While many small businesses closed their doors in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Delaware native and 2021 CMA New Artist of the Year Jimmie Allen was opening doors and contributing to the First State’s economy.
During his keynote speech at the 2021 Millennial Summit, Allen explained how he employed more than 50 people by delving into the transportation business.
“I know nothing about dump trucks,” Allen admitted. “But we got six dump trucks and hired people that drive them.”
Allen’s companies Sussex Septic, Role On Transportation, and Del Made gave people jobs when there were few to be found. The multi-platinum performer said these new investments are part of his plan to build an “empire.”
“The empire I’m trying to create isn’t just for me,” Allen said. “It’s to create jobs for family, for friends, and for other people.”
Allen, who grew up in Milton, Del., broke into the country music scene in 2018. That year, his singles “Best Shot” and “Make Me Want To” both hit #1 on the Billboard Country Music Airplay chart and went platinum. Since then, his duet “This Is Us” with Noah Cyrus has gone gold and he’s released “Freedom Was a Highway” with Brad Paisley – the video for which shows Allen wearing Del Made logos.
In 2021, he won New Male Artist of the Year at the American Country Music Awards – the first Black solo performer to win this award. He also created and headlined the Bettie James Fest concert event in Milton, published a children’s book called “My Voice is a Trumpet” and joined Season 30 of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”
“For me, it’s about expanding,” Allen said. “The reason why you expand is because, if your foundation is narrow, once you get to a certain height, it tips over.”
He explained that the wider the foundation, the higher up he can go.
“If you expand your foundation, you have no choice but to go up,” he said.
Allen went to Delaware State University and later the University of Delaware to get a “degree in people.”
“I knew I wanted to be an entertainer, so I needed to understand how different types of people move,” he said.
Once he got that “degree,” he told his family he was moving to Nashville.
“They said, ‘When?’ I said, ‘Tomorrow,’” Allen recalled. “So, I packed up my little Chevy Malibu and went to Walmart and bought an air mattress. I had $21 in my bank account.”
That’s when his journey began.
After stopping at random locations along the way where he could use computers to search for living quarters, he found a trailer on 18 acres he could rent, but the electricity wasn’t turned on.
“I had no money to turn it on,” he said. But he quickly realized that he didn’t need electricity because he would only be there to sleep.
After living there for a while, the owner decided to sell the trailer for $300. Unfortunately, Allen couldn’t afford to purchase it, so he moved into his car.
“The car situation really wasn’t that bad,” Allen said. “That’s just ‘right now.’ I never really worried about ‘right now.’ To me it’s all about where you want to go and the sacrifice you gotta make to get there.”
Allen was working at a gym where he could wash his clothes, exercise, and meet people.
“I worked in a snack bar, so I borrowed food to eat,” he laughed. “I started networking. I met Christian artists, country artists, and started spending time talking to them at the gym.”
He began learning the difference between business and networking, talent and drive.
“Talent is 10 percent of what you want to get out of life,” he said. “The other 90 percent is being able to withstand the word ‘no.’”
Through this experience, he developed the philosophy of never staying at a job longer than six months.
“What happens is, if you’re at a job for six months and you’re financially comfortable, and you can take care of yourself and your family, you feel like that’s it, that you’ve made it,” Allen said. “To me, making it is the internal success, and internal success comes from what makes you completely happy. If you’re making $100 a month or $1 million a month, it doesn’t matter, as long as you’re happy.”
He never wanted to settle for being comfortable while chasing his dream. He wanted to reach his goals on his own terms.
“One consistent thing over my journey – and if you talk to anyone who is successful – it’s following your own path,” he said. “Do what makes you happy no matter what the circumstances.”
He focused on his goal and never gave up.
“Life has obstacles all the time,” Allen said. “But it’s not about the obstacles, it’s how you’re going to get through it, around it or over it.”
Allen auditioned for “America’s Got Talent” and appeared briefly on Season 10 of “American Idol,” but didn’t get his big breakthrough on either show. Finally, in 2016 – nearly 10 years after he arrived in Nashville – he was invited to a Writer’s Round. Allen explained there were three songwriters on the stage, and each one performed songs they had written either for themselves or someone else. Participating was an easy decision to make after hearing the perks.
“I found out they were going to pay me $200,” he said, “and I got a free meal.”
When the session concluded, Ash Bowers — co-founder of Wide Open Music — approached Allen.
“He said, ‘Who are you signed to?’” Allen recalled. “I said, ‘Nobody.’”
Bowers explained he was the owner of a small publishing company, but offered to introduce Allen to anyone in town he wanted to meet.
“I said, ‘Tell me more about you,’” Allen said. “What I liked about Ash is, he had a small company, but he believed in me, and that’s the biggest thing.”
After hearing about Ash’s publishing company, Allen signed with Bowers. And the rest is history.
“It took me 10 years to get a record deal, but I compare that to trying to be a doctor or nurse,” he said. “That takes forever, too.”
With all his success, Allen hasn’t forgotten where he came from.
“Delaware made me,” Allen said. “If I hadn’t grown up here how I grew up, I don’t think I’d be where I am.”
This article was originally posted on the Live Love Delaware site at: https://www.livelovedelaware.com/country-music-star-jimmie-allen-says-his-success-is-delaware-made/