For success tips from Black millionaire Rene Carayol, click here.
Randall Pinkett - the Next Apprentice
BY DELROY CONSTANTINE-SIMMS
Seasoned entrepreneur and new reality-TV star trumps the competition for the Donald's Trump's latest gig
A lifelong entrepreneur, Black millionaire Randall Pinkett, at just 34, has gone from running nickel lemonade stands to a multimillion-dollar consulting firm, BCT Partners, a multi-million dollar management, technology and policy consulting firm based in Newark, N.J., that works with corporations, government agencies, philanthropic and nonprofit organizations. Born in Philadelphia and raised in Hightstown, N.J., he holds five academic degrees in engineering, business and technology including a B.S. from Rutgers University, an M.S. from the University of Oxford in England as a Rhodes Scholar, and an M.S., M.B.A. and Ph.D. from MIT. A former college championship track and field athlete, he has received numerous awards for his accomplishments as an entrepreneur and technologist including the National Society of Black Engineers "National Member of the Year." A Leadership New Jersey Fellow and Next Generation Leadership Fellow, Randal has been featured by Black Enterprise magazine and Ebony magazine in their "30 Leaders of the Future" issue.
Pinkett discussed his decision to apply for NBC's The Apprentice, and shared some success stories and advice.
DCS: Why did you decide to become a contestant on The Apprentice?
Pinkett: I decided to become a contestant on The Apprentice for three reasons. First, I wanted the opportunity to learn from Mr. Trump. He is an icon in business with a wealth of knowledge, whereas I am still relatively young in my entrepreneurial career. My company, BCT Partners, is a multimillion-dollar management, technology and policy-consulting firm. I want to learn from Mr. Trump what it means to run a multibillion-dollar company. Second, I believed that the opportunity to showcase my talents and entrepreneurial experience on a nationally televised program focused on business would open new doors and broker relationships for me and my colleagues that could not be achieved otherwise.
Third, and finally, I welcomed the opportunity to be challenged, to learn and to have some fun.
Do you enjoy being in the spotlight, or rather, in front of the cameras?
To some extent, I enjoy being in front of the cameras. I'm certainly comfortable in front of the cameras. But I must say that it was a completely new experience to be in front of a camera 24 hours a day, seven days a week!
Having an esteemed educational background along with having started multiple business ventures is a rare mix -- especially by age 34. Tell us how your education shaped your entrepreneurial spirit -- or vice versa, as the case may be.
My education has significantly shaped my entrepreneurial accomplishments. I'll be the first to assert that having a solid academic foundation is certainly not a prerequisite for business success, but it has been extremely helpful to me. For example, my Ph.D. research project formed the basis for my current venture, BCT Partners. One of our first products, a modular, web-based portal architecture, was based on my doctoral dissertation work. Furthermore, my degrees in engineering and business administration represent areas that are central to my role as the CEO of a management, technology and policy-consulting firm.
You have five degrees -- and they're from some of the most prestigious institutions in the world! Are you still paying off college loans? Any advice for grads attempting to pay off student loans before they reach retirement age?
Fortunately, I was able to complete all five degrees with absolutely no debt. In fact, over the course of my academic studies I made money from scholarships! I received an academic and athletic (track and field) scholarship to complete my B.S. in electrical engineering at Rutgers. I received a Rhodes Scholarship to complete my M.S. in computer science at the University of Oxford in England. I received a National Science Foundation scholarship to complete my M.S. in electrical engineering and MBA at MIT in the Leaders for Manufacturing Program. And, lastly, I received a Lucent Technologies fellowship to complete my Ph.D. at the MIT Media Laboratory.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs who are deciding between going to college for the first time and starting a business?
Entrepreneurship is about timing. I believe in the value of a good education but, sometimes, a business idea is so attractive that the window of opportunity is extremely narrow. If you don't seize the opportunity quickly, somebody else will. For example, Amazon.com, or something like Amazon.com, was arguably inevitable. Once the dot-com era arrived, the only question was who could bring it to market first. My advice would be to evaluate the extent to which the business opportunity may disappear or get seized by someone else, and then weigh the pros and cons of pursuing a degree versus pursuing the venture.
What drives you? What are you passionate about?
I am driven by the five Fs: faith, family, friends, fellowship and fun. I am passionate about business, technology and giving back.
As a business owner, do you work long hours? Crazy hours and on the weekends? How do you balance your intense work life with family, community service and, if you have any, free time?
I work extremely long hours, including late nights and weekends. And even though I have been out of school for quite a few years now, I am still no stranger to all-nighters. I do make it a point, though, to enjoy life and spend quality time with my wife, Zahara, my family and my friends, including time just for myself.
For those considering starting their own business, what do you consider crucial personality traits to have?
Persistence, determination and an unwillingness to accept failure.
While you've experienced much success academically and professionally at such a young age, have you ever experienced a moment in your life where you wondered what you wanted to do with the rest of your life? Have you ever felt the crunch of a "quarterlife crisis" when facing decisions about your future? What advice would you have for college grads experiencing a quarterlife crisis?
I have been on a pathway to business ownership since I was a child. I just didn't realize it until later. I opened lemonade stands on the street corner as a kid. I sold candy in the halls of high school. I opened a compact-disc store in my dormitory in college. By the time I got to college, I finally started to see this pattern. So, the moments where I've wondered about my future have had mostly to do with what kind of business would I be running, as opposed to what should I be doing. My advice to college grads is to look deep within themselves and ask what they are passionate about. What are their strongest interests? What were they drawn to while growing up? Once they are able to answer these questions, my advice is to explore how their passions and their interests looking back can inform their direction looking forward.
Twenty years from now, are you going to be the next Donald?
Yes, hopefully, the next Donald, Oprah and Bill Gates!
Or, the first Randal.
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