Dr. Randall Pinkett, the winner of 2005’s “The Apprentice” TV show, visited St. John’s last Friday to speak to students and discuss his new book Campus CEO: The Student Entrepreneur’s Guide to Launching a Multimillion Dollar Business. Pinkett is an entrepreneur, speaker, author and scholar, as well as being co-founder, president and CEO of BCT Partners.
Pinkett, who holds degrees from Rutgers, Oxford and MIT, said that the first business venture he participated in was one that involved selling compact discs while at Rutgers, adding that in his life he has had about four failed businesses.
“I felt bad when those four businesses failed,” he said. “I was disappointed that things did not work out. However, I disciplined myself to extract lessons from my failures.”
Pinkett said that it was his wife, who was a fan of “The Apprentice,” who convinced him to submit an application to participate. He believes that it was his combination of academic and professional backgrounds that helped him to emerge as a winner on the show.
“It felt fantastic to win,” Pinkett said. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to work with Donald Trump.”
In his speech, Pinkett emphasized that people should follow their passions to make a difference in the community. He cited Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” saying that “the road is made as one walks.”
Pinkett said that he was impressed by the St. John’s students he met, and said that they seem have a hunger to make a difference in the world. He encouraged them to be ambitious in their own lives.
“If you reach for the stars and you fall, you will fall on top of the mountain,” he said.
After speaking, Pinkett fielded questions from students. Senior Jermaine Cole wanted to know if Pinkett’s message was about chasing money or passion.
“Money is not important to me,” Pinkett replied. “I have never chased money in my business, I chased passion. I think it is important to figure out your passion values and principles and what difference it is you want to make.” Pinkett went on to say that he felt that people who wanted to make money really had a passion for something that he believed they should chase.
Andrey Andreev, a sophomore, asked Pinkett what he thought about the importance of education to success. Pinkett said that the decision to acquire degrees depends on the individual. He pointed to people like Bill Gates, who dropped out of school and still became successful. He added, however, that he also knows many people who have failed while following this path.
Pinkett concluded that he got a lot from his university experience and that he thought education was important. “I believe in the value of what you learn in the classroom and outside of it,” he said.
Students in attendance seemed to have a positive reaction to what Pinkett had to say.
“I think Pinkett is a very smart man,” said freshman Rahel Solomon. “He is charismatic and delivered a good speech.”
Amish Dalvi, a graduate student, agreed.
“It was a great talk,” he said, “informative and very moving.”Faculty members seemed equally impressed.
“It was a wonderful speech,” said Dr. Richard Highfield, dean of the Peter J. Tobin College of Business. “It is hard to believe that Pinkett is not from St. John’s University. I believe in his exposure to a wide variety of people and ideas. He could not be a better speaker and I hope he comes back.”
In an interview with The Torch, when asked what stands out in his life when he looks back on it, Pinkett said, “Two things: The first being that all my companies give back to the community; the second being that I have had the opportunity to meet and work with many people.”
“My advice to students is to take full advantage of the wonderful environment at St. John’s, where there is a commitment to values and service,” Pinkett said. “The mindset of a trailblazer is to achieve what your mind can conceive.
Entrepreneurs have a similar mindset, to see and seize opportunities.”