James V. Page Jr. grew up poor in the ghettos of the South Bronx in New York City, several blocks away from former Secretary of State Colin Powell and several streets up from entertainer Jennifer Lopez. He also lived in the same building of the Bronxdale housing project as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
His Bronx roots are an indelible part of him.
Tenacious, persistent, determined all describe the man who overcame a tumultuous childhood to become a million-dollar businessman who is proudly self-made.
Page’s company, Page After Page Business Systems, Inc. (dba Page Global TM), has been in business for almost 30 years, providing office equipment, supplies and other materials. They boast 12 employees and over 40 contractors even amid a pandemic that has caused historic economic turmoil.
But before Page ran a company that secured lucrative contracts with the likes of the FBI, Department of Justice, DC Water, the District of Columbia Library and most recently the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., he was a young man in the throes of a turbulent childhood. His parents broke up when he was very young and by 14 he was a high school dropout.
“I started getting into a sorted life,” Page said. “Things were going downhill quickly.”
He said the risks of street life weren’t adding up financially and the violence was becoming unnerving and more often fatal.
“I was somewhat of a rascal and I decided I didn’t want to be a rascal anymore,” he said.
Page said it was also the guidance of his maternal great-great-aunt Alma that influenced him to turn away from the streets.
“I wanted to stay in favor of hers,” he said. “She said, ‘I will support you and assist you as long as you don’t cross these two lines: Go to jail [or] ever get on government assistance.’ She really stepped in to provide my sisters, brothers and [myself] guidance since our mother had us as a teen.”
Not wanting to fall out of favor with his aunt, Page along with his best friend decided to join the Naval Academy in hopes to be an officer in the Navy.
“We went down to the recruiter center, [and] the enlisted officer on duty said jokingly, ‘you need a high school diploma and a college degree first to become a Naval Officer,’” Page said. “He said first, take the GED, come back and you can take the test. If you score high enough, you can be accepted into the Navy.”
“Coming from the inner city, it was better than telling us we should go back to school,” he said. “I took the GED test for the first time and failed by one point.”
A few weeks later, without a penny in his pocket and the testing center more than seven miles away, Page went back for a retake. This time he was alone, as his best friend declined to take the test again.
“A week later, I was at the bar and my mother called the bar’s phone and said ‘you passed the test by one point,’” he said. “I enrolled in the Navy at 16 years old. I came back from boot camp and my best friend, one year older than me, in less than two months was shot and killed in the streets.”
One year later, 17-year-old Page was on the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) in the Middle East amid the Gulf War.
Two years later, the Naval officer was newly married when he received the news that his aunt and chief influence Alma had died and left him $25,000.
“I got it because everyone else in my family was in jail or on welfare,” he said. “I did one smart thing — I bought a condo. And I wasted the rest. I spent the money as quickly as I got it.”
By 23, Page was a father of five, working several jobs fighting to make ends meet. He decided to leave the military for the same reason he left the street life behind — the money wasn’t adding up.
“At that point, I started realizing that I wanted to be a leader, a fighter for people like me, but with no degree, I found out that wasn’t happening,” he said. “The only place that I would be considered on equal footing as a leader, president or a manager was to go into sales.”
With Page going into business for himself, he was certain about success, but such success came with a steep learning curve that cost him millions.
“In having those businesses and not having the education, I got into financial trouble, customer satisfaction issues, then I got into trouble with the IRS to the tune of several millions of dollars in debt,” he said. “The one thing I didn’t do is not pay my employees. I learned that from IBM and I learned integrity from my aunt.
“What I decided to do was work twice as hard,” Page said. “I was able to pay off all the bad loans that I had. I was able to pay off IBM, over a million in taxes and I was able to get a good CPA.”
The road to celebrating a 30th anniversary in business has been a journey for Page going from a troubled youth to successful businessman. While he acknowledges his accomplishments, he doesn’t let them distort his view.
“In business as in life, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about lasting,” Page said. “No sooner than you call yourself a winner one day, you have another obstacle to overcome almost in the very next hour or minute. Lasting and laughter is as close to winning as you can come.”