Vertgates Serial: Kato Umony Chapter 1

Freevale, Vertgates

This was an undertaking that I dreamt of for most of my life and I began to realize it over in Freevale. The past few weeks had been nothing but paperwork and licenses since I had to make sure that I was running something legitimate. I had the acumen and experience, but this would be the first time where I could actually be my own boss instead of having to be a subordinate to others. Then again, I knew some people out there believed that people like me shouldn’t be in a position of authority to run a business no matter how new it was. I then received all my licenses and certification to make this dream come true. I shook hands with my lawyer and the personnel who helped make this possible.

There was an abandoned building near downtown Freevale where this dream would be planted. Things were still in good condition, so we renovated it to look professional and ready for customers. I was there with the people renovating this building, so no one could say that I didn’t get my hands dirty. This would be my baby, so I had to make sure I saw everything to completion. After lots of hard work, it was ready to be opened to the public. With this building complete, I was able to christen it the Freevale Metro Credit Union. Sure it wasn’t the fanciest or most creative of names, but I wanted it to be a part of this community.

Freevale was a peculiar city where some magic users and those not into that art co-existed. The skyline was loaded with bright lights and tall buildings. There were numerous businesses of different kinds available, but I was able to find a niche in the financial industry with this credit union. I certainly wasn’t able to buy out other companies the way how people buy groceries nor would I be heartless enough to crash the local economy. I wanted a place where people regardless of their net worth can find a safe place to put their money while also helping out the community. Something like that may sound like fairy dust, but I wanted to be a businessman who was more than just about making money. I knew that no one could do everything by themselves. It takes a village to help people succeed as I knew that meritocracy was just a myth knowing that some have a better hand than others, so let’s keep that real. This didn’t mean that I had to give up on my hard work, far from it. I just had to work harder and smarter than a vast majority of my peers just so I could be at their level.

It was the grand opening of my credit union. I was decked out in a navy suit with a pewter tie. There was a line of people ready to open accounts and several of them were from just blocks away from my little establishment. When I talked about having others help me, there was one person who was by my side and certainly contributed.

“Isn’t it great that your dream is coming true?” It was my best friend and wife Mirembe. She was a woman from my community in Freevale that I’ve known for years. Mirembe wore an emerald green sleeveless dress. She had jet black natural curls that were lovely. My wife even wore a cowry shell necklace that also had a lapis lazuli right in the center of that piece of jewelry,

“Quite so, Mirembe,” I responded to her. “Thanks for coming here and helping out.” I then pointed at one of the desks that would be eventually reserved for more employees from outside. The windows and glass doors revealed those things inside. How fitting. I wanted my business to be like those windows and doors. The desk inside was loaded with artisan crafts from in and outside Vertgates. “Of course, I’m not the only one with wares around here.” Both of us laughed a bit. I looked at my watch and I got out the giant scissors to cut the string in front of my business. “Freevale Metro Credit Union is now open!” I exclaimed with my baritone voice as my first batch of customers cheered before entering the bank. The environment was very clean and it could put hospitals to shame. We had our teller concierges in the middle of the credit union instead of in the back. There were digital machines besides a couple of ATMs where customers can pre-fill deposit or withdrawal slips. The color scheme I used incorporated navies and greens as complementary colors to calm the customers. Yes, one can argue about the green representing money in general which I couldn’t argue against it since this is a financial institution. Mirembe, some employees, and I got started opening accounts by the chock-full as we consulted people and gave them good deals. For the ones who opened new accounts that were top-tier or business-related, they got some free crafts from Mirembe. The reason why she had them there was because of her co-op of fair trade artisan products such as jewelry, clothes, and instruments. I wanted to help her out with the place she worked since they were good people with a great cause. As I helped one of the first customers out there, she had some questions for me.

“I know you’re new and I’m glad you were able to start a business like this one, but I don’t trust a lot of banks.” She started. “How will I know my money will be safe at Freevale Metro?” This customer in particular was a woman who had to have been middle-aged. She wore thick-rimmed glasses and had graying hair that I could tell was originally auburn at one point in her life.

I smiled and knew what to say to her. “That’s a good question to ask. The thing is that we’re just a credit union and not a major bank. I certainly don’t have any stake in the economy nor am I funding any political infrastructures. Your money will be safe because you’ll be alerted whenever there are issues with your account. Also, no one here has access to your money or will cheat you in your interest.”

“That’s good to know. I’ll go forward in opening the account.” She told me. “I’m glad there are people like you who actually care about the customer without being bound up in the wealthy parts of Vertgates.”

“Thank you. I wouldn’t be this courteous if I constantly rubbed elbows with the royals around Vertgates.” I laughed a bit and the customer saw the humor in what I said. She handed over four hundred V-Dollars to start with a basic savings account. “That’s a good start. We even have competitive interest rates especially if you keep all that money there without withdrawing it.”

“Very good. It’s good seeing some honest bankers in Freevale.” She complimented me while we were at the finishing parts of opening her account. “Thank you, Kato.”

“The pleasure’s mine. We’ll do everything we can to make sure your money and assets are safe.” I assured her. After that, we opened up several more accounts and it was certainly more than I would’ve ever expected even though I had a small bank that was the furthest thing from a chain branch. Mirembe was able to clean house with the artisan sales and giveaways with the latter being for those that opened premium accounts. At the end of the day, we opened two hundred checking accounts, one hundred and eighty savings accounts, thirty CDs, and forty business accounts. This was something I didn’t expect.

At home, Mirembe and I toasted with some champagne for the successes we made at Freevale Metro Credit Union. “May FMCU prosper,” I said as Mirembe and I clinked our glass flutes containing these fancy beverages before we sipped them. “That was certainly quite the day for both of us.”

“Quite so. You did amazing in opening up this bank.” My wife complimented me. “This was all you and you should feel very proud of yourself.”

“Mirembe, I believe you are a bit confused about something.” I corrected her. She looked like a deer in headlights for a few seconds before I explained myself to her. “This wasn’t just all me. There were the construction workers who fixed this little abandoned building, the maintenance guys, my tellers, and you. I could never do this by myself since I do everything in my power to give credit where credit is due.”

My wife then smiled once she saw where I came from. “You make a good point, darling. Just don’t forget that this was your baby and you’ve worked so hard to make this come true and you’re not even thirty yet.”

“Now you’re starting to make me feel old since that will be me in a year.” I replied. She was only a year younger than me, so Mirembe couldn’t say I’d be that old. I certainly couldn’t think of anyone else close to my age group making a credit union. For years, I wanted to have my own business. When I attended the University of Freevale, I studied for a business management degree. While the business program was large, it certainly didn’t beat the enchantment department where people got degrees in studying the science of runic arts. While a huge amount of students were becoming wizards and enchanters, I was busy trying to wonder how the business world worked. Someone like me wasn’t supposed to have a degree like that in this field. Some idiots assumed that I should be doing something else when they saw what I looked like.

“Hey, Kato. Shouldn’t you get a sports management degree?”

“Why aren’t you on the basketball or football team?”

“It’s amazing that someone like you made it to college. At least you aren’t selling drugs or anything.”

All I could say is “It’s not my thing and not all of us are like that.” in a meek voice. Even though I was 6’ 3” and had some decent muscle tone, I felt like I was five feet tall around some of those jerks. When I would call them out on it, they’d always say that “they didn’t mean it” or I “should lighten up”. That was one of my main flaws and I wanted nothing to do with those that bullied me. Although there was a part of me that was smiling on the inside and wanted to see the looks on their faces that I had my own business. Oh, who was I kidding? They would make other types of excuses about my success. At least I had something to show for my hard work even though it would take me years to make this a reality. This was an ideal life for me. I’m married, have my own house, and I’m doing well financially. Granted, I wasn’t a millionaire, but I don’t have to worry about debts or other things at that point in my life. Maybe it was some kind of indirect revenge against those who undermined me back in my college years.

That dream still returned to me despite the credit union being opened. I would see my own branches across different parts of Vertgates. With the extra financial capital, it would allow me to do more projects that would take more money. I would see Mirembe and I in this dream world going to the more impoverished parts of Vertgates where we would fix some houses, build community gardens, or even play sports with the local families. We’d teach some classes on self-sustainability where the underclass could be sufficient and boost their own local communities to combat poverty. That would make me so glad if that became a reality, but it was still way too soon.

I could remember both of my parents telling me when I was a child that leaders aren’t just in it for themselves. They need to help others and give. It was a way that I couldn’t forget who I was. I also knew what I was capable of even when I didn’t want to admit it myself. I was a bird pecking at a rock, but at least I knew how hard my beak was in order to do this task.

For the next couple of weeks, I was getting consistent traffic with people opening new accounts or managing the ones they already had over there. There were times when I would consult some families on their finances for a small price that I knew they could all afford. I could feel the success pouring in for such a new business, and I couldn’t complain. This was the start of something beautiful for the community and I felt that I was closer to the expanded chapters of my dreams.

I got back home and I saw Mirembe there. She was putting away some of the clothes that were going to be at her workplace. “Good evening, Kato. How was work?”

“It’s been great. I just opened some more savings accounts and CDs. How about you?” I asked her.

“I just got a new shipment of Saris that we’re going to sell starting tomorrow.” She said. “I think they’ll do well in sales over where I work.”

“That’s very nice. I think the both of us will be doing well in our respective businesses.” I went up to kiss her. “This has been such a blessed couple of weeks for us and I know we’ll prosper in Freevale.”

“Indeed, darling,” Mirembe replied. “That credit union was a brilliant idea. I know it will last here in the community.”

“Aww, you’re too kind.”

Mirembe had every right to act like a fangirl, but she’s been so supportive in the things that I did as I did with supporting her. At my desk at work, I even had a small pan flute on display. Even though I wasn’t a master at that instrument, I thought it was nice and I may play a few notes of that thing if anyone ever asks me about it the next time I have a big personal finance meeting. 

Wouldn’t that be a funny way to interact with customers? What other fun things could I do to retain the customers’ loyalty? The possibilities were becoming endless.

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