My brother Matthew and I recently had the opportunity to attend an exclusive event in Miami called Summit Series , and we were both blown away by the experience.Â Â Never before had we attended an event with such an amazing group of entrepreneurs — talented, motivated, forward-thinking.Â The kind of people who are making a difference and changing the world.
If you haven't yet heard the buzz about this innovative organization, you will.Â Summit Series hosts invitation-only events across North America for top young entrepreneurs, entertainment figures, and philanthropic leaders.Â One of Summit Series' goals is to connect influential young entrepreneurs and inspire them to make socially conscious changes.
I recently caught up with Jeff Rosenthal, Chief Community Builder and Sherpa of Summit Series.Â In addition to his position with Summit Series, Jeff heads up Special and Private Projects for Black and Blue Jewelry in NYC, advises start-ups including DEOS Jewelry, One Blue Brick and Social Expeditions, and advises a number of major non-profits around the world.Â Â He served as the youngest floor staff member in the history of the United States Congress and played soccer for American University and the United States Maccabiah team.Â Incredible accomplishments, and all by a man still in his twenties.
Adam: You are actively involved in the Summit Series which my brother and I attended in Miami and loved every minute. It is said that founder Elliott Bisnow chose two or three of his best friends to help him establish this program for young entrepreneurs. How does your friendship contribute to your working relationship?
Jeff: Working with your best friends is incredible. One of the coolest things is 100% accountability; when one of my partners is assigned something or accepts a task, there is no follow up, the job simply gets done. There is a tremendous level of respect between everyone on our team, and we know that our personal success is tied to the success of our partners so we constantly push one another to grow and succeed.
Jeff: My role as Chief Community Builder aids in establishing the SS community. The first step is identifying the people, which is why I’ve been traveling full-time with the Summit Series team for the past 18 months. I curate the community based on two criteria 1) Does this person do truly awesome work? 2) Is this someone I can care for, someone who I would be friends with if they weren’t successful?
We aren’t interested in short term friendships, or pure networking; we want to associate with people that we genuinely want to help and spend time with. Our generation makes friends first, and we learn from one another through those friendships.
Another big part of the community building process is creating mutually beneficial connections between Summit Series friends. I look to connect people who can help grow each others businesses, work on projects together, share knowledge, or simply just become good friends.
I alsoÂ prophesizeÂ some of the core tenants of the Summit Series philosophy whenever I can; promoting the ideas that we are all apprentices, with a lot to teach but even more to learn, and that giving unselfishly is the most selfish thing we can do.
Adam: As you classify your occupation as a dream job and seem to have a lot of fun doing it, you also raise notable sums of money for charities. Tell us about this fund-raising, its achievements, goals and aspirations.
Jeff: In 2009, Summit Series raised close to $1 million for charity. More importantly, Summit Series connects the top business minds in the world with some of the best non-profits, helping them operate more effectively, create movements, build websites, film movies on their causes.. FEED Projects, The United Nations Foundation, The Robin Hood Foundation, The Clinton Foundation, UNICEF, Invisible Children, Grassroots Soccer, Falling Whistles, Charity:Water, I Am That Girl, The Pink Agenda, Universal Giving, Ubuntu Children’s Fund, and Tipping Point Community have either done events with Summit Series or are active members of the community.
Bobby Chang X Invisible Children is a great example of this type of thing at work; Bobby is the co-founder of Incase, and one of the top industrial designers of bags in the world; he just got back from Northern Uganda, where he will be helping Invisible Children on their MEND bag line, bags produced by women in war-affected areas of northern Uganda.
It’s interesting; when we started with Summit Series, we weren’t concerned about philanthropy or making a difference in the world. However, through exposure to the incredible organizations above and their ideals, we realized that cash is not the only currency in the world, and that helping others leads to a level of personal satisfaction unachievable through better margins or greater sales.
Adam: Your lifestyle is quite nomadic! Where have you traveled to recently and where do you plan to go soon? I read that you spend two months at a time in each destination. What do you try to achieve during each visit?
Jeff: Yes, we’ve been on the road for some time now. In 2009, I spent significant time in Uganda, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Argentina, Mexico; In the US, we lived in Dallas, SF, LA, NYC, Miami, Yellowstone, Montana, Aspen, and Washington DC.
I’m currently living in Big Sky, Montana, and we are heading to Austin TX next, followed by NYC, SF and LA.
Traveling keeps us fresh; We’ve thrown off the bowlines, and spend our days exploring, dreaming and discovering new people, places and ideas. Not to mention that when you spend your morning bombing A-Z shoots on a snowboard or surfing private breaks in San Juan Del Sur, you are very motivated to get your job done when you get to work.
Adam: Do you have any plans to take the Summit Series to Europe or other international destinations?
Jeff: Absolutely. Summit Series Europe, 2011.
Adam: History tells us that you were the youngest floor staff member of the U.S. Congress. What is it like to work within the halls of power, and have you taken any of this experience to heart as you interact with other young entrepreneurs?
Jeff: Working for the Rules Committee on the floor of the House of Representatives was an incredible learning experience. It’s interesting; I was working on the Democratic side when they were the minority in the house, and only a handful of Representatives actively participated in Rules hearings and spoke on bills on the House floor on a regular basis.. it’s no surprise that one of them was Rahm Emanuel, our current White House Chief of Staff. It shows that no matter what level you are operating at, it’s always those who continue to passionately put in the work who succeed in the end.
Adam: What is it like working with former President Clinton?
Jeff: We hosted a Summit with President Clinton in 2009 where we awarded him the first Summit Series Catalyst Award. President Clinton is inspiring; a brilliant man, a true public servant, someone who gives of himself unselfishly at the core of his being. He is a tremendous role model in a precarious world.
Adam: Can you share some info on the next summit coming up in May?
Jeff: Washington DC May 13h — 16th, be there.
Adam: By many standards, you have accomplished quite a lot so far in your life. What words of wisdom can you offer aspiring young entrepreneurs who want to achieve the measure of success you have achieved?
Jeff: Sure. First and foremost, get off the couch. If you want to see something new or improved in world, its up to you and you alone to make it happen. No one will do it for you.
Second, make sure that you enjoy the work that you’re doing, that it aligns with who you are existentially. If you are concerned about the environment or public health, you probably will not be happy opening up a McDonalds franchise.
Third, focus. Take positive steps to see your goals- determine where it is you want to be, and take small, incremental steps to get yourself there.
Fourth, always approach any situation as the apprentice. The smartest of us humans still know nothing; we all have a lot to learn. And if you take this approach while asking the people around you for help, if you remain humble, people will go out of their way to see you succeed.
Lastly, give of yourself, your knowledge, and your connections unselfishly, without any concern of if the favor will be returned. Giving unselfishly is the most selfish thing you can do, as it always comes back around. Those who spread love get love back.
Title Photo Â© Seth Browarnik