Campus & Community

A strong skill set, grit and optimism are key to entrepreneurship, says GaryVee during PBSC’s STEAM Luncheon

One of the leading global minds on innovation and technology Gary Vaynerchuk, or “GaryVee” as he is known to his 44 million social media followers, spoke to a crowd of more than 500 as the keynote speaker at Palm Beach State College’s Yvonne S. Boice STEAM Luncheon presented by Bank of America on Tuesday, April 16, at the Kravis Center for Performing Arts Cohen Pavilion in West Palm Beach.

The annual luncheon honored the philanthropic legacy of the College’s late friend, STEAM chair and respected pillar in the community Yvonne S. Boice, who passed away last year. During the conversational style talk, moderated by Joshua Esnard, entrepreneur and CEO of The Cut Buddy, serial entrepreneur Vaynerchuk spoke about entrepreneurship as his great passion and joy, what he would teach students today, how people can learn grit, what’s wrong with modern parenting, how to stay motivated in business and how artificial intelligence is going to change the future.

Before Vaynerchuk was welcomed on stage, a special portrait of Boice made entirely out of skittles was unveiled by Florida-based artist Harold Claudio. The portrait, which was Claudio’s first portrait of a white person, was a tribute to Boice’s legacy of philanthropy and encouragement to those of all colors and backgrounds.

Some of Vaynerchuk’s opening remarks centered around what he would teach students if he were the dean of PBCS’s entrepreneurship program.

“I would focus on the clear opportunities of the next decade and create a curriculum on things like prompt engineering because that is going to be the skill set that will make people know how to use AI properly for an outcome,” said Vaynerchuk, chairman of VaynerX, CEO of VaynerMedia, and creator and CEO of VeeFriends. His students, he says, would also probably never be in the classroom. “Nothing is happening in there in entrepreneurship, which is like working out. You can’t read about push-ups.”

Instead, he would have his students out selling. “If you can’t sell, you might as well get some other gig,” said Vaynerchuk, who noted people tend to think entrepreneurship is a thing and not a skill set. He also said that working in retail stores, restaurants or the hospitality industry provides great opportunities for everyone if they truly care about entrepreneurship.

“True interaction with humans of all different shapes and sizes and income levels and interests is the only way you’re going to figure this out. Having that ability to reverse engineer and counterpunch every situation is skill set that you need to refine. If you are not consumer-centric, you will lose.”

From left: President Ava L. Parker, J.D., CEO for the Foundation for PBSC David Rutherford and artist Harold Claudio unveiling Claudio’s portrait of Yvonne Boice.

Esnard, who won a deal on ABC’s Shark Tank with his Cut Buddy invention, then asked Vaynerchuk if it was in these types of settings that students could also learn grit or if they must have it already.

“Grit is teachable because it’s circumstantial. You can’t have grit if mommy and daddy give you money. Modern parenting is creating zoo animals. We overcoddle and have eliminated merit. Our society, although well-intended, decided to invent crazy stuff like eighth-place trophies. This is a remarkable place, but we must also acknowledge that we’ve had a level of prosperity for so long that we’ve gotten soft.”

Vaynerchuk also went on to explain that there is no such thing as an easy start-up business and that the second people want something fast is the second that something becomes vulnerable. “Speed is the enemy for so many right now. Entrepreneurship is losing constantly with an occasional win, and I think the biggest reason that we will struggle with entrepreneurship in the next generation is back to grit.” Another roadblock to success is that too many people want to be someone else like Claudio. “Self-awareness is so important,” said Vaynerchuk.

“If you were not born with his talent and put in the number of hours he has, it’s very unlikely that you will be a remarkably successful artist like him within 12 months,” said Vaynerchuk. “Some people have entrepreneur tendencies but are not a pure-bred entrepreneurs.”

Vaynerchuk, however, is one of these pure-bred businessmen. Even though he has accomplished a lot professionally and personally, at 48 years old he says he is still “hungry as hell.” “The fire I have in my stomach, it’s crazy. Our society has fallen in love with trophies, but I love the game.” Born in the Soviet Union, Vaynerchuk says it was the most opposite place of his entrepreneurial DNA and that he had no tolerance for school in the 80s.

“I just got D’s and F’s. You know how hard it is to get D’s and F’s in school. I’ve come to learn it’s really hard. Like even people that do nothing get C’s. But that was because I was 100% committed to who I was when I was in class as a 10-year-old. I couldn’t listen to Saturn and Neptune because that wasn’t me.”

Esnard also asked Vaynerchuk how entrepreneurs can stay motivated in their journeys when others don’t believe in their vision.

“Pretty damn easy. If you’re an athlete on the field, why the hell are you listening to people in the stands eating popcorn? I have no tolerance for friends and family members who have opinions from the sidelines. This ties into what Vaynerchuk says prevents people from finding satisfaction. “The number one reason people struggle with happiness in life is they put someone else’s opinion over their own feelings.”

As for the future, Vaynerchuk says artificial intelligence will be the most powerful technology in the history of mankind. He says that deep fake videos are on the rise and that within a decade people will not believe a single video they see on the internet. He says AI will take jobs but create new jobs and that we should embrace it and learn how to use it. “Technology is undefeated. It’s always going to come for you. And so, I ask people to be prepared for it. Things change and that creates more work, and I get it, but it’s not going away.”

Toward the end of the talk, Vaynerchuk encouraged people to stay optimistic and said his mother, who experienced many hardships in life, was the most optimistic, happy person on Earth and instilled that in him.

“In life, you find what you’re looking for. If you decide to sit here today and be cynical and pessimistic about the world and everything that’s going on, I have good news, you can find it. However, here’s the part that I don’t think people believe. If you are optimistic and hopeful and seek joy, you can find unlimited amounts.”

Also in attendance was Vice President of Institutional Advancement and CEO of The Foundation for Palm Beach State College David Rutherford who introduced PBSC’s District Board of Trustees, elected officials, event sponsors, Foundation board members and students present.

Also paying tribute to Boice during the event was PBSC President Ava L. Parker, J.D., who noted how pleased Boice would be that the College was continuing this event after a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She also spoke about PBSC’s entrepreneurship program.

“We have an amazing entrepreneurship program, and I’m proud to be a part of an institution that provides this transformative experience for students who just want to do it their own way. It not only improves their quality of life but makes a difference in our community,” said Parker, who noted that more than 75% of PBSC’s graduates want to stay in Palm Beach County after graduation.

At the start of the luncheon, Parker and Rutherford also presented Jermya Adams, 23, a certified nursing assistant, with a full scholarship to PBSC for $25,000 in a surprise announcement. Adams was selected after she saved the life of a local toddler. On April 10, Adams was suddenly awoken by a neighbor’s desperate cries for help. Her neighbor’s 22-month-old son had wandered outside and fell into a nearby lake. Although the mother was able to pull the boy out, he was not breathing. Adams quickly performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and thanks to her quick response, the boy is expected to make a full recovery.

The STEAM luncheon aims to increase scholarships, business partnerships and internship opportunities to support students pursuing science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics fields. Other sponsors of the event were the Palm Beach Post as the media sponsor and the South Florida Tech Hub as the marketing sponsor. For more information, visit

To see photos from the luncheon, please click on the image below.


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