To embrace and acknowledge the contributions to this country by our diverse population, and to honor and celebrate Black and Woman’s History Month, Peter Bonnell on the Dun & Bradstreet Emerging Business team conducted a series of interviews with minority and women business owners. The interviews can be found on Dun & Bradstreet B2B’s Minority-Owned and Women-Owned Business Resource pages.
It’s one thing to be a successful entrepreneur, but it’s another to be a successful entrepreneur who dedicates himself to helping others start businesses. Tweet This I wanted to highlight a business owner who has done just that.
Lyneir Richardson is a full-time faculty member at Rutgers Business School in Newark, NJ. He is leading new programs focused on helping minority entrepreneurs get capital from public sources and private investors in his role as Executive Director of the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CUEED), a research and practitioner oriented center at Rutgers University.
He is also a lifelong entrepreneur. In the 1990s, the U.S. Small Business Administration named him a “Young Entrepreneur of the Year.” Richardson is now the CEO of The Chicago TREND Corporation, a social enterprise aiming to stimulate retail development that will strengthen city neighborhoods. This startup recently received over $7 million of seed capital to launch operations and invest in catalytic real estate projects.
The CUEED – Balancing Community Impact with Other Ventures
CUEED was founded in 2008 with the revitalization of low-income neighborhoods in Newark, New Jersey as a key focus. CUEED is the first center of its kind in the nation to integrate scholarship with private industry, government and non-profit sectors to stimulate entrepreneurial and economic growth in urban environments. As Ricahrdson put it, “We support a new generation of entrepreneurs who actively seek to start and grow businesses, fostering urban renaissance. Part of what makes CUEED unique is that we intentionally make the connection between entrepreneurship and community revitalization.”
Although balancing his two roles as Executive Director of CUEED and CEO of TREND is challenging, Richardson meets his roles with optimism and enthusiasm. “I love my job at CUEED, because I get to advocate for entrepreneurs, teach entrepreneurship and create programs to build the capacity of small business owners,” he said. “I work hard at least 80 hours a week, but I love my career.”
CUEED’s Growth and Accomplishments
Often times, businesses are judged by their success stories. I asked Richardson what he regards as the most pivotal moment marking success for CUEED.
“At CUEED, we developed effective programs to assist entrepreneurs to start and grow new businesses,” he said. “For example, our award winning flagship program, the Entrepreneurship Pioneers Initiative (EPI), has helped over 200 small businesses survive past the five year mark, increase their revenues and profits, and create wealth and new jobs in urban communities.”
“Last year, we launched a business capacity building program for creative entrepreneurs in the media, arts and entertainment industry. The participants are doing amazing work – with shows on major television networks, music production in film, off-Broadway theatrical productions and photography in a book that is a New York Times Bestseller.”
Personal and Entrepreneurial Challenges
Success rarely develops or materializes on its own, especially in the case of entrepreneurs and new ventures. Success is usually the result of countless hours of hard work, and habits built upon lessons learned from past experiences.
Richardson shared the story of how he began, giving us insight into his personal growth and his first company.
“In my 20’s, I started a company, grew it to over $9 million in revenue and hired 26 employees,” he said. I grew too fast and ran out of cash. I literally had to sell the assets of my company in a fire sale. People say that you are not an entrepreneur until you have made payroll. I amend that some and say that you are not a battle-tested entrepreneur until you have missed payroll and had to work to keep your team in tact during a business downturn.”
He reflected on the impact this experience had in how he moved forward and persevered. “These experiences made me a better employee. I excel in corporate and government positions because I have an ‘owners view’ and the work ethic of an entrepreneur needing to make payroll each Friday.”
Leveraging Strengths and Weaknesses
There is an apparent similarity in all successful entrepreneurs, and that is the ability to utilize strengths while leveraging weaknesses.
Richardson shared his sentiments and personal reflections on how both his strengths and weaknesses have impacted his professional growth.
“My strength is I am always thinking about things 18 months from today; that is a strength and a weakness. It is a strength because I can see opportunity sometimes before others. I learned from my failure as a young entrepreneur to anticipate the worst-case scenarios and plan to address them head on. I call it ‘prepare for the worst day the first day.’ It is a weakness because I do not have exceptional long term vision,” he said.
Lessons from Lyneir
Being a minority entrepreneur and executive, Richardson has an entire lifetime of experiences that shaped and molded his business awareness. For other prospective minority entrepreneurs, he offered the following encouragement and advice:
“Focus on being profitable, first,” he said. “It is admirable that so many minority entrepreneurs want to make the world better, but the only way to have a business that survives and can scale is to be consistently profitable.”
Enthusiastically, he made a funny, but relevant reference, “Cue up that old R&B song by the O’Jays, “Money, Money, Money,” he said.
The Importance of Community Impact
It was clear to us that Richardson is a humble man who understands the importance of giving back to others. His story tells that tale, and is evident in his commitment to not only his personal ventures, but his role at the CUEED.
“I discovered one year after I graduated from law school that my passion was making ethnic, underserved communities better via real estate development and entrepreneurship,” he said.
“I wake up every day with a zeal to be at the intersection of helping entrepreneurs grow and be more impactful and catalyzing neighborhood transformation. CUEED measures these impacts every year. We look at factors like survival rates, job creations and revenue growth. Chicago TREND is measuring impact factors such as property value increases, crime reduction and adding more diversity to urban neighborhoods.”
There is a quote by John C. Maxwell in reference to leadership, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Richardson has lived an entrepreneurial life, gaining wisdom and knowledge, which helped him start and run various ventures. He has taken that experience, and now “shows the way” in his role at CUEED.
Richardson undoubtedly embodies the spirit of John C. Maxwell’s sentiments on leadership, and I wish him the best in his future endeavors.