Michael Shelby wears several hats and has many unique interests. The combining factor is serving others—whether it’s providing computer forensic services or addiction counseling. Michael is President and CEO of Shall Be LLC, which he founded in 2006, and Founder and Director of Technology Addiction Center LLC and Plan Be Counseling LLC, which he launched in 2019.
MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Michael about his entrepreneurial journey and what he’s learned along the way.
NAN PRICE: Give us a little background. Have you always known you were going to own your own business?
MICHAEL SHELBY: Moving to the United States from Russia as a teenager, I accelerated through college (which I began when I was 16!), where I studied computer science. After graduation, I worked for Merrill Lynch on Wall Street for several years before returning to school for my Master of Business Administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. From there, I went into banking and worked at Bank of New England. After the Berlin Wall fell, I returned to Russia and worked as an investment banker for Morgan Grenfell (one of the oldest British Banks). I returned to New England in 1996 and spent six years working as a venture capitalist at Connecticut Innovations.
NAN: When was the entrepreneurial spark lit?
MICHAEL: Honestly, I began a lot of self-work in 2000 and recognized that I’m really not good corporate material! I’m a great salesperson and I’m business-minded, but I realized I needed to do my own thing.
When I formed Shall Be LLC in 2006, my gross income the first year was below $16,000. I checked my sanity at the door, remained patient, and it grew gradually.
NAN: Tell us about that growth. How has that business evolved over the years?
MICHAEL: I love technology and I love learning. Over the years, I’ve reeducated, reclassified, and requalified myself with training and with testing. I became licensed as a certified ethical hacker as the technology was coming up in early mid-2000s, and that really turned my business in a different direction. It also reignited my passion. I absolutely loved the work. It’s creative and it’s very profitable.
As Shall Be LLC grew, the business became above and beyond anything one person can handle and I started hiring people. We’re up to nine people now; no one is working 40 hours a week, including me. There isn’t 40 hours’ worth of security business on a week-to-week basis. So, my employees put in 10 to 30 hours each week working on a variety of different projects with our steady contractual clients. For some people it’s a second income, for me it’s a primary income.
NAN: How are you marketing and building clientele?
MICHAEL: I grew my business organically by word of mouth. I never advertised. I still don’t really advertise Shall Be LLC. I don’t need to. We’ve developed a core group of clients and the business is consistent and stable month in and month out. So, the income is predictable. We do keep growing new clients, but we take them on very selectively—and that’s a good position to be in.
NAN: What inspired you to launch additional businesses?
MICHAEL: As I continued to develop professionally and personally, I wanted to do more with some of my new interests. I was very interested in finding new ways of connecting with people and helping them solve some of their life challenges. Through some work I was doing with Dr. David Greenfield at the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, I came to understand and appreciate—and really develop an interest in—the field of technology addiction and addiction in general.
I went back to school to earn my master’s in psychology and I got certified as licensed professional counselor in the state of Connecticut. Then, in 2019, I opened two separate businesses dealing with various aspects of counseling, mental health, and technology addiction.
The Technology Addiction Center focuses on technology addiction in all its forms, whether it’s gaming, gambling, adult materials, shopping, social media, or online relationships. Many folks have no problems with technology at all, but they struggle with things like anxiety, depression, marital issues, so I launched Plan Be Counseling to meet their needs, too.
NAN: Let’s talk about Connecticut and community. Outside of work you have so many interests.
MICHAEL: I do! I’ve been involved with CrossFit for many years, which is where I met Montana Nights Axe Throwing Founder Merle McKensie. I love his business concept and I’ve become one of his “axeperts.”
I’m also involved in Connecticut’s improv community. Shall Be LLC has sponsored the Hartford Improv Festival presented by Sea Tea Improv for many years, because I believe in the improv community. The way everything in my life interacts, I utilize an amazing amount of improv training in my counseling work. And I utilize my psychology and counseling skills in my technology business when I have to smooth things over with a client. But when I’m talking to a new client, the skills are interchangeable.
My wife and I have been very involved in all aspects of our community since we bought our home in West Hartford in 1996. It’s a good, vibrant, growing, multi-dimensional, multicultural community with a lot of options and opportunities available. So, we’ve grown roots here.
We like to nurture the community. We put our energy and our resources where our mouths are. Over time, we’ve become involved in all aspects of our community—the philanthropic and nonprofit community, the improv community, the recovery community, the cultural events community, the spiritual community—all of which is available down the street. We like it. This whole elusive life balance of work, family, fun, spiritual life, growth, and education is achievable for us here in Connecticut. I absolutely love the way my life intersects and interlocks with so many different communities where I live.
Learn more about Plan Be Counseling LLC