We Celebrated the Future Hovas and Zuckerbergs @ The White House

Alexis Tirado
November 29, 2011

We all know November is a month full of turkeys, annoying relatives and shopping frenzies and now thanks to Prez Obama …it’s also the official National Entrepreneur Month! So what did we do here at MTV Act? Well, we celebrated young entrepreneurs at the best house in America – the White House!

We partnered up with the Youth Entrepreneurship Council (YEC) and White House to celebrate young business-minded folks at an event yesterday, called “I Am An Entrepreneur.” We left it learning a lot of good stuff. Seriously.

MTV’s very own Sway moderated a panel of successful business owners like Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, Dina Kaplan, founder of blip.tv and Nick Friedman, co-founder of -- no joke -- College Hunks Hauling Junk. You might also recognize Nick as one of the wealthy, eligible bachelors on Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker. The crowd was compromised of 150 well-dressed (this is the White House, after all) college students from George Washington, American and University of Maryland. Students ranged from young freshmen wondering if they should drop out to become entrepreneurs (The panel’s advice: Don’t do it!) to MBA students who consider Steve Jobs their American Idol.

Photo: (David Pond)
Photo: (David Pond)

So did Sway and co. give us something to talk about? Mos def. Some highlights:

+Sway Punk’d The Crowd
Sway told the crowd about his entrepreneur experience, starting with his own radio show The Wake Up Show, which gave Eminem his first radio airplay and founding his own record label, Bolo Entertainment as well as being one of the pioneers behind Rock The Bells, a yearly hip-hop festival that has headliners ranging from pros Lauryn Hill and Nas to new kids on the block, Mac Miller and Childish Gambino.

At one point Sway told the audience to look in the back because Jay-Z was in the house. With a quick swoosh, we all turned our heads in anticipation of Hova. It was a joke! Arrrgh! Still, it’s nice to know that the atmosphere at the White House isn’t super stuffy and that we’re able to laugh at pranks, a few floors away from Joe Biden’s office.

+Keep Your Biz Plan Short & Compelling
Tina Wells, CEO of Buzz Marketing Group, a trendspotting company, told the audience that a common mistake people make is emailing a 10-page business plan to potential investors. Not a good look. She recommends that your plan be 2 paragraphs max. “Be short and concise,” she said. And make sure you have a legit plan that could work in the real world. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” added Tina. Tina founded her company at 16 years old so she knows what’s up.

What about when you have to present your plan to Venture Capitalists who might give you mad money for your idea? “Be compelling and make sure you let them know that they’re going to make money,” said Jeremy Johnson, co-founder of Gen Y Capital Partners, which invests in businesses from young folks. Don’t forget to know your audience too. “Engage in a community you want to service and provide value to it,” said Dina Kaplan, founder of blip.tv.

Some of the college students and entrepreneurs at the event.

+ Be Real
Mark Zuckerberg is known for walking around in Adidas sandals 24-7, even in the winter. So much so that it was depicted in “The Social Network.” FourSquare co-founder Dennis Crowley rocks athletic wear to press events. So should you dress like you just woke up in your college dorm? No. But there’s something about being authentic that’s important when making your sell, stressed Dina Kaplan. If you don’t feel comfortable wearing a business suit than just throw on a blazer and jeans or something more comfortable yet professional. But please leave the sandals and mesh shorts for when you make your first millions.

+Put Yourself Out There
Running your own biz is A LOT like dating. You gotta put yourself out there. If you don’t talk to people or open yourself up – you won’t score any dates or business plans, for that matter. “So many people think that people are going to knock on their doors,” said Scott Gerber, founder of the YEC. Take people you want advice from to lunch, hit up those trade shows with your biz cards and reach out to people who know your friends. If you have a FB friend in common, that’s a good intro to someone. Seeking out mentors is key too – they can help show you the ropes like no other. I mean look at what Weezy did for Drizzy and Nicki Minaj!!!

This material was originally published on MTV Act, MTV's action blog. It is repritned here with permission.