By Tylan Nash
Data News Weekly Contributor
With over 2.6 million Black-owned businesses in the U.S., many entrepreneurs launch into their work never even knowing the first thing about running a business. They learn through the mistakes they make, and through the successes they create, and this is what Randal Pinkett figured out early on when he decided to launch his own business.
“But that’s okay,” Pinkett said, “neither did I when I first started. I just knew I wanted to accomplish something great.”
“I’ve always been doing things entrepreneurial, I just didn’t know it was entrepreneurship,” Pinkett told Xavier University of Louisiana college students on Nov. 13th about his journey to success.
Pinkett grew up in a single-parent household in Philadelphia, Pa., after his father passed away at a young age. Pinkett would grow up with an entrepreneurial mindset from selling things like lemonade and cookies, and even his toys. However, he did not have someone to look up to while accomplishing these things. It was not until he saw a fellow classmate at Rutgers University selling t-shirts that he felt inspired to pursue entrepreneurship.
Pinkett earned five academic degrees in areas like engineering to business, and he holds a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He became the first Black man to become a Rhodes Scholar in 1994, an international scholarship given to postgraduate students who would like to study at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England. He even became the first Black man to win The Apprentice, a reality show that was hosted by President Donald Trump that measured a person’s business skills through certain tasks. He went on to work in Trump’s business operations in Atlantic City, N.J., and later became the Chairman and CEO of his own company, BCT Partners, a multi-million-dollar consulting, research and technology operation headquartered in Newark, N.J. He told students that it wasn’t easy balancing his personal life and starting his own business.
“I had to prioritize, and work, and pray. It wasn’t easy, but I got it done. I started it while I was in school, just like all of you,” Pinkett said.
With a story like this one, Mark Quinn, Professor of Business at Xavier hoped Pinkett would serve as a role model for the business students he trains in entrepreneurship.
“He brings a perspective from the real world, and it’s important for college students to hear his story, because these are possible role models for them,” Quinn said.
One student, Marloes Booker, is already following in Pinkett’s footsteps. As a senior at Xavier, Booker is the founder of RedBeans Nola, which sells bracelets and T-shirts, giving a large amount of the profit to charities that feed the homeless. He discussed how he felt motivated by Pinkett’s story and how it really gave him inspiration to work even harder in his business.
“Sometimes, I’m feeling down because of just the stress of school and my small business, and he just really motivated me to keep going and to stay focused,” Booker said.
Pinkett told the young students that he believed that people of color naturally embody unique, strong tendencies and talents, like the ability to endure no matter what the issues are, which are important to establishing entrepreneurial mindsets.
“As African-Americans, we are naturally creative,” Pinkett said. “We are naturally resilient, passionate, and courageous. We’ve gone from chain links to cufflinks. From the slave house to the White House.”
Pinkett aimed to inspire the next wave of business leaders. He took his audience on a journey through African-American entrepreneurial history by showing them different entrepreneurial personalities of color: like Oprah Winfrey, who went from owning her own talk show to owning her own TV network to Michael Jordan, who sold over 10 million of his self-named brands of shoes. By doing this, Pinkett hoped to provide young Black future entrepreneurs that they have role models they can look up to.
“I think it is very important to see this representation in entrepreneurship, because there’s not a lot of Black people that we see in powerful positions, and seeing them, will really pushed a student like me to want to accomplish great things,” said Ayanna Brown, a business major at Xavier, who attended Pinkett’s talk.
Visiting a Black university was part of Pinkett’s goal to inspire the next generation of innovators. “I didn’t have anyone who could be an example for me,” Pinkett said. “So, it’s important for me to get out to HBCUs, because I want to inspire young Black men and women.”