Two students charged at the stage, with one choosing to take the stairs and the other deciding to just jump on stage from the audience floor. The latter student got the $10, proving a point Simmons was making.
“If you want something, you have to just take it,” Simmons said. “There are all kinds of opportunities out there, just waiting to be had. It’s never been easier to be an entrepreneur, and it gets easier every day.”
Simmons is an entrepreneur, best-selling author and CEO and co-founder of Empact, a New Jersey-based company that creates a culture of entrepreneurship in communities through exposure, celebration and support in the early stages.
The 31-year-old spoke as part of the Richards College of Business’s BB&T Lectures in Free Enterprise series, being introduced by John McDaniel, a senior vice president with the banking company.
Dr. Faye S. McIntyre, dean of the Richards College of Business, said the college was pleased to bring such a well-established author to the university.
“We are lucky to have him join us, and we cannot wait to hear what he has to share,” McIntyre said.
Simmons is the author of “The Student Success Manifesto,” a blueprint for planning, prioritizing and pursuing business visions.
Simmons, now a father of two, started his first business — a website development company — with a friend when they were teenagers.
“I just want to share the power of entrepreneurships and the challenges that come with them,” Simmons said. “Because I believe they are one of the best vehicles to create both wealth and a fulfilling career in which you realize your vision.”
Simmons said he was a strong believer in how adversity shapes how successful a person can become.
“Failure doesn’t exist,” Simmons said. “The best experiences in life are probably when you hit rock bottom and come to appreciate what you had. It’s hard, when things are going well, to look in the mirror and make changes.”
Along with the rewards of starting a business Simmons outlined — personal wealth, freedom and an impact on the world — he also highlighted some of the challenges and obstacles one must overcome to be an entrepreneur.
“The biggest problem people have is that they get things started but don’t keep them going,” the speaker said. “It’s all about taking action and going beyond your comfort zone and the fears you have.”
Those fears are something the author tried to break near the beginning of the lecture, when he asked the crowd to high-five as many people as possible in one minute. Most students roamed the aisles, looking for an open hand. Some, however, kept to themselves, only high-fiving those who initiated the interaction.
For those less willing, Simmons had a lesson.
“I believe emotional insecurities are the number one things that stop people from being entrepreneurial, not technical knowledge,” Simmons said. “I had a mentor tell me once that you can either be cool and poor or rich and corny. And being corny is all about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and finding new things to excel at.”
Simmons, along with wife Sheena Lindahl, founded Extreme Entrepreneurship Education while attending New York University in 2003. The pair were named among BusinessWeek’s “Best Entrepreneurs Under 25” in 2006. The couple are the co-founders of Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour, a collegiate tour bringing America’s top young entrepreneurs to college campus for a half-day conference to spread their mindset.
Simmons graduated in 2005 from the Stern School of Business at NYU and has since been profiled by USA Today, America Online, CBS News, NBC News and ABC News.
The entrepreneur co-founded his first business — Princeton WebSolutions — when he was 16. The company was later rated the No. 1 youth-run web development company in the nation by Youngbiz Magazine.