FRESH TAKE FRIDAY IS A BI-MONTHLY SERIES SPOTLIGHTING CREATIVES OF COLOR AND THEIR PERSPECTIVES ON CREATIVITY, POSITIVITY AND GETTING SH*T DONE.
I'M EXCITED TO PRESENT TO SOME AND INTRODUCE TO OTHERS SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR DUJON SMITH.
Tell me about your background and when you decided to make the leap into entrepreneurship. Who have been some individuals who have inspired you to launch your startup in the tech and travel space? What have you learned from your career thus far that empowered you to start a company whose purpose is to serve others in more ways than one?
DS: I was born and raised in Evanston, Illinois (E-TOWN STAND UP!) and studied International Business at Pepperdine University. One thing that has remained constant in my life during and after college is the desire to be a social entrepreneur. I am passionate about travel, technology, and education and my dream is to inspire others to expose themselves to new people, places, and cultures. My career spans positions such as Project Manager at an LED Manufacturer in Shanghai, Tax Analyst for Deloitte’s US Corporate Tax Group in London, Casting Associate for Cast Iron Productions in Hollywood, Operations Analyst for Canyon Partners a hedge fund in Beverly Hills, to currently Innovator for Accenture Operations Studio in Chicago. These experiences shaped me into an individual that can deal with fast-moving, uncertain, and unstructured situations. I am happy to say that my analytical abilities, cultural sensitivities, and organizational skills have been strengthened through these positions, previous coursework, and international travel.
There have been three individuals in my life that have inspired me to be an entrepreneur and to pursue my dream. Barry Garapedian, Amy Johnson, and Jack Barnett are three individuals who have planted a seed within different seasons of my life that encouraged me push forward and believe in the strengths that I had to be successful leader and entrepreneur. I learned at Pepperdine that your true vocation in life is where your passion and purpose intersect. All my experiences in life thus far have led me to this moment.
You've recently launched your own smart luggage company, Fernweh, that is now fundraising via Kickstarter. What inspired you to focus strictly on people who travel for business, and how did you decide on the name "Fernweh?" What are a few things you want early adapters to know about the brand? How do you plan on identifying recipients of the scholarships that you will arias through the company's revenue?
DS: Fernweh is a German word which is defined as: wanderlust, a desire to travel, a longing for far-off places. I felt this name truly encompassed the emotions I wanted to invoke in all those who support/will be supported by the brand. I focused primarily on those who travel for business because they travel the most and could benefit from the function and features of the Remote Carry-On. I plan on partnering with organizations like School Year Abroad and CIEE which were two organizations that helped me go on my first educational trips overseas when I was in high school. I wouldn’t be the man I am today if I hadn’t gotten these opportunities. I want to provide that same opportunity, especially to underprivileged youth, like those in Chicago, some who have not been outside of their block.
In a 'perfect' world, what does a day of productivity look like to you? What tools are you using to get sh*t done, and what are major distractions you do you best to avoid?
DS: I wake up every day and look at my goals which I have framed in my room and ask myself, “what can I do today to ensure that my life is better than it was yesterday?” I keep a journal where I write down every goal I want to accomplish that day and scratch them off as I complete them. I put my phone in “Do not disturb” from 8am to 5pm to stay focused. I use extensions on Google Chrome to block social media sites that I don’t need to get my sh*t done. In addition, I have my daily dose of Tidal playlists to keep me grooving while staying focused.
When you find yourself in a rut, (emotionally or creatively) what are some things that you do change your mood? Who (or what) do you turn to for encouragement, and how do you persevere, even when you may want to remain stuck in your feelings?
DS: When I am in a rut, I eat Vegan Chocolate Cake from Blind Faith Café and remember that there will be trials and tribulations in your life but you just have to keep moving forward. I have six friends (Sarah, Alex, Amber, TJ, Saul, and Niko) that I talk to daily or weekly that are always there for me to share ideas and to receive encouragement. They have been a rock for me throughout all my entrepreneurial endeavors and I don’t know what I would do if they weren’t in my inner circle.
How would you describe your 'fresh take' on creativity? What keeps you inspired to develop new ideas and collaborate with other creatives?
DS: I am heavily involved in the creative community in Chicago. I try to surround myself will people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, etc. to keep a fresh look on the world. I plan at least 3-4 trips a year to a new city/country to explore. I have been told that I have an enthusiasm that is contagious. I would say I am upbeat and can get others excited about what I am going to do. I have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites me.