I am writing it is 10:51 pm on Wednesday April 28th. I am wearing my favorite LBD, heels, and makeup (yes, I am at the office). Until an hour ago, I was at the NFTE (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship) Dare to Dream MIB (Making it in Business) Annual Gala.
I have been involved with NFTE for the last 2+ years, thanks to my girlfriend Minal, who is on the board. For the first time (after judging a business class competition, inviting a glass of students to my Georgetown showroom, and hosting a joint shopping event), I went to “the” party. And what a party it was.
I could post pictures of the Redskins cheerleaders starting off the soiree in tiny red shiny outfits dancing in a way few Washington DC galas would condone – but I won’t. Instead, let me tell you about an evening that celebrated choices, perseverance, will, and entrepreneurship.
The mission of NFTE is to teach entrepreneurship to low-income youth. (Here is a trailer about a movie featuring some NFTE kids. So the evening began by showcasing a number of high-school entrepreneurs and their products. I spent $135.00 (actually had to find the ATM in the hotel!) on Kim’s Diaper Cakes; think wedding cakes made out of diapers – the most original baby gift I have seen in a long time (and since all of my girlfriends are about to have their second and third babies, well, I need a lot of gifts). (For more information email Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org).
The evening advanced in typical gala fashion, but the guests and speakers were anything but typical. To start, the table Minal hosted populated by fabulous people (including the White House CIO. Wow.). The Gala Chair was one of my favorite entrepreneurs, Cynthia de Lorenzi of Success in the City. I admire Cynthia’s determination, dedication to women in business, and sense of humor.
NFTE presented its Philanthropic Entrepreneurial Leader of the Year award to Patty Alper. As I tweeted during the event, “I want to be Patty Alper when I grow up.” While of course her bio is impressive, most impressive was the way the students spoke about her – her style, her passion, her drive to help, her perseverance.
Another highlight was Michael Chase, who received the award for Entrepreneurial Leader of the Year. I first heard about Michael Chase when I was getting my MBA at Georgetown (he has one too). Then I read about Michael Chase often in the Washington Business Journal. And tonight I finally got to hear him speak. Inspiring.
The true highlight of the evening, however, was the keynote speaker, Chris Gardner live. I have seen the movie “The Pursuit of Happiness” more than once. Every time, I start crying during the scene when Chris and his son have to sleep in the public bathroom. And every time, I cry until the end. The movie, the story, the person (Chris, not Will) moves me, gives me hope, inspires me, motivates me, makes me want to work harder to make my dreams come true. Tonight, seeing Chris Gardner live, hearing his voice (he does a great impersonation of James Earls Jones!), laughing with him, I cried. Just like when I watch the movie. He renewed my belief that if you make the right choices, try hard enough, refuse to let anyone tell you you can’t do it – then you will actually make it. You will make your dreams come true.
I will make my dreams come true. I will make of Alchimie Forever a top skin care brand (be careful L’Oreal, here I come). I will do it because I choose to. Because I can. And because no-one will make me believe I can’t do it.
Thank you Chris Gardner for the reminder. Thank you NFTE for spreading this message.