Annual entrepreneurship event attracts record crowds

Morgan Galloway

The fifth annual Entrepreneurship Extravaganza held Thursday, Nov. 4 and Friday, Nov. 5 turned out record registration with 888 people registering for the event. Julie Messing, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation, said the event went “phenomenally well.”

High school students from across the region, Kent State students, and people from the community attended the event.

“This gives us more knowledge about entrepreneurship and what really goes into it,” said Mackenzie Huston, a Kent Roosevelt High School junior.

Andre Thornton appeared as the keynote speaker in the Michael D. Solomon Speaker Series in Entrepreneurship on Thursday, entertaining a standing room only crowd of over 400 people in the Kiva. Thornton is a former Cleveland Indians player and chairman and C.E.O. of ASW Global, a third-party logistics company that provides clients like Wal-Mart and KeyBank with logistical, warehouse, distribution and outsourcing services.

“He gave a magnificent presentation,” Messing said. “He really talked about his story, getting into entrepreneurship and success traits, the lessons he’s learned and lessons for others.”

Thornton also served on the luncheon discussion panel Friday titled “Minority Business Success Stories” with Darrell McNair and Warren Anderson. McNair is president and C.E.O. of MVP Plastics, an automotive custom injection molder. Anderson is president and general manager of the Anderson-DuBose Company, a distributor of McDonald’s products to over 266 restaurants in northeast Ohio, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The panel made a crowded Student Center Ballroom laugh as they told stories of how they each got to the positions they are in today. All of the stories included failures along the road to success.

“I found myself in a situation where I got fired,” Anderson said, immediately proving success does not come easily. “It was sort of soul searching moment to be at a point in your life, like some if you in the audience, perhaps wondering what you want to do.”

That is when Anderson decided he was going to be an entrepreneur. His friends and family doubted his choice, but he persevered.

“Sometimes people around you are the most negative,” Anderson said. “A lot of my friends said, ‘Go get a job. What’s wrong with you? Go get a paycheck. Go work for somebody.’”

Anderson said if business is your calling, right now is the time to take advantage of the world you live in.

“I want to start my own clothing line,” said Zac Bayer, an entrepreneurship major. “So it’s promising to hear that even the most successful people have failed.”

McNair, a Kent State alumnus, decided on his career choice of business, but only after dabbling with the idea of becoming a doctor or a lawyer first.

“Business is life,” McNair said. “We are all caught up in business in everything that we do today. A doctor’s office is a business. You ask a politician, their office is a business. Business is a part of everything we do, like it or not.”

McNair attributes his success to his days at Kent State, where he said he learned how to become a leader and make decisions.

Thornton retired from the Cleveland Indians after 21 years in professional baseball. It was at that time he and his friends decided, on what seemed to be a whim, to start their first business. That business was becoming an Applebee’s franchisee.

“We didn’t know anything at all about the food industry,” Thornton said. “But that didn’t matter. We knew what we had to offer to the marketplace and we knew we could do something with this opportunity.”

Thornton and his friends turned the Applebee’s franchises they owned into the top stores in the franchise chain before leaving the food industry.

“It was just a business opportunity that made sense,” Thornton said.

The panelists stressed that part of entrepreneurship is risk-taking. The message is to turn that risk into an opportunity and then act on it.

Contact Morgan Galloway at [email protected].