How His Parents Inspired Him to Success in Business and Politics
Each year, The Doris and Dr. Ira Kukin Entrepreneurial and Executive Lecture Series invites a roster of business leaders, entrepreneurs, trailblazers and innovators to visit the Sy Syms School of Business where students have the chance to hear from and dialogue with some of today’s influential leaders.
On Friday, March 3, 2019, New York City Council Member Mark Gjonaj met students in the Sky Cafe to talk about the virtues of small business entrepreneurship and the lessons he has learned from the life he has lived. Gjonaj represents the 13th Council District in the Bronx (which includes the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology). Prior to joining the Council in 2017, he served as New York State Assembly Member for the 80th District from 2012 to 2017. He has also worked as the Bronx Commissioner of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission and is the former CEO of M.P. Realty Group.
In his talk, he touched upon aspects of his life that defined who he was as a person, a politician and an entrepreneur. First and foremost was the influence of his parents, whom he credited with giving him “the foundation to excel and prosper.” Immigrants from Albania, they worked hard all their lives, starting as factory workers and later owning and managing real estate. “I always desired and aspired to be more than what I was,” he noted, “and I thank my parents for giving that to me.”
His parents’ moral support and his drive to excel “is what convinced me to go into politics because it is only possible to make changes to the system from the inside.” As chair of the Council’s Small Business Committee, he wants to improve the long-term viability of small businesses, especially those he calls “microbusinesses,” the mom-and-pop stores that “are vital to the success of New York City” and the country as a whole. His goal is to be “a voice for the backbone of the country,” working to reduce what he believes are excessive regulations that make it difficult for these businesses to remain competitive.
For Debra Pine, assistant administrative dean at Sy Syms and coordinator for the lecture series, “having eminent business leaders and entrepreneurs share their insights about current issues and challenges in business, entrepreneurship, leadership, their industry and their organizations gives the students crucial information about how to envision their own futures as business people and ethical leaders.”
The next Kukin Lecture will be given on Wednesday, March 27, 2019, by Len Rosen, CEO of Barclays Israel.