By Rashad Phillips
Dr. Randal Pinkett, Chairman and CEO of BCT Partners, was the first African-American inner of NBC’s The Apprentice (4th season). After achieving business success on television, Pinkett secured billion-dollar contracts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Pinkett is passionate about using his celebrity entrepreneurial status and business success to inspire young people to go after their dreams. Pinkett is the author of “Campus CEO: The Student Entrepreneur’s Guide to Launching A Multi-Million Dollar Business”, “No-Money Down CEO: How to Start Your Dream Business with Little or No Cash”, and “Black Faces in White Places: 10 Strategies for African-Americans to Redefine the Game and Reshape America”. Dr. Pinkett writes to share his journey to assist the next generation of ‘Campus CEOs’ and ‘No-Money Down CEOs’ achieve business success.
Phillips: In your book entitled “Campus CEO: The Student Entrepreneur’s Guide To Launching A Multimillion-Dollar Business”, you mentioned the phrase “New School Thinking.” What is the new way of thinking about the college experience?
Pinkett: The ‘Campus CEO’ embraces the entrepreneurial mindset because he or she understands that a post-graduate 30-year job is no longer a viable option. The employment contract that Corporate America had with your parents has been terminated. Now, you have to be in the driver’s seat and must take control of your future. Students have to explore opportunities and use the college experience to learn how to become your own boss. Even the students who aren’t inclined to become entrepreneurs must understand that many major corporations are seeking employees who have an entrepreneurial mindset.
Phillips: What is the difference between the way a ‘Campus CEO’ and the traditional student views the college experience?
Pinkett: The traditional college student views the college experience as an opportunity to get an education and earn a degree. He goes to class, studies, and then hopes to secure a job interview after graduation. He is very focused on completing his course work and making time to party with friends. He doesn’t get involved with student organizations because it might cut into his social life.
The ‘Campus CEOs’ view their college as a business incubator. The university is his test marketplace to generate new ideas, develop new skills, and to gain insights that he can use in the “real world”. He views his professors as his business advisors and his classmates as team members. He selects classes that will help him develop new ideas and build relationships with his classmates. ‘Campus CEOs’ seek opportunity, see opportunity, and seize opportunity.
Phillips: How can parents encourage their children to become ‘Campus CEOs’?
Pinkett: The number one predictor of if you will own a business has nothing to do with your income, social status, or ethnicity. It’s based on if your parents were business owners. The best thing a parent can do to encourage their children to become entrepreneurs is to start a business and involve their children. Parents who don’t have an entrepreneurial background can sometimes teach their children to fear risk and to seek a safe career choice. When parents are business owners, their children get hands-on experience learning how to think like an entrepreneur. If parents aren’t entrepreneurs, but want to expose their children to entrepreneurship, I recommend the following:
- Get your children involved with entrepreneurship programs such as FBLA, NFTE, or SIFE
- Encourage your child to experiment with running a small business (lemonade stand, candy sales, or Ebay Selling).
- Encourage your children to contact prominent local business owners to seek advice and gain insight.
Phillips: How does a ‘Campus CEO’ find money to start a business?
Pinkett: Most businesses launch using money from its founders. Fifty percent of high-growth companies started with $20,000 or less. Thirty-three percent of businesses started with $10,000 or less. Ten percent of businesses started with $1,000 or less. The rubber doesn’t meet the road with raising money because the entrepreneurial mindset is one that figures out how to make something out of nothing or very little. The internet has provided small businesses with new ways to raise start-up capital without going to a traditional bank. Websites like Prosper, EndingClub, and Zopa allow business owners to ask their friends and family members for small loans. On a larger scale, websites like Kickstarter, Wefunder, Startupaddict, and Circleup allow business owners to sell their idea to a wider market and generate more start-up capital.
Phillips: Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring Campus CEOs?
Pinkett: In my early years, I took networking for granted but developing meaningful professional relationships is of paramount importance. Relationships are what drive business and people do business with you is because they know and like you. The only way to for people to know and like you is through networking. It’s not about who you know, it’s about who knows you.
One of major advantages of young entrepreneurs is they think about what can be done as opposed to what can’t be done. Also, young people are willing to experiment with new ideas that many grown folks think are too risk. With that said, I advise young entrepreneurs to temper the advice from grown folks because sometimes they don’t know either. When someone tells you that it can’t be done, what they really mean is that they don’t know how to do it. The Campus CEO creates solutions to problems that were previously thought to be impossible.