Former ‘Apprentice’ contestant discusses business, book

At 35-years-old, Randal Pinkett has earned five degrees, co-founded a multi-million dollar consulting firm and become the first and only African-American to win Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” on NBC.

Pinkett visited the University of Miami Friday to speak about his success at the School of Communication courtyard as part of a tour for his book “Campus CEO.”

“Out of curiosity, how many people saw my season of ‘The Apprentice’?” Pinkett asked the audience, referring to the fourth season of the television show that has made him a reality television star.

Pinkett’s reward for winning the show, a contest between successful entrepreneurs and professionals to determine the strongest business leader, was a job with The Trump Organization and a six-figure salary. He now does consulting for The Trump Organization a few hours a week on a variety of special projects.

Pinkett was quick to point out that his career as a businessman began long before becoming a Trump insider. Though he sold lemonade as a child, Pinkett said his aspirations as an entrepreneur grew while he studied engineering at Rutgers University.

“It was my sophomore year when a young man on campus at Rutgers opened up his own business selling T-shirts,” he said. “I thought to myself, ‘I’ve always been doing something entrepreneurial, if Wayne can do it, why can’t I do it?'”

That summer Pinkett started a compact disc store with two of his roommates in their college dormitory.

“It was my first foray into being a full-fledged business owner,” he said. “I was like, ‘This is not that hard, it’s not as difficult as I thought it was going to be,’ and I was actually able to offset the cost of my education. That set me on a path from that point forward where I’ve never worked for anybody else, except for Donald Trump, in my entire life.”

After graduating with a 3.9 grade point average, Pinkett attended the University of Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, and later earned three degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He ran three companies while in graduate school, noting that his share of failures includes all but one of those companies. That business, an information technology consulting company, is now a multi-million dollar firm where he serves as chairman and CEO.

Pinkett engaged in conversations with the audience during his speech, at one point asking attendees to talk about their businesses.

“There is a growing list of companies that are quite successful that were started when their founders were in school,” he said, citing Microsoft, Dell Computers, Google, Yahoo, Pizza Hut, Subway, Federal Express, Kinko’s, Facebook, Napster and YouTube.

Pinkett said that he wrote “Campus CEO,” copies of which the UM Bookstore sold during the speech, to give students the tools they need to get their business ideas off the ground and realize their potential as entrepreneurs:

“The message that I’m looking to bring through ‘Campus CEO: The Student Entrepreneur’s Guide to Launching a Multimillion Dollar Business,’ is that you don’t have to wait until you graduate or until you’ve got a job or you’re working full time if you want to start a business.”