WRITTEN BY ALISON SKILTON
Tuesday April 5, the St. Francis College Center for Entrepreneurship presented a panel of five prominent businessmen titled “The Power of Entrepreneurship.”
“Dr. Anderson and Professor Gelormino reached put to the panelists to come speak for our biggest event of the year,” Landy Guevara, Vice President of Center for Entrepreneurship told SFC Today. “I thought the event was a success. It was informative for the community of St. Francis College,” he continued.
Several heavy hitters came out for the panel discussion in support of St. Francis’ young entrepreneurs.
First to speak was Brooklyn native and St. Francis alumnus Walt Pearson. He worked his way up from a life of poverty in the projects to Harvard Business School, and he is now a multi-millionaire managing an influential capital investment firm, Brown Capital Management. He is also a co-founder and the current president of the National Association of Securities Professionals.
During the panel, he emphasized the importance of “the entrepreneurial mind frame” and the power of thinking outside the box. He also spoke about the importance of saving your money in order to have your own capital to fund your potential start-up.
Next on the panel was Rodney Walker, who has a rags to riches story similar to Pearson’s. Walker grew up in Chicago’s foster care system after a tragic upbringing that left him homeless. He stayed at school from 6 AM to 7 PM for many years because he had nowhere to go. During high school, an influential teacher encouraged him to take an entrepreneurship class, which he credits for turning his life around. It was after taking this class, he said, that he realized he had to do something different with his life.
He worked his way up to the Ivy League, graduated from Yale, and now has the #25 book on the New York Times bestseller list in the autobiography category. He also speaks regularly for the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.
Harlem native Kiante Young spoke next, emphasizing the importance of recognizing opportunities and recognizing needs that people have that you—as a young entrepreneur—can fill. He described his career as a series of opportunities that he recognized, created, and took advantage of.
He first published a book of poetry, then produced a show called “Young & Doin’it,” on which he interviewed several successful entrepreneurs like Dame Dash, Jay-Z, and Fat Joe. His show allowed him to network and gave him the visibility he needed to get big sponsors to work with him. He traveled the country as “The Sneaker Mann” and Footlocker soon took notice; Young was invited to several morning shows to speak about his knowledge of sneakers that he displayed during his show.
He has parlayed his humble beginnings into his own marketing company that organizes media tours for multi-million dollar companies like ENYCE, Coca-Cola, Timberland Boots, Reebok, FILA, and Adidas.
He continues to write books and is slated to release his newest book “Ninjas in Brooklyn” in the coming months.
Michael Caslin, journalist and Founder and CEO of the Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship, spoke fourth at the panel and emphasized identifying opportunities and learning how to communicate. He started the home video division for Columbia Pictures and worked as a strategic consultant for Tom Hanks, reviewing Academy Award-winning scripts like “Dead Poet’s Society” and “Ghost.”
“Don’t allow yourself to be defeated,” Caslin joked, “Sometimes clichés are true.”
Last to speak was the moderator of the panel, Steve Mariotti. His experiences as a teacher inspired him to start the NFTE to teach entrepreneurship to low-income students in the tough New York City neighborhoods that he taught in. Over 600,000 students have since graduated from his youth program.
“I […] focus on teaching the children of the world how to be an entrepreneur so they can run their worlds, so they can decide if they want to be owners or workers. I focused on one word: entrepreneurship,” Caslin said.
He also taught basic business concepts to inmates at Rikers Island in a hugely successful program that focused on sales and negotiation theory.
Caslin ended with a seemingly counterintuitive piece of advice for all young entrepreneurs: “Find out what everybody else is doing, then don’t do it.”