Andrew Nguyen is a serial entrepreneur, MBA graduate from Hampton University, and proud brother of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. who has set out on a mission to create the most diverse and respected group of millennial business leaders, owners, and entrepreneurs in the world. The 27-year-old CEO recently wrapped up his Build Your Own Brand Tour (via @BYOBSociety) across America which brought together some extremely successful athletes, brands, and business owners together to give back through workshops.
We at Watch The Yard love the work this brother is doing so we got ahold of him to ask him more about his background, inspiration, goals and of course his beloved alma mater and fraternity.
So first tell us why you came up with the idea for the tour?
Honestly, it was extremely random. The idea for the tour literally came up less than 1-2 months before we started. From idea phase to execution, it was all planned, booked, and implemented in less than 60 days. As an entrepreneur, I’ve had the privilege of teaching and speaking to lots of audiences. In one particular group on a Tuesday night session, I realized that we had a lot of young and hungry millennials from all around the country. From there it sparked the idea to conduct a live workshop/event because I wanted to physically see and connect with people, in real life! I think there is so much value especially in today’s digital landscape that online interactions get extremely saturated. So instead of truly connecting with people, we have tons of surface level relationships. A lot of people who know you, but less who care. There are deeper connections, possibilities, and potential when physically talking and working with someone face to face. Everything we’ve done from the panelists we invited to the networking game (which we have a strict no business card rule) helped with the “awkward interactions” that people tend to go through when networking. We gave everyone BYOB styrofoam cups and connected people based on their strengths and weaknesses. We even told people who they should talk to! So it was extremely interactive, fun, and resourceful. You didn’t leave with 5-10 business cards that will never see daylight again, you left with 2-3 connects that can actually form a mutually beneficial relationship.
This is the first time you’ve done a tour like this and there were some pretty big names and multiple cities. How did you pull this off?
I would be lying if I said I didn’t have one of the biggest support groups within my Hampton family. Literally attending HU has changed my life for the better and our support for each other in my opinion is unmatchable. Truly a family #plug #plug #plug. lol We rented a car, took a team of 4 (3 of whom graduates of Hampton U) and for the next 30 days drove 7,500+ miles starting from Atlanta, to Charlotte, DC, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Dallas, and finally Los Angeles. We had upwards of 100-200 guests in each city and brought out some good friends of ours as speakers for example, Pro-Bowl Quarterback -Tyrod Taylor (@tytaylor), Jim Jones Fitness Trainer – Darrell Paterson (@iamtherealdp), Founder of @BossBabes.Inc – Alex Wolf (@alexwolfco) and a slew of other 6-7 figure millennial business owners who are relatable and have real knowledge to share. The relationships with everyone comes from a genuine place of helping each other. Whether it’s through my current marketing agency @theOagency as a client or through a mutual interest in moving the culture and millennials forward, that’s where brand partnerships make the most sense. We talk about vibe and peace a lot, nothing is forced, if it makes sense it happens not for my benefit, but for the benefit of all parties involved, ALWAYS.
You’re the CEO of the O Agency and you are only 27, why did you decide to start your own company?
Very few people know my story, when I was at Hampton I used to sleep in my car, snuck into dorm rooms to shower, bartered with the cafeteria ladies in order to eat because I didn’t have any money! My parents left me, didn’t support my decision to stay at HU and for me that was my rock bottom at age 18. For some reason though, I knew this was the right place for me and I felt like there was so much potential here. When I want something, I go after it and put everything on the line for it. I even went down to bootcamp to try and get some money for school. I guess it was the right decision because I started 3 businesses at Hampton, on-demand barbering, DJ’ing, and event planning. My life kept going up and it was a direct correlation with my belief, to bet on myself and do whatever is necessary to succeed or stay alive at that point. I ended up graduating from the 5-Year MBA program at HU, took a fortune 500 job to learn the in’s and out’s of corporate America and within one year left to pursue what I love to do most throughout everything I’ve done in the past, and that was Branding & Marketing. I don’t know if this is a started-from-the bottom story or not, but I didn’t grow up privileged, I am first generational for many things like other minorities, my parents are immigrants that didn’t even know the English language when they got here. If anything I started my own company and continue to achieve more because I would love to inspire and show people how to do it also. Show people you can start with $50 in your bank account and this is EXACTLY how you should build year after year after year. I didn’t read this out of a book, everything I’ve learned has been through real life experiences and there is information you will never get until you go through it yourself. Ultimately, that is the goal of our latest venture at www.byobsociety.com, It’s about giving back and truly helping millennials who are lost or need real access and real knowledge on adulting, corporate leadership, and business ownership. This isn’t about money for us, this is about IMPACT. This is why I enjoy starting companies.
You’re a brother of Alpha Phi Alpha, what made you gravitate to the fraternity?
They say you are the company the keep. Most people gravitate towards their role models, towards the qualities they want in life and to be around like minded individuals. Without repeating the general info, that’s what it comes down to, short term and long term when I decided to become a brother of the fraternity. It is the greatest bond of leaders that I truly believed in.
What is this biggest thing you have learned from the fraternity?
Personally, I’ve learned to support and to lean on when necessary. At the end of the day we’re all trying to figure it out, and as self-made as many can claim to be we all need each other. It’s the essence of any community, to understand, connect, and gain valuable perspective from each other is why I am successful today. Every person, every peer, every brother I’ve connected with makes me who I am.
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