Interview with Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), Founder and CEO – Steve Mariotti on his groundbreaking new book Goodbye Homeboy

Interviewed by Michael Beas

Why is Entrepreneurship important to Steve Mariotti?

Entrepreneurship and its corollary ownership is the most important skill any person learn. Having a mindset that is seeking opportunities and trained to be thinking about other people’s needs and wants develops the skill of empathy–the ability to care about the needs of another person by putting yourself in their position is perhaps the greatest skill a person can have. It helps in every type of relationship including keeping a marriage strong and relationships with others happy and healthy.

These same skills are the also the ones used for success in business particularly entrepreneurship which is 100% dependent on solving the needs of others. Ironically The more a person learns the entrepreneurial mindset the more empathetic they become and not only are they more likely to create a successful business financial wealth and psychic income ie, happiness and also in addition they are more likely  to have healthy and productive relationships with friends and loved ones.

Do you feel that anyone can become an Entrepreneur, and do you feel that producers and DJs are in some waysEntrepreneurs?

 

 

Anyone can become an entrepreneur if that is what they want to do. Every person can find a way to meet the needs of others by using their own unique knowledge of time and space. The Rave movement is led by the entrepreneurial mind frame mind. Both DJs and Producers are entrepreneurs with both identifying the needs of the raver community and meeting those needs; this requires them to be on top of the music, audience and trends and to be a fearless  leader performing in front of tens of thousands of people. The producer is not only an entrepreneur who must anticipate the needs and desires of his audiences but the producer through creation of his/her own music also become an owner,an often overlooked skill that is extremely important in business. Ultimately the person that owns has the power of the material created and can  usually make more money than that of the entrepreneur as he is selling more then his time but also can sell his music as well or keep it and use the same set again.

 

Talk to us about you latest book Goodbye Homeboy and how you feel that your memoir could resonate to young adults in the world today?

My latest book Goodbye Homeboy has been a huge success, being number one, on Amazon twice in five categories  since being released on August six. Goodbye Homeboy is  my memoirs of two years of my teaching low income dropouts in the Fort Apache section of the South Bronx in the late 1980’s . I am hoping everyone interested in Education will read it as the issues it raises about our educational system with low income and or disinterested youth   have gotten worse.

 

This experimental program tested the idea that an innovative curriculum built around the concept that low income youth have special abilities: Street Smarts which through guidance and encouragement can be turned into  business smarts making students with issues  productive members of the community.  The program was a huge success with every dropout in the program re-engaging with school and starting a business with sales averaging around $200 dollars a month which although not enough to make a livelihood was the beginning of their understanding of how to create a small business and make some money, something many people  are never able to do.

 

The most important finding was that the young person who was able to organize the resources intellectually, time, energy  and financially to make their own small business with regular sales  was also the one that was most likely to be able to find a job, My own hypothesis is that becoming a young entrepreneur develops empathy in the young owner for  an employer making their success as an employee more likely. In addition experience counts, as  basic knowledge of how a business operates is invaluable to gain and do well in  an entry level position.

 

Tragically the issue of education, the most important factor in the long-term health of any civilization, is seldom discussed in America on a national level; and even more ominous, any conversation around the issues of how to educate low income young people who are not doing well in school and maybe have lost their direction in life is almost never even mentioned  by political or even educational leaders.

 

The indifference to America’s most crucial mission the education of the next generation is, if not fix soon, a harbinger of many problems to come; Unemployed unskilled teenagers often become unemployable and unskilled adults weakening any country and potentially creating a permanent community of low income people that have no means to make a livelihood.

 

This is a tragedy that I think is our number one national security issue as their are hundreds of millions of young people around the world who after dropping out of school stay unemployed for years, becoming easy prey for ideas of leaders whose answer to unemployment is hire the young people into the military industrial complex rather then having them build up the private sector by starting a business or by working for a business. Making the situation more complex and riskier is that many of the dropouts can not qualify for a career in the military so they find alternatives, often in industries like drugs selling, or theft that lead to prison.

 

This never discussed fact- that throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and American there is a group of young people that unwillingly become part  of the high school to prison pipeline, a multi-billion dollar industry that does enormous harm to not only America and also to the other countries of  the world.

 

Young people that are not interested in school –often because they are poor and schools seldom address the issues that are designed to counter poverty such as entrepreneurial education , financial literacy and ownership. Ironically the school system often mis-evaluates the discouraged and disinterested student with being in need of special education often in my opinion, a code name for weak cognitive skills, encourages the poorly performing student to leave school forcing the student to try and  find another way to learn about money and if possible make money; This is the heart of the reason almost  900,000 American students drop out each year from the estimated 550 high school dropout factories that are dysfunctional high schools which year after year lose a majority of their students over four years and are at the heart of the dropout problem in this country.

 

Sadly many of these students, unable to find jobs, without the knowledge to create a business often end up going into the underground economy such as the drug industry, prostitution, car theft and other criminal behavior that has so decimated many of our urban cities. In the USA alone 2,225,000 men are in prison now at a cost of over 50,000 dollars a year for each adult prisoner. For high school aged prisoners the cost is around $110,000 a year . Over 70,000,000 americans have been arrested and have that on their record. Much of these tragedies could be avoided with a school system that identified students by their interests and found ways to teach them basic skills to get internships, jobs, and be prepared if necessary to start a small business. To encourage  our society to begin confronting  these painful and critical  issues in  education, especially for the poor, and those whose skills lie elsewhere then in traditional education is the reason I wrote Goodbye Homeboy.

 

 

You are the leading advocate for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship education worldwide. You also are the founder and former president of the global nonprofit Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), and the author of books, textbooks and articles exploring the transformative power of entrepreneurship for low-income communities. 

(NFTE) is truly has touched and changed so many lives in the world today. Who are the top three graduates from (NFTE) that created and started companies who in your opinion have made a difference in the world today as a result of the program you founded. 

NFTE has over a million graduates world wide and I am proud of each and every one. There are three in mind that capture the success NFTE has had: 1) Robert Rifkin went through NFTE in high school in Northern California making his way financially with  a DJ business that ended up paying part of his way through Columbia University. After spending a year as a white house fellow and then getting an MBA from Columbia Business School he spent years at Goldman Sachs learning finance. Thing all came together for Robert several years ago when he not only began a beautiful family and also founded Compass a real estate firm now valued at over 2 billion dollars.Number two, is Malik Armstead who was my own student in 1989 at a summer business camp NFTE held at Wharton business school. Malik went on to Morehouse College one of the premier colleges in America  and then was hired in the bond department at Morgan Stanley a Wall Street powerhouse. After several years Malik decided to go into the restaurant business founding FIVE SPOT RESTAURANT on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn.

 

The neighborhood was intense and I remember being concerned for Malik’s safety and soon I was proved wrong as not only did the business thrive but Malik started another business next door and bought two of the buildings on the block adding dozens of jobs to a discouraged neighborhood. His giving back to the neighborhood through scholarships and sponsorships of local artists and athletic teams made him a truly gifted social entrepreneur. James Mac McNeal is a graduate from my class in 1988 that I was teaching in Philadelphia, again through the legendary UCOP PROGRAM developed by Wharton Business School as a way to bring business back into West Philly at that time a difficult neighborhood. James (Jimmy Mac) moved to New York City and started numerous companies, that became leaders in the fields of BMX RACING and in developing and marketing successful  hip hop groups. Jimmy Mac was on the cover of magazine Black Enterprise for his company Bulldog Productions which manufactured bicycles for use in BMX racing. James was always giving back to those less fortunate than himself and is arguably the most socially conscious entrepreneur in each of the industries he has pioneered in.

 

Jimmy recently asked both myself and a leading designer of Shoes, primarily, action Sport shoes to help start a Union Square Shoes with him. Although the company is principally owned by Jimmy  and Michael Hobbs the designer I am very proud that it was the second investment my own  Mariotti Venture Capital firm had made and I think it will be a big success. Union Square shoes will soon bring to the market some of the most interesting sneakers ever design and at economical prices as well. I think it will be a huge success and bring many jobs to Camden NJ where Jimmy now makes his home, hoping to help turn Camden back into the economic powerhouse it once was.

 

Bonus Question: 

What’s your favorite track or song, new or old that you enjoy turning up the volume for when your celebrating a victory in life. Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run is always part of any celebration of an educational insight or the addition of a new and talented teacher to our community.