’re not going to be able to change it.
What other roles do you hold?
I’m an elder in my church here in Fountain. I’m the vice president of the Colorado Springs Black Business Network. I like to help minority businesses see that there is a lot here to help them grow. In Colorado Springs, there are around 30,000 businesses, but only 4,000 of them are minority-owned. So one focus for me is to try to help get minority businesses up and running. I’m also the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year for the business network in Pueblo, a director with LegalShield and the owner of DJ Shield.
Tell us about DJ Shield. How did you get your start as a DJ and how long have you been in business?
DJ Shield is a veteran-owned gospel business and I’ve been in business for three years. I say “gospel business” because God controls my business because he blessed me with it. The business came about because I love music — always have. Growing up, I was one of those kids that followed LL Cool J and the like, but I couldn’t rap and couldn’t sing very well, so I gave up trying and just played music instead. During my military career, I had friends that would DJ, so I would jump in on sets and play and I kept up with that over the years. In 2017, my wife was coordinating a birthday party and wanted to use the stereo system I had in my man cave. Instead, I bought a secondhand DJ system and deejayed the birthday party with that. Everybody enjoyed themselves and I ended up getting hired for several jobs. The first year I did 25 events total. In 2018, I did 25 events in the month of June alone.
How did you manage that?
So much business began to come my way that I got overwhelmed and had to refer business out to other DJ friends. That led to us creating COS Old School DJs. It’s a collaborative of DJs that allows us to coordinate more events and larger events. All the members are either current or former military.
What sets DJ Shield apart?
The company plays all clean music that everyone can enjoy. We pride ourselves on enhancing your event. We can support personal events, birthdays, graduations and weddings. We provide corporate [packages], PA systems, lighting and audio support. Seeing my clients smiling, happy and enjoying themselves — and not worrying one bit about whether the mood is going to change or go bad — is the most exciting part.
You recently spoke at a protest event downtown. What have recent events taught you about leadership?
Me and my wife, we’re both from down South. We were both raised around and became used to blatant racism and quiet racism growing up. When I was at the rally, I said that in order to make a change, you have to vote. … We need to be out here voting. We need to get registered and go home and make a change. We need to be at the city, school board and council meetings. At the same time, we need to have people in those positions that we can hold liable and who do what the people want, not what they want.
What is the best advice you have received from a mentor about pursuing and achieving your goals?
One of my mentors is my mom and the advice she gave me — that has helped me for years — is to ask for what you want. The worst they can tell you is no.
My wife is another mentor. She has helped me to slow down when I am talking, to be more articulate and to make sure that my point is coming across, so I can show that I can be trusted.
My pastor is also one of my mentors and he has a tagline: “Straight up, no chaser.” Say exactly what you mean, be honest and stick to your guns.
What advice would you give someone else to help them pursue their goals and expand their opportunities?
Get connected with someone who can help you. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Ask someone with more experience than you, because what worked for them can work for you as well. I would also advise that people get involved in their community and their chamber of commerce.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in pursuit of your goals?
I have had a few. One has been my skin color. Another has been my military background — some people find it intimidating.
I have also had to work on my enunciation. I grew up in Charleston and I have a Gullah accent — people also call it Geechee. It sounds like I am from the Caribbean, but I am not. I had to learn how to slow down and enunciate my words to make sure that people could understand me.
What keeps you motivated?
Definitely the Lord, as well as my kids and my wife. And being able to sit back at the end of the day and look back at what I have done and say to myself, ‘I did a good job today. What can I do tomorrow to help everybody?’