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Attend the Live Interview with Global Strategist James Vena and Social Entrepreneur Coach AK this Friday at 5PM EST on “Do You Have What It Takes To Be An Entrepreneur”


Written By Dana Anderson

jamesHow do you define the word entrepreneur? Often, we try to pin down this elusive concept with clichés: she’s a “go-getter;” he’s a “risk-taker”; they’re “innovative” and “dynamic” and “far-seeing.” Entrepreneurs learn from failure, and they don’t accept no for an answer. Entrepreneurs forge their own paths.

James Vena is an entrepreneur. He is not, however, a cliché.

In his youth, Vena did in fact open the customary “all-entrepreneurs-do-it” lemonade stand, but as an 8th grader, he also ran a clandestine casino in the lunchroom at school. The idea came to him after his parents returned with souvenirs from a trip to Vegas, and while Vena was reprimanded for that particular endeavor, he has since gone on to become a leading international strategist with a portfolio of successful ventures. From his first official leadership role in an international trading company, to founding and spearheading multiple global trading platforms, Vena’s expertise spans a plethora of clients, countries and unique stories about the life of a deeply passionate innovator.

partnerships empower 2 play james vena livitlive

Vena insists that his entrepreneurial spirit was an inevitable development. He suggests that individuals cannot learn to be innovative, but rather, innovation is something that entrepreneurs live and breathe; “it’s in their DNA.”  At the same time, Vena emphasizes the crucial role of a particular mentor in honing his leadership potential. When Vena was in his early twenties, Sidney H. Scheuer, founder of a million-dollar international business, chief advisor to Eleanor Roosevelt, and chairman of the National Committee for an Effective Congress, saw the latent potential in this young man.

“Entrepreneurship is in their DNA.”

Scheuer encouraged Vena to play a crucial role in developing the Asian sector of a substantial trading business in China, rather than pursuing a more traditional path of becoming a lawyer. It’s clear that Vena is deeply appreciative of the faith his mentor placed in him at such a young age. “It was not only my accomplishments. It was my mentor. This is very important, especially for organizations such as Empower 2 Play. It proves that you do need a mentor and that it’s not just about money; when Sidney became my mentor he taught me a lot of things.”

Yet it is the next part of the story that Vena emphasizes. His mentor, upon seeing Vena’s success in breaking ground in Asia, asked him to leave the company. After experiencing such fast-paced, high-flying achievements at such a young age, Vena could easily have settled into a comfortable routine. However, Sidney taught him that standing still would be a waste of his talents, and that he would need to fly on his own to achieve his full potential. The lesson stayed with Vena throughout the years and stands as a key motivation behind his own efforts to support mentorship and leadership development initiatives for young people.

believe in children

Many years and successful ventures later, Vena is certainly qualified to be a mentor for entrepreneurialism. He insists that it is not his successful ventures that make him an entrepreneur. Rather, it is an inherent quality and way of seeing that have been honed and developed through the years. According to Vena, the common words often drawn upon to describe an entrepreneur are less important than the real, tangible actions taken by that individual. These are the “thought leaders” who not only see the world differently, but who also have the courage and tenacity to act upon their visions.

With this perspective in mind, Vena has much to offer in the way of advice for those looking to be successful in life, whether as business leaders or global changemakers. One primary idea shapes his advice. This is the concept of “intellectual humility.” Vena says, “Intellectual humility is the ability to know what you don’t know, and more importantly, the ability to understand that everybody you meet can teach you something that you didn’t know today, even if it is just about that type of person.” When we become better listeners and better observers, we stand a greater chance of tapping into our own potential, Vena suggests.

It is for this reason that Vena believes the next important trend in innovation will involve human interaction, face-to-face contact, and collaboration. “All of us have the ability to make the person’s life next to them better,” he says. “The more you pay attention to the human condition, the better off you will be as an innovator and as a success mongerer.”

To hear more about Vena’s perspectives on success, entrepreneurialism and the next big things in innovation, be sure to tune in to the Impact Today podcast this Friday at 5PM EST. You can also visit Vena’s blog for additional insights. REGISTER

“When you find something you love, you never work a day in your life.”

larry franck impact todayMaking an impact comes in several shapes and sizes. All of which are moving communities and the world in a positive direction. We usually see giving back in the forms of donating money, volunteering at food kitchens or maybe even providing clothing to needy families.

One person in particular though is using his gift of numbers to move the world peace “needle” in a positive direction. Larry Franck, Accountant and Treasurer at Empower2Play, has been using his passion for numbers to make an impact on businesses for the past 20 years.

A diehard baseball fan, Larry has always been a family man devoted to helping others and building strong relationships. Starting as a youngster playing year-round baseball with his three brothers to building comrade with the 82nd Airborne Division in the Army, Larry learned compassion for others from watching his father provide clothing, food, and supplies to individuals and family in need.

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kelly peeler impact todayLet’s face it— paying for college is not easy. That is why Kelly Peeler created NextGenVest, a life-changing service to many high schoolers in the world. $2.7 billion in free federal aid are unclaimed every year and Kelly is changing the world by making her service available to anyone across their online digital financial literacy platform.Kelly has already been very successful with her career before NextGenVest. As the Varsity Captain for Harvard’s Water Polo team, she gained strong multitasking skills and the ability to perform under high pressure, which is crucial for developing a company. Paired not only with her talent, Kelly is also passionate about helping and inspiring students achieve their full potential. Her proudest moments are when their students tell their friends that NGV has helped them. From helping them daily, NextGenVest is able to greatly affect student lives.During her webinar, Kelly will discuss financial planning for students and how it changes people’s lives. This will be an amazing chance for students and adults alike!


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selim nurudeen impact todaySelim Nurudeen competed at the Olympics. He built a successful web design company from the ground up. In fact, Selim Nurudeen cultivated an incredible standard of excellence to live by; a standard that he hopes will inspire future athletes and entrepreneurs to achieve their best

Nurudeen, a two-time Olympian for Nigeria, competed as a semi-finalist in both Beijing in 2008 and  London in 2012. From a young age, Nurudeen was an avid track and field enthusiast. His goal: To constantly and consistently become a better runner. Selim describes track and field as a sport where “everything is measured up to the hundredth of a second.” This precise nature of the sport suited his inner perfectionist, which has always motivated him to beat his old time and fight for improvements on every turn. Track and field became a place for Selim to set goals and fight for them. This inner passion motivates Selim’s goals both on and off the track, where he continues to pursue a level of excellence in his running.

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