2022 Young Leaders Program: Interviews on Entrepreneurship

September 16, 2022

In advance of the 2022 Young Leaders Seminar in Austin, Texas this October, we are highlighting Young Leaders and alumni who embody this year's seminar theme, “Entrepreneurship and the Innovation Economy.”

Kicking off our campaign is Rafael Alfonzo (YL ’13). Rafael highlights vision, passion, and resilience as top qualities for entrepreneurs. The French-American Foundation is proud to celebrate Rafael and his amazing work!

  1. What are the three most important habits and/or qualities of a successful entrepreneur?
    • Vision – You need to be able to clearly articulate a problem and the new way you intend to solve it … without vision, there is no innovation
    • Passion – You have to be fully committed to your vision to take on the inevitable challenges and to motivate others on your team to succeed
    • Resilience – there are plenty of setbacks in entrepreneurship, so you need to be able to pick yourself back up, adapt, and continue to move forward
  1. The Young Leaders program aims to unite leaders who commit to using their influence for the common good. As an entrepreneurial leader, what are some ways your work has inspired positive impact?
    • One of my ventures was a renewable energy company that built commercial solar power plants across the US. I know my team and I contributed in our own small way to addressing the biggest risk facing the world. Moreover, several young members of my team went on to pursue lifetime careers in business and policy addressing climate change
  1. Can you recall a memorable moment from your time as a Young Leader?
    • I could mention any number of interesting lectures and panel sessions with world class content, but what really sticks in my mind was an evening out dancing with the whole group of Young Leaders – super-impressive folks from all walks of life unselfconsciously partying with their new friends à la Sanna Marin … we’re all human

This week, we are featuring the Founder and CEO of GlassView, James G. Brooks, Jr. (YL ’17). James identifies prioritization as an important skill for successful entrepreneurs. Thank you, James, for sharing such thoughtful insights!

  1. What are the three most important habits and/or qualities of a successful entrepreneur?

    • Grit and determination are routinely listed as top qualities for entrepreneurs – and for good reason! From my experience, there are many would-be entrepreneurs, with really incredible ideas, who I have seen opportunity pass them by. Simply because they were dejected by their first few ‘no’s in the market place. The word ‘no’ fuels me & I’d say it has served me well.
    • The ability to prioritize what’s important from what can wait is crucial. When launching an enterprise, especially when dealing with limited resources, you have to work with what you have and make the most of it. Also, you need to prioritize the truly urgent (customer needs) with what can wait (building increasingly stronger financial foundations).
    • Focus on becoming superior version of yourself, not superior to your peers/ competitors. When driving true innovation and looking to stand out, it’s important to be guided not by what others are doing, but how you can deliver a better product than yesterday / be a better leader than you were last week.
  1. The Young Leaders program aims to unite leaders who commit to using their influence for the common good. As an entrepreneurial leader, what are some ways your work has inspired a positive impact?
    • Most of my executive team have been with me since the start, for almost a decade! In that time, we have invested in growth of other leaders, sending them to get their MBAs form highly sought after business schools. I also serve on several boards in Texas and New York and give freely my time to anyone seeking business advice. To add, everything I have today is because I am sober. I volunteer to help others facing addiction issues and help them to recover like I have.
  1. Can you recall a memorable moment from your time as a Young Leader?
    • Yes, meeting my dear friend Karin Tanabe (YL ’18) on our Young Leader trip to Paris and Toulouse. She is an incredible force, and an exceedingly intelligent and successful author to boot. Most of all, she is full of heart and is a beautiful person inside out. My friendship with her means the world to me.

China Moses (YL ’13) is an entrepreneur and professional vocalist. She is also the founder of her own production company, MadeInChina Productions. She shared her reflections on the importance of following through in successful entrepreneurship.

  1. What are the three most important habits and/or qualities of a successful entrepreneur?

    • Following through: Beyond whatever financial or social success you may gain, your word and reputation have more value. As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
    • Accepting Failure: Our ego can get in the way. The most durable successes are built on a regular solid ground of learning and accountability.
    • Reevaluating yourself: The world and market you are in is always evolving. Learn from it. Do the work. Take that extra course. Get a counselor. Invest in other people who have the talent to observe and provide constructive criticism.
  1. The Young Leaders program aims to unite leaders who commit to using their influence for the common good. As an entrepreneurial leader, what are some ways your work has inspired a positive impact?
    • I am an artist. My duty is to translate everyday emotions through various mediums. It may seem small to some. But art is an important barometer of society, as we all witnessed once live performances slowly disappeared during the Covid-19 lockdowns. As we all do our best to recover from this pandemic, the rise in attendance at live events has been impressive and in a lot of places larger than pre pandemic! That means humans have the need and desire to congregate and celebrate!
    • I have held audience members in my arms, provided a space for emotional relief and liberation. As a radio broadcaster I have kept the light on in the middle of the night for over 200,000 listeners of my shows on Jazz Fm (UK) and TSF Jazz (France).
    • I have also provided space for artists to be heard and seen. One thing I am very proud of is being able to create awareness for the lack of diversity in my fields. I work to make my collaborators really understand what it is like to be a Black woman in predominantly White media that uses Black American Music and its culture for its Ad Sales. There is a lot more work to be done.
  1. Can you recall a memorable moment from your time as a Young Leader?
    • There are so many to choose from! But the most important was meeting other Young Leaders and discovering that we have more to learn from each other than we think.
    • As an artist I thought I would be an oddity. But I realized that not having many people from the arts in the program was what was missing. We are an important part of society, and I am glad that FAF took the time to re-evaluate.

 

Galileo CEO and Founder, Tom Lee (YL ’08) shares his hopes for the positive impact that entrepreneurship will have on healthcare. Thank you for your leadership, Tom!

  1. What are the three most important habits and/or qualities of a successful entrepreneur?

    • I think that a wide range of characteristics can make for a successful entrepreneur. In general, I’ve found those with a curiosity, desire, and ability to solve problems go a long way. Some timing and luck are also helpful.
  1. The Young Leaders program aims to unite leaders who commit to using their influence for the common good. As an entrepreneurial leader, what are some ways your work has inspired a positive impact?
    • That’s hard to say. Entrepreneurial impact to health care (outside of the scientific realm) has been somewhat limited to date. I’m hopeful the impact (and the ability to inspire) only grows from here.

Entrepreneur Christopher Schroeder (YL ’98) includes integrity, persistence, and curiosity as three qualities of a successful entrepreneur. Thank you, Christopher, for sharing your wisdom!

    1. What are the three most important habits and/or qualities of a successful entrepreneur?

      • Integrity – one is honest with oneself, her company and culture, her customers and investors
      • Persistence – you can slow me down, but you cannot stop me
      • Curiosity – constantly learning and create a culture of learning to bring unobvious data and instincts to what she is building
    1. The Young Leaders program aims to unite leaders who commit to using their influence for the common good. As an entrepreneurial leader, what are some ways your work has inspired a positive impact?
      • Having run several tech companies, the last decade of my life has been as an investor, mentor and advisor with entrepreneurs globally. I speak to many entrepreneurs daily, and while I invest in relatively few I try to be helpful to each and often build relationships and even friendships that develop over time. The most important thing I do for them is to be “of service” – to meet them on their terms. This includes being accessible (I try to be responsive even in the quantity); listening and socratic (most entrepreneurs know deep down the direction they want to move, but need someone to help them clear the noise – not tell them what to do; to be direct, honest and data- based in feedback (entrepreneurs need less being cheered on, and more clear understanding of a situation in actionable ways.)
    1. Can you recall a memorable moment from your time as a Young Leader?
      • In the program itself, it was stunning to me how personal and direct we became with each other off the bat. I remember a train ride from Paris to Avignon and had an intense conversation about family, ambition and impact with an extraordinary young leader that only could have happened in the spirit of trust and hope to co-author solutions that the experience engendered. I don’t see him often now but drop whatever I’m doing if I can be helpful in any way today. I have a dozen examples like this.

We are proud to celebrate entrepreneur and Senior Managing Director of Corporate Affairs at Pretium, Jocelyn Moore (YL ’16). Jocelyn underscores intellectual curiosity and a lifelong appreciation of learning as hallmarks of successful entrepreneurship. Merci beaucoup, Jocelyn, for sharing your insights!

  1. What are the three most important habits and/or qualities of a successful entrepreneur?
    • Cultivation and Collaboration – Cultivating meaningful relationships, not just for your core day-to-day business, but also for your future professional aspirations is a critical habit of successful entrepreneurship. You never know when a relationship will turn into a business opportunity. Collaboration is also key. I love the African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together”. Collaboration exposes us to diverse perspectives and views, which in turn help us strengthen our products, services, or ideas.
    • Intellectual Curiosity – Another key hallmark of successful entrepreneurship is a lifelong approach to learning. The courage to experiment with new ideas and push the boundaries of our understanding, at the risk of failure, often leads to breakthroughs of creativity and innovation that can be game changing.
    • Higher Purpose – The concept of doing well by doing good really resonates with me. Data suggests that entrepreneurs who understand our shared humanity, who lead consciously, and who are guided by a higher purpose than simply making money attract the best talent and tend to be significantly more profitable over the long term.
  1. The Young Leaders program aims to unite leaders who commit to using their influence for the common good. As an entrepreneurial leader, what are some ways your work has inspired positive impact?
    • I have had the good fortune of being part of several teams that have driven positive change, despite the odds, on some of the preeminent social issues of our time. In the United States Senate, I helped lead efforts to provide health care coverage to millions of Americans through reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and enactment of the Affordable Care Act. At the NFL, I was among the key architects of the league’s social justice efforts. At Pretium, I am part of a phenomenal team using the power of private capital for public good – to address housing supply and affordability.
    • My journey as an entrepreneurial leader is rooted in the intrepid teams I have been a part of and learned from. Together, we have “gone farther” (in the words of the African proverb) to drive sustainable positive impact.
  1. Can you recall a memorable moment from your time as a Young Leader?
    • My time as a Young Leader was full of memorable moments! However, I have been most struck by what has happened after my official two-year program. The relationships developed with fellow young leaders and the opportunities to engage with FAF continue. One of my fondest memories was traveling to Burgundy in 2018 for an informal retreat with members of my YL class.