Detroit is emerging as a startup hub, and could be the startup hub of the Midwest if the stakeholders play their cards right. The latest tech wunderkind, Jeff Lawson,
But startups need advice and mentorship to truly succeed, as the show “Shark Tank” has repeatedly demonstrated. Luckily for budding entrepreneurs, they have a chance to learn from one of the Sharks himself, Kevin O’Leary, when
O’Leary will headline the first “Benzinga Leadership Series” talk, titled “From the Basement to Billions: the Kevin O’Leary Story” on November 18 at Benzinga’s office in downtown Detroit.
O’Leary detailed his rise to celebrity investor status in an interview with Benzinga ahead of the event.
A Shark’s First Day on the Job
As a kid growing up in Canada, O’Leary got his first job scooping ice cream at a mall sweets shop. After being hired as a scooper, however, his manager ordered him to scrape gum off the tile floor of the shop.
“But there was a girl I was really interested in working in the shoe store across the mall and she was looking at me,” O’Leary said. “That’s why I took the job in the first place. I told my manager, ‘You hired me as a scooper, not a scraper.’ She said, ‘You’re fired.’ It was my first day on the job.”
The experience was humiliating, O’Leary said, but taught him a valuable lesson about the power employers hold.
“I vowed that night I would never work for someone again in my life, and I have kept that vow,” O’Leary said. “So years later, after being successful as an entrepreneur, I can now afford to bulldoze that mall if I want.”
A Lesson for Life
O’Leary says he still thinks about that fateful encounter decades later. While he at some points early in his career worked for others, O’Leary eventually hit it big by selling an educational software company to Mattel in 1998 for over $3 billion.
"I tried to go and find [that manager] to thank her for what she had done for me to change my mindset," O'Leary said. "Not everybody wants to grow their own destiny. But that motivated me to the point that she is a part of who I am today."
Every successful entrepreneur learns from failure. O’Leary was able to turn an early setback into a lifelong lesson.
“That firing was so important, and you don’t know the impact of those life lessons until years later. To me, that manager was a hero. But all these years later, I can’t find her and thank her.”
O’Leary will share this story and more at Benzinga this Friday at 2:30 p.m. ET. For more information,
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