Celebrity Entrepreneurs Inspire Young Entrepreneurial Leaders

Collage of Jeff Hoffman, Elle Macpherson, and Pitbull

What do an iconic supermodel, a Grammy-winning rapper, and a motivational speaker have in common?

They all believe in the power of entrepreneurship and now are invested in empowering entrepreneurial leaders. They also are eager to share inspiring stories and words of wisdom as celebrity entrepreneurs.

“Entrepreneurship is a mindset,” said Armando Christian Pérez, better known as Pitbull, the international superstar. “And, it’s a lifestyle of understanding that failure is the mother of all success.”

Pérez joined Elle Macpherson P’20 and Jeff Hoffman for a lively, robust panel discussion at the sixth Babson Connect: Online event, “Empowering Through Entrepreneurship,” moderated by Debi Kleiman, executive director of The Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship.

Pitbull—also known as Mr. Worldwide and Mr. 305—is a singer-songwriter, philanthropist, education advocate, and entrepreneur with businesses in multiple sectors. Macpherson, who found fame as the leading Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, is a business trendsetter and now the co-founder of WelleCo, a nutrition supplement company. And, Hoffman is the chairman of Global Entrepreneurship Network, and a serial entrepreneur and CEO of successful startups such as Priceline.com and Booking.com, as well as a motivational speaker, author, and film and music producer.

Together, the celebrity entrepreneurs swapped stories, imparted wisdom, and offered inspiration and motivation, especially aimed at young people, during the capstone event of Babson College’s Global Entrepreneurial Leadership Week, powered by The Arthur M. Blank School for Entrepreneurial Leadership.

Thinking Unconventionally

Encouraging youth to believe in their ideas and in themselves is key to unleashing their potential, the celebrity entrepreneurs agreed.

Macpherson said the greatest asset of youth is they often don’t see the limits of what’s possible, giving them a unique mindset to find creative solutions, which is critical for entrepreneurial leaders to effect change.

“I think that empowering the youth of tomorrow to solve the problems created by the systems of today revolves around giving them the sort of freedom to think openly and sort of unconventionally,” she said.

By nurturing a young person’s mind to focus on solutions in that way, Pérez said, “You create in a great way a monster, a beast, a fighter, someone that’s willing to go out and fight for what they believe in.”

Pérez helps foster that mindset through his education advocacy, including opening charter schools across the nation, known as SLAM (Sports Leadership and Management). “I never graduated from high school, and now we have 11 high schools with 10,000 kids,” he said.

Pérez also invests in more than just young people. He and Hoffman, through the Global Entrepreneurship Network, also have established the Hispanic Small Business Center, with an associated grant program, to support and aid Hispanic entrepreneurs through the business challenges of the pandemic.

Understanding Failure

In addition to inspiring youth to think creatively to succeed, there’s a need to teach them to become comfortable with failure, which is important for entrepreneurial leaders to embrace.

“We’ve got to start kids early understanding that you will fail, and so what? That’s just part of growing,” Hoffman said. “That’s important when we plant that in young minds, so they’re not afraid to try.”

Pérez emphasized the necessity of mistakes and learning from them, citing one of his popular quotes. “It’s not only ‘you don’t make mistakes, mistakes make you,’ but they’re called ‘must takes.’ They need to happen in order to grow, in order for you to learn, in order for you to help others,” he said. “They need to happen in your life.”

Turning Dreams into Reality

Of course, having big ideas and knowing how to fail isn’t enough to achieve them and succeed. Pérez repeatedly stressed the importance of showing up, taking action, and working hard.

Hoffman, too, said execution trumps words. “The people that achieve their dreams and achieve the most picked up a shovel, went out in the hot sun and started digging while everyone else was still talking about it,” he said. “That’s what it’s about. It’s about starting. Once you get started, just keep going.”

“You follow your heart’s dreams, and then Babson teaches you how to execute it. It’s so brilliant. That’s why I love the school for my children.”
Elle Macpherson P’20

Macpherson knows all about starting and working hard to achieve her dreams. At the top of her profession, as one of the legendary supermodels of the 1980s, Macpherson took a risk when she left her modeling agency and incorporated herself, a deliberate step that led to launching her successive business ventures in licensing, fashion, beauty, and wellness.

“The entrepreneur within me was the one that realized that I have dreams,” she said, “but unless I’m willing to take those risks to action them, I’m just a dreamer.”

The intersection of dreams and education—especially at a college such as Babson, she says—is important to provide the entrepreneurial leadership skills necessary to navigate the risks and the failures in order to realize those audacious ideas eventually.

“You follow your heart’s dreams, and then Babson teaches you how to execute it,” Macpherson said. “It’s so brilliant. That’s why I love the school for my children.”

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