Nearly 50 male high school students from across southern Dallas are gathering this week at the University of North Texas at Dallas for five days of intensive training and mentoring designed to help mold them into tomorrow’s business leaders.
Known as ELEVATE, the leadership academy, which began Monday, is being organized by RISE Clothing entrepreneurs Terrence and Tim Maiden, twin 38-year-old brothers who plan to share some of the hard-won lessons they learned in building a successful apparel business.
More than 20 executives, including CEOs, will be on hand to lend their expertise.
More than 20 other executives, including CEOs, will also be on hand to lend their expertise. The program, a mix of panels, lectures, and workshops, will feature a broad array of topics on everything from basic entrepreneurship to networking and business etiquette.
Chris Dahlander, the 50-year-old CEO of Snappy Salads, said he plans to highlight the two core principals — persistence and sacrifice — that helped him forge a popular chain of salad restaurants from an uncertain start more than a decade ago.
Other guest speakers include ESPN college basketball commentator and motivational speaker Stephen Hunter and Lincoln Stephens, a former advertising account management executive who founded a nonprofit to bring diversity to the advertising industry.
GIVING YOUNG MEN TOOLS TO BECOME LEADERS
The Maiden brothers said they worked with university president Bob Mong to establish the first-of-its-kind leadership program to help put promising young men on a trajectory to become the next generation of business leaders. The 10th and 11th graders — predominately minority students — were selected from more than 100 applicants and represent about eight area high schools.
“We saw the need for young men of color to have some of the necessary tools to become successful and become leaders,” said Terrence Maiden.
Young minorities, he said, often face social and economic challenges and may typically focus on sports without the opportunity to hone potential business skills.
“We wanted to bring that to the forefront,” he said.
The academy is starting as a pilot program, but the brothers plan to hold it annually and hope to double the enrollment next year after the university completes work on a residential hall that will enable the academy to invite more students.
“We saw the need for young men of color to have some of the necessary tools to become successful and become leaders.”
“We took in as many as we could this year because we were capped at 45,” Terrence Maiden said.
The brothers also hope to eventually hold similar academies in other cities.
RISE, the online apparel firm that the Maidens started in Dallas in 2015, is co-sponsoring the leadership academy along with the university, Texas Capital Bank, and the brothers’ Two Wins Foundation.
The university is also teamed with Bishop T. D. Jakes, pastor of the non-denominational mega-church, The Potter’s House, in another program to advance entrepreneurship among young people. The MegaFest Entrepreneur Slam contest will be held on the campus for 11-to 19-year-olds from June 28-July 1, offering up to $50,000 in scholarships.
TAKING SUCCESS INTO THEIR OWN HANDS
Located near Interstate 35 and Interstate 20, UNT Dallas opened in 2010 and now has an enrollment of 3,000, with plans to grow to 5,000 by 2021. It is the only public university located in Dallas and primarily serves the southern part of the city.
Mong, the university president, enthusiastically agreed to host the leadership academy after he was approached by the Maiden brothers about a year ago, said Ashley Johnson, director of communications and public relations at the university.
“They have a chance to sort of sit down and spend some intentional time identifying who they are and what they’re good at, and what they’re great at.”
Michael Williams, a successful nonprofit entrepreneur and former Texas Education Commissioner who serves as Distinguished Leader in Residence at the university, said the program’s end-goal is to help the students bolster self-confidence and bring out the best in themselves.
“They have a chance to sort of sit down and spend some intentional time identifying who they are, and what they’re good at and what they’re great at,” said Williams, who is coordinating the leadership academy and the grand slam event.
The students will work through a “power-packed” agenda every day, said Williams, developing skills that often come second nature to seasoned business leaders. One initiative is entitled “elevator speech” — which Maiden said is the art of being able to concisely make a complete point during what would be a typical time-span in an elevator.
Other areas of focus include evaluating business plans, conducting mock interviews, and developing networking techniques, which could be something as simple as looking someone in the eye or never failing to pass out a business card.
They will also receive pointers from skilled business leaders whose advice may help smooth out the bumps in the road the students will ultimately travel.
“When you realize that there are no excuses, when you accept that success or failure is squarely on your shoulders — that’s when you get it.”
“If you want to be the best, you have to have persistence,” said Dahlander, who plans to draw from his own business journey in his presentation to students.
Dahlander said he was “an overweight middle-aged white guy” with “no roadmap” for success when he conceived the idea of a high-quality salad restaurant accenting nutrition and promoting environmental preservation.
The first restaurant opened in Dallas in 2006, and despite the risks, Dahlander’s formula ultimately appealed to nutrition-minded customers. Snappy Salads No. 12 just opened in Houston, and as many as five others may open before the end of the year, said Dahlander.
Dahlander’s message to the students, he said, will be that success never comes easy.
“It’s hard work,” he said. “When you realize that there are no excuses, when you accept that success or failure is squarely on your shoulders — that’s when you get it.”