(Media release from Georgia Highlands College):

While pursuing his bachelor’s degree in healthcare management at Georgia Highlands College (GHC), Rontavious “Tay” Coley is also operating The Early Way on Broad – a boutique sneaker shop specializing in specialty footwear, clothing and more.

He said his time at GHC has helped him build a foundation for taking on new challenges.

“GHC made me into the man I am today,” Coley said. “It was a breath of fresh air in the college world because it was a smaller university with teachers that actually care about the student body.”  

He credits registered student organizations GHAME and Brother 2 Brother (B2B) with being a major influence, and says he enjoys the opportunity to help and mentor others. For example, he recently served as a guest speaker during the 2022 GHC Foundation Camp for boys ages 10-14. 

“There are many things that I have done with GHC, but my best connection would be being able to work at Foundation Camp and give back to kids like me,” Coley, who was once a camper himself, said. “It felt great to mentor people who will be future business owners like myself, and to show them there’s another way in the world and we can do many things.” 

Operating in its new, expanded location since spring 2022, The Early Way on Broad, in Rome, is the culmination of Coley’s longtime love of shoes, which became a financial goal in his youth. He said GHAME and B2B has helped him to accomplish his academic and professional goals as an adult. 

In addition, his involvement in the organizations provided him with new opportunities. 

“I had a chance to do a business study abroad in Africa and it definitely helped change me,” he said, adding the trip was made possible through the help of his mentors Jon Hershey of GHC and the late Greg Shropshire of 100 Black Men of Rome-Northwest Georgia. “The Africa trip helped me realize how big the world actually is by going to another continent.” 

He said anyone who is considering starting their own business while also earning a degree should not back down from the challenge. 

“Don’t be afraid to try something that others won’t do, and don’t be afraid to fail,” Coley said. “You got to fail to succeed. I didn’t get it right my first time but every day I improve. If somebody believes in you, that’s more than enough motivation. The love outweighs the hate at all times.”