Randal's Trump card


“I was a geeky kid. But Bill Gates was a geeky kid too.” Randal Pinkett, season four winner of Donald Trump’s business-savvy reality show The Apprentice, shared some personal stories and professional tips at the U of C Bookstore Tuesday afternoon as part of a national tour promoting his book, Campus CEO (Kaplan Publishing, 2007). Nestled in the store’s business, finance, and marketing section, about 20 fans gathered to hear Pinkett’s talk and get their copies of Campus CEO signed, many hoping to learn a few tricks of the entrepreneurial trade.

On December 13, 2005, Pinkett heard the words that 17 other Apprentice wannabes—all vying for the chance to work for real-estate mogul Donald Trump—had hoped to hear: “You’re hired.” (He beat Rebecca Jarvis, AB’03, in the final round.) After working for a year overseeing the renovation of Trump resorts in Atlantic City, he returned to his love: an information-technology consulting firm (BCT Partners) that he cofounded while an undergraduate at Rutgers. He continues to consult a few hours a week for Trump University, an online program for future entrepreneurs, and also manages a “Young Apprentice program for young people in Philly,” he said. Because of his experience on The Apprentice, Pinkett explained, he has been able to develop a career that combines his three passions—technology, education, and community.

Before the show, Pinkett had been a professional student; after receiving his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, he went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and later received a PhD from MIT. Throughout school he participated in business ventures, from selling CDs out of his dorm room to IT consulting. “Students have a unique lens into the marketplace,” he said, then shot off a list of business started by students: Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Federal Express, Kinko’s, and Pizza Hut.

Responding to a second-year graduate student asking about starting her own nonprofit organization, he explained, “You don’t have to do everything.” Using lessons he’s learned from his own start-up experience, he advised that each business partner should learn one thing, be it finance, marketing, sales, or accounting, and know it well. “Don’t just be good,” he urged. “Be great.”

Ruthie Kott

Photo: Pinkett signs copies of his new book at the U of C Bookstore.

April 4, 2007