Students visited Venn Arts with Jonathan Hecht '04, dev.to with Peter Frank '12, and ZMC with Strauss Zelnick '79. Reflections are written by Dmytro Babachanakh '20, Jessica Chen '20, Abhishek Fakiraswamimath '20, and Kofi Ofori-Darko '20. (Picture above is at Venn Arts with Jonathan Hecht.)
I have always been interested in startups and wanting to know more about the startup culture in the United States. I really glad that I came on this trip and visited three Wesleyan alumni who have very different personal charisma, and whose companies are very different in styles and scales.
I learned many great things today, but if I have to pick one thing that stands out to me, I want to pick “honesty”, which is a quality I saw on all three founders. I recognized long ago that being honest with myself about my interests, hobbies, my strengths and my weakness was not the easiest thing in the world since doing so cost constant pain and doubts about my own identity and values. However, I think this is the fastest way to grow as a person, and I was able to learn so much both inwardly and outwardly due to this approach. I was happy to find out that there are other people, people who are more experienced and successful than I, are pushing themselves even harder to stay honest. I was very grateful of being reminded by them today.
Most of all, I enjoyed a visit to ZMC. That is because I found Mr. Zelnick to be the most straightforward person we visited. The insights we gained during the trip largely depended on the information provided by the speakers and his way of answering questions was precise and apt. Moreover, the last visit spoke to me in terms of my self-development goals. Throughout his story, Mr. Zelnick demonstrated very high work ethics and I think there is a lot Wesleyan students can learn from his story. On a separate note, I also enjoyed the third visit since the company was involved with entertainment which is of interest to me. I found it curious that one does not have to be professionally trained in the sphere in order to enter it. My biggest takeaway from the trip was that it doesn’t matter what major you have, because it doesn’t really impact your area of employment.
It was a great day in NYC when we visited three Wesleyan alumni to learn from their successes and failures. Our first visit was to Mr.Jonathan Hecht's office, a man who has enormous work experience in the music industry. He started off as a Media strategist and then became a sole manager for music licensing at Sony, Music Supervisor and Commercial licensing and then went on to found his own company Venn Arts, which unties creative storytelling teams with memorable songs. He spoke about how to leverage the connections that we make, how one should never give up because failures teach you greater lessons than successes. He also gave us tips about how to overcome the challenges we face when we meet obnoxious colleagues who are willing to do anything to compete with you.
The second person we visited was Mr.Peter Frank, who was the youngest among the three. He sold a company he made at Wesleyan for six figures in his senior year, which was very impressive to me. He was very insightful and gave us very valuable tips on how to find a job after college and how to find funding for your own business if you're starting one. He also went about telling us his journey as an entrepreneur and what went wrong in the businesses he failed in, which was very helpful. He went on to give us valuable insight about the process of looking for a job and working for oneself and starting your own venture.
Even though he was the oldest among the three, I could see the fire in his heart and his enthusiasm for what he does was ginormous. He was a very honest man who started off talking about his journey at Wesleyan - how his zeal to succeed and work hard was so strong and he kept up with it. He spoke about how he was exposed to many different people with different backgrounds and different ideologies. He also mentioned that he spent a lot of time in the stacks in the Wesleyan library, working hard, studying for classes. He was very open about his thoughts and ambitions and did not let us down by giving us empty advice, but rather gave us practical solutions to our potential problems and what me might face in the future and how me might overcome it. He spoke about his passion for entertainment and he went on to become the President of two companies, and later starting his own highly successful billion dollar business. All in all, it was a wonderful and inspirational trip which I shall never forget.
At first, I viewed this trip as a simple networking opportunity for potential internships. Yes, it was great to meet these alumni, but it was even better to tap into their heads and see what drives them. I would love to work for any of the three alumni that we met but gaining insight on how they view business is even better.
This trip was extremely mentally stimulating. It got me thinking about my post-Wesleyan plans even more. Mr. Zelnick got me thinking about my graduate study plans. I have always been more interested in careers in finance and management consulting, and he made me think if medical school truly has a place in that picture. Also talking to Peter and Ben about WesGO brought up some ideas and challenges that I had never previously thought about. I have come back to campus more empowered to attack these problems.
My favorite visit was with Jonathan Hecht at Venn Arts. His idea of starting a business seemed the most organic, and viable, of all of the businesses we visited. He saw a problem in the music industry, realized how his skill set made him suitable to solve that problem and set out to solve it. If there is somebody I could see myself getting extremely involved in the work that they are doing, it would be Jonathan's. He has leveraged his experience in a complex industry and is working to create viable solutions for his clients and artists. His work is also extremely interesting due to the little thought that most would put into it. When you hear an advertisement, you don't immediately recognize how much work has to go into licensing the music in it. Jonathan realized there was an opportunity for him to make a living through that important work, and jumped on the opportunity to do so.