The Life and Times of Al Wellington
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Alphonzia Wellington suddenly and unexpectedly transitioned from this life to join the ancestors on Tuesday, January 24, 2012. He was 63 years old.
Al, as he was known by all, was born on July 7, 1948, in McDonald, Ohio, one of six children born of Alphonzia Wellington, Sr. and Sabra Arnold Wellington. After becoming a star athlete and outstanding student in high school, Al was admitted to Oberlin College. He married Mary Bright and they had two children, Tawn and Shonte (deceased at infancy). He continued to be an outstanding student athlete. As the starting point guard during his senior year, he helped lead the Oberlin basketball team to the 1970 Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament Championship. After graduation, Oberlin College hired him as Assistant Director of Admissions responsible for implementing a recruitment initiative to increase the number of black student enrollees. Al designed and implemented a revolutionary program through the Congressional Black Caucus that resulted in the enrollment of 100 well-qualified black students in Oberlin College during the period 1971 through 1974. In 1971, Al was elected as the youngest member of the Oberlin City Council. He also served as Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach at Oberlin in 1973.
On October 1, 2010, Al was inducted into the Oberlin College Athletics Hall of Fame for his four-year career of outstanding leadership and athletic performance. Al was grateful for the opportunities that Oberlin College provided him and recently co-authored a book about the historic 1970 championship season entitled “Oberlin Fever, A Championship Spirit in Black and White” with his team co-captain, Randy Miller.
Al then matriculated at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania where he excelled academically. After receiving his MBA degree in Marketing and Finance from Wharton in 1975, Al was hired by Scott Paper Company as an Assistant Marketing Research Director where he worked on highly classified research and development projects and learned research skills that he continued to use for the rest of his life. In 1976, he was hired by Johnson & Johnson as a New Market and New Venture Planner. There Al learned how ideas for new products were developed into commercial business ventures. The experiences he gained at Johnson & Johnson enabled him to become a principal in a marketing research firm, Research Inc., were he learned firsthand how to run a company. Once Al truly understood that process, he felt compelled to go into business for himself and, with his wife, Karen, formed The Wellington Group. He married Karen Montague in 1979 and they had five children.
When Al started The Wellington Group, he knew he would face many challenges as a minority-owned marketing research and consulting company. He knew that the African American community constituted a market segment that was being taken for granted by major consumer product and advertising companies and that field research into this multibillion dollar market represented a major business opportunity.
The Wellington Group seized the challenge when it developed and self-financed its ground breaking ACCESS Brand Preference Study in 1980. Using proprietary and groundbreaking research methodologies and software, Al designed and directed landmark research to study brand preference differences, between a statistically significant national sample of black, white and Hispanic consumers. These compelling results convinced some manufacturers to take steps to study the African-American market opportunity further.
Under Al’s leadership, The Wellington Group conducted marketing research projects mainly for Fortune 500 clients such as Coors Brewing Company, Bristol Myers, Burger King, Chrysler Corporation, Coca Cola USA, Chemical Bank, Colgate-Palmolive, General Mills, Avon, Proctor & Gamble, AT&T, Ford Motor Company and many others. The Wellington Group became a nationally recognized marketing research and consulting company and a dynamic force in the African-American marketing community. Al became the national expert and highly sought after speaker and consultant in the segmented market arena and he was the principal proponent of the belief that African-Americans should utilize and control information about their own market to promote economic development within the African-American community.
Al was the principal promoter and visionary of Sports Plus, Inc. Founded in 1982, the Sports Plus company was comprised of African American attorneys, accountants, investment advisors and professional managers and a sports agent, Everett Glenn, who was also an Oberlin graduate whom Al had recruited as a student. Sports Plus eventually represented over 30 ball players, including future football Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Richard Dent, and broadcaster and former basketball player Clark Kellogg.
Al and Ken Bridges, whom he had met at the Wharton School where they both obtained their MBA degrees and with whom he worked at Scott Paper Company, together with other entrepreneurs came together to create a potentially revolutionary consumer products and distribution company. In October 1995, the historic Million Man March was held in Washington, D.C. Al self financed and conducted proprietary research at the march using Howard University students as interviewers. Based upon the research results, Al and Ken decided the time was right for the creation of the Black Channel of Distribution envisioned ten years earlier.
After working two years to refine the business model, they co-founded MATAH Network in 1997. From its inception, MATAH Network was designed as a vehicle dedicated to the economic, spiritual and social upliftment of people of African descent. The MATAH Network was a wholesale and retail distribution company. The products and services were distributed through a proprietary network of independent distributors organized as an alternative distribution channel featuring products manufactured by people of African descent. Al and Ken traveled throughout the country to promote the business and thousands of distributors and consumers joined. However, before, MATAH Network could achieve a critical mass of members and products, Ken Bridges was assassinated in October 2002 by the DC sniper. MATAH Network was never able to recover from this loss.
In 2006, Al used his entrepreneurial knowledge to help two of his children, who each played four years of collegiate varsity sports, create a business known as Nexxt Level Sports. Nexxt Level Sports offers performance and skills training for athletes who are looking to attain their own personally defined next level.
One of the things separating Al from others was his professional training in research and business development. Using that training as a foundation, Al has approached every project and business startup with a deliberate, logical and strategic perspective. He consistently demonstrated a unique ability to “think outside of the box” and create visions that led directly to development of plans of action and implementation protocols.
Al was passionate about his children and was involved in all their athletic pursuits from T-ball, midget football, high school sports dancing and the arts. He was also a passionate advocate of their college athletic careers and would constantly brag about each of his children and their accomplishments.
Al’s legacy to each of us is his passionate pursuit of economic justice for African Americans through programs that exploit the economic power inherent in the African American community. Although Al is no longer with us, we can honor his legacy by embracing his passionate pursuit of economic justice for people of African descent.
Al is survived by his mother, Sabra Wellington, sisters Sandra Douglas, Sherri Martin and Shawna Hendree, brother-in-laws, Jerome Douglas, Aaron Martin, Vernon Hendree, Paul Miller; daughter-in-law, Katie Wellington; former spouses, Mary Wellington and Karen Wellington; children Tawn, Salim, Anwar, Omar, Adar and Cehara; and grandchildren, Samir and Kyah.