Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs may have come from humble Harlem roots, but that did not stand in the way of his growing an estimated personal fortune of $580 million, according to Forbes magazine. Now giving back to inner city youths with similar entrepreneurial dreams, the media mogul has donated $250,000 to an organization that helps low income children learn the brass tacks of business.
Last Thursday at the Times Center in New York City, Combs presented a $250,000 check to the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), an international non-profit dedicated to teaching underprivileged young people to think like entrepreneurs.
Combs gives back to community
“I’m definitely proud that I could do something positive,” the founder of Bad Boy Entertainment told theGrio. “Being able to have a certain amount of economic power, to me, gives you the opportunity to help people and support great causes. NFTE is a great cause.”
Combs did not merely stop by and drop off some cash. Before the gala where his gift was announced, the rapper and clothing impresario spoke in depth with NFTE finalists in a national business competition. The 2013 NFTE National Youth Entreprenuership Challenge included 39 students representing 35 different businesses. Winners Toheeb Okenla and Jesus Fernandez won the $25,000 first prize for their idea, T&J Soccer, which produces a special sports sock containing pockets for shin protectors.
The music producer and branding expert was on hand to personally mentor NFTE participants and nurture their business ideas at the benefit.
“I wish I had a NFTE when I started. That could really have showed me the importance of combining what I learned in school, and then applying that to my street smarts,” Combs said of working with the group.
Business advice for tomorrow’s leaders
What is Combs’ best advice for young business leaders of the future?
“Don’t be afraid to close your eyes and dream, then open your eyes and see,” the entrepreneur affirmed. “It’s a quote I came up with when I was 19. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with something that doesn’t already exist. That’s really being in the darkness. A lot of people get scared in the dark.”
Combs went on to explain that “opening one’s eyes” implies grasping in practical terms how to accomplish one’s goals, however grand. “Understand what it’s going to take for you to accomplish that. How hard it’s going to be. How much work it’s going to be. I think that’s an important message.”
Combs was once of those dreaming youths of color, walking Harlem streets with a vision for success that he has since painstakingly built into a multifaceted empire. Educating and inspiring children from lower incomes towards creating their own economic opportunities has been NFTE’s goal since 1987.
“The issues with most of these young people is people have low expectations of them,” Amy Rosen, president and CEO of NFTE, told theGrio. “Once you empower them to believe in themselves, and think entrepreneurially, they can solve any problem. These kids just show the world that they can be successful if they choose to be.”
Icon of business with more in store
Combs is a fitting example for these young people. To paraphrase his famous motto (coined on many Bad Boy recordings), he won’t stop, because he can’t stop — in this case, developing large-scale enterprises.
“It’s coming! We’re going to support true artistry, true freedom,” Diddy said of Revolt TV. “We have a tagline: Music. Freedom. Truth. The new number one name in music. It’s going to be a place that you can really express yourself. It’s for the fans, by the fans; for the artists, by the artists. It’s not my network.”
That spirit of sharing was evident Thursday night, as one of the most successful men in American business reached back towards those seeking assurance, wisdom and a prime example of what they could become.
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.