By age 19, Moses Shepherd was working at Sunoco gas station in Detroit and eventually became a manager. While at Sunoco, he ran eight stores and made all of them profitable. Although his work was draining, for Shepherd, it was an opportunity to learn as much as possible.
“I worked 12 hours a day, six days a week for a salary of $375. But it really wasn’t the money at all, it was about what they taught me, so eventually, I could write my own paycheck,” he told Chains Detriot Business.
After nearly four years at Sunoco, Moses left to start a music distribution company where he supplied music to gas stations across Detroit and later, countrywide.
His business became profitable and he decided to expand it. “I had three record stores — one in Pontiac, one in Detroit, and one in Inkster. So, as the market turned, I decided to shutter the stores, and I had an idea to start selling music and electronics to prison inmates,” he said.
He started selling music to one prison in 1996 and by the year 2000, he was supplying 3,500 prisons across the country. “This was the product that I had manufactured in China and shipped over here. And they were transparent, so the inmate couldn’t hide any contraband,” he said.
Everything was going on well for Moses until he became vindictive. Wanting to put an ‘enemy’ out of business, he withheld investment in his profitable prison business and got back into the rack distribution business. “So it goes to show where my mindset was, right,” he said. “And when I did that, I went out of business. It was a flop. So, I lost that business, and I lost the prison distribution business.”
Shepherd lost almost everything he had labored for and he barely could afford anything. He started reading real estate books but couldn’t buy the books, so he had to sit in the bookstore and read them.
His credit was however marginal enough to be able to buy a house and fix it up. “…My books told me that I can buy this house for $50,000. My book said (list) the house for $65,000, and I can pull $15,000 back at the closing.”
With time, he started buying more houses and ended up with a couple of hundred houses over in between the University District, Bagley, and Grandmont-Rosedale Park. He had so many houses that he actually controlled what the rents were, he said. By 2008, he had started buying the entire neighborhood.
After making it big in the real estate sector, Shepherd decided to invest in the fuel business. He launched Ace Petroleum in 2017, starting one of the nation’s largest minority-owned fuel suppliers. In 2020, ACE Petroleum obtained a $27 million contract with Detroit to supply fuel services for the city’s police cars, emergency medical vehicles, fire trucks, buses, and other transportation units. It is a contract for five years.