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Go big or go home

Wednesday(3/13) evening many corporate leaders, early stage entrepreneurs and leaders in the making gathered at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of NFTE Chicago(Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship). Guests initially gathered in the lobby of the museum for some networking and light refreshments. The program then moved into the auditorium where Master of Ceremonies Johnnie Lovett, an NFTE Alum(eloquent public speaker too) welcomed guests and shared his story on how he has benefited from NFTE.

Johnnie reiterated the principles of entrepreneurship that’s been taught to him and the other 15,000 students that have gone through the program. Mr. Lovett, through NFTE, began his company called Fresh Connections Brand and shared the story of how it came to be that Chicago area native Dwyane Wade wore his brands tshirt during the NBA Basketball Miami Heat World Champion celebration in 2011.
Guests were given a taste of what NFTE does when each were assigned to partner up and tasked with a 30 second pitch to sell a shoe, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Several others spoke to the audience on their involvement with NFTE as a principal, NFTE Teacher and volunteer. The 2 founders of the Chicago chapter-Christine Poorman and Lauren McLaughlin Joyce also addressed guests and graciously thanked the sponsors and committee members who’s contributions and support help them continue the NFTE legacy.

The anticipated portion of the program was the entrepreneurial discussion involving Ken Griffin, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Citadel and Larry Levy, Founder and Chairman of Levy Restaurants, moderated by Ariel Investments President Mellody Hobson.
The discussion that followed was motivating, candid and honest. Ms. Hobson began the discussion with a lightning round to allow us to get to know them a little bit and quickly. The questions ranged from: Blackberry or iphone, which elicited a momentary pause, both said iphone and Mr. Griffin remarked “Blackberry owned the world then lost it.” to cash or credit.  As someone currently in the very early stage of entrepreneurship, who’s read about and admired all three and their businesses,  it was great to hear words of wisdom as well as advice Mr. Levy and Mr. Griffin dished.  Ms. Hobson did a great job and asked some great succinct questions.

“We don’t have failures as entrepreneurs, we have expensive learning experiences”

Mr. Levy’s most expensive learning experience was when he suspended all he knew about the restaurant industry when approached with the opportunity to collaborate with a movie director. Some of key quotes both successful entrepreneurs shared during the discussion were:

There’s almost no one on the Forbes 400 list who’s a pessimist -Ken Griffin

Successful businesses have a good idea and great execution.

NFTE Chicago partners with Chicago Public Schools and the organization’s over arching mission is to provide programs that inspire students to stay in school, recognize business opportunities and graduate with a plan for success.
Below are images of each students’ business and they had the opportunity to talk about it with some of the guests in attendance.

FYI: both Mr. Griffin and Mr. Levy prefer email to text, global to local.

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