Geek 2 Chic!

Sometime last year, I was asked to be on the NFTE (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship) Gala Committee. Wow, I thought… I will finally be able to give back to this organization whose mission I so embrace, and who chose me as one of their first Locally Grown Entrepreneurs. As part of this committee, most would agree that I did all of the right things, given that the goal was to raise money: I reached out to my professional network, I lobbied my friends, I called in favors. The result: I raised some money. In the most unoriginal manner.

At that same meeting was a friend of mine, fellow Bourbon lover (we have had many a conversation about Maker’s Mark versus Knob Creek), Mark. While I was raising money in a conventional “in the box” manner, he rather decided to be creative, innovative, funny. He came up with the concept of “Geek 2 Chic.” Did I mention Mark is a bit of both? Fabulously chic, he is smart enough to be a geek. He is Dr. Mark Drapeau. Oh, and he works for Microsoft. For the Office of Civic Innovation. That’s an understatement… For its third year in a row, his brainchild (helped by Heather Guay from Bloomingdales and MCd by Angie Goff of NBC Washington), the Geek 2 Chic event tonight was a huge success. The concept? Have men who would typically be described as geeks model the latest men’s fashion trends on the runway at Bloomingdales.

While all models were more chic than geek, while there was attitude, champagne drinking, dancing, dunking , and a capella singing on the runway, two models were particularly memorable. First, there was Adam Jaffe, of Mercury Continuity. He gets extra credit because somehow I am the one he threw bright blue Calvin Klein briefs to. Blue Calvin Klein briefs with the letters MC (I assume standing for “Mercury Continuity”) painted on in glitter. A marketing idea I will have to ponder…

Then, most importantly, there was 2012 NFTE graduate Jordon Brooks. He was the true star of this evening’s show, the reminder of why we were all there, drinking champagne and paying to shop. An alumnus of Croom Vocational High School, he won a standing ovation from a crowd of over 700 at the 2012 NFTE DC Gala while presenting his amazing story of overcoming life obstacles, the lure of the streets, and building Threshold Graphics, his very own graphic design business.

Not surprisingly, the event was extremely well attended, by the likes of Stephanie Greene, Kate Michael, Maggie O’Neill (whose husband modeled), Terry Galvez, Mary-Kate Rasa, and NFTE Board Members, including one of my best friends, Minal Damani Kundra, and her sister, Pallavi Kumar. Throughout the evening, we sipped champagne, socialized, took pictures, were taken pictures of, and clapped and encouraged these fabulous male models. And then we shopped, with the good excuse that 10% of all Bloomies purchases that night was being donated to NFTE.

What a fabulous evening celebrating entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, fashion, technology, and the American Dream!

Dare to dream…

Last year was the first time I attended the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) annual gala. Some of you might remember that I blogged about it, about the inspiration that came with that evening. Yesterday, NFTE held its 2011 Dare to Dream gala. Just as in 2010, I was re-inspired, re-energized, moved to tears. And yesterday, I was also honored as a locally-grown entrepreneur. It was a magical evening. An evening filled with amazing students, teachers, and entrepreneurs. An evening filled with great friends. An evening filled with soundbytes. Here are some of my favorites.

“We can educate our way to a better economy.” Julie Kantor, the Executive Director of NFTE DC Region

“I have an MBA. A Masters at Being Amazing.” Also by Julie Kanto

“Entrepreneurs can do anything with persistence, perseverance, and passion.” Edie Fraser, Diversified Search Odgers Berndtson

“Your first business may fail, but that doesn’t mean that your second, or third, or fourth won’t be successful.” Aaron Batallion, Living Social

“No fear. There is no reason to fear.” Michelle Lee, STG International

“Hire for attitude over smarts. Attitude is everything” Mark Michael, Occasions Caterers

“The person who says it can’t be done shouldn’t interrupt the person who is doing it.” Seth Goldman, Honest Tea

The keynote address was by Rodney Walker (pictured below with his Alchimie Forever goodie bag). The entire video presentation of his journey was so powerful and moving it is impossible to capture it in a soundbyte. I saw seasoned business men discreetly wipe the corners of their eyes (I was doing the same, less discreetly) as he spoke of overcoming drugs, homelessness, poverty, with the help of NFTE. Rodney inspired me to do more with NFTE, and today I re-iterate the commitment I silently made last night to play more of a role in the life of these young students. As soon as I stop typing, I will be calling my girlfriend Minal, who is the one who introduced me to NFTE a few years ago, to make this commitment a reality. Once again, thank you NFTE.