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By Pete Benedetto for Endeavor Detroit
My name is Pete Benedetto and I’ve been a part of the Endeavor Detroit team since the launch of the office in 2015. It has been a privilege to help build this community of entrepreneurs from the ground up. In my role as portfolio manager, I am responsible for facilitating the selection process for our candidates and connecting them with our suite of services once they become Endeavor Entrepreneurs. One of things that drew me to Endeavor was just how global the organization truly is and how the network – staff, entrepreneurs, and mentors included – seamlessly interacts across borders. Having spent a couple years living abroad and working within international organizations focused on entrepreneurship, I have witnessed the power of connecting people and resources across the world.
When I found out about Endeavor’s “sabbatical” program, which gives staff the opportunity to spend a few weeks working within another Endeavor office around the world, I jumped at the chance. Given that we now have offices in 27 countries, there were a number of offices I would have loved to visit, but I asked to be placed somewhere I could make a contribution. As luck would have it, I was placed at one of the offices that was on the top of my list – South Africa. I was also told there was a new portfolio manager joining their team and help was needed in training and onboarding her. It turned out to be an incredibly enriching and fulfilling experience.
Pete Benedetto of Endeavor Detroit leads orientation with panelists at a Local Selection Panel in Johannesburg with Endeavor South Africa.
The goal of the sabbatical program is for staff to experience other markets where Endeavor operates, learn how other offices function, and share best practices. My time in South Africa provided all of this and more. The experience gave me
After returning from my trip, I reflected on my experience and there were three things that struck me most:
1. Traits of an Endeavor Entrepreneur are Universal
In my first week with the Johannesburg office, I went to an introductory meeting with a candidate alongside the team’s new portfolio manager, Lauren. As we prepared for the meeting, I knew I felt comfortable giving an overview of Endeavor, but wasn’t sure how to speak to the local context or if I’d be able to assess a company in that market. When we sat down with the entrepreneur, he began telling us how he had developed a financial management software for municipalities in South Africa. Where others saw a bureaucratic and unreliable customer base, he saw opportunity, and he was capitalizing on it. He talked about his goal of expanding across southern Africa and his desire to mentor other entrepreneurs and share the lessons he’d learned. As soon as we left the meeting, I turned to Lauren and said, “That is an Endeavor Entrepreneur.” The culture and business environment are completely different, but the ambition and pay-it-forward mentality are universal.
2. Commitment to an Ecosystem is Real
While living in Johannesburg, I noticed a number of similarities to Detroit. One example is that each city became what it is today in large part due to a single industry. The Johannesburg economy struggles to reinvent itself after its gold mining boom, while Detroit looks to diversify beyond the auto manufacturing industry that generated its growth. There are signs of revitalization in each place and key parts of these efforts are entrepreneurs and their ventures. These individuals not only seek to create innovative, successful businesses, they are also committed to participating in the rebirth of the cities they live and work in. They purposely eschew the convenience and amenities found in cities like New York, San Francisco and Cape Town in order to provide employment and have an impact in places with greater need. It was striking to hear how much entrepreneurs in Johannesburg sound like entrepreneurs in Detroit when it comes to this decision. It is inspiring to work with individuals who have taken this challenge upon themselves and are driven by a deeper purpose.
3. Endeavor is a Family
For my last night in Johannesburg, the managing director there, Catherine Townshend, invited me over for a small farewell dinner along with Lauren. It was the perfect send off – we spent the evening entertaining her young kids, sharing stories and enjoying some South African wine. At the end of the night, they helped me carry my bags and a small pile of souvenirs to my waiting Uber. We took a couple minutes to say our goodbyes and figure out which city we might meet in next. Finally, I jumped in my Uber and headed off to the airport. The first question out of the driver’s mouth was, “Is that your family?” I smiled to myself and started to explain Endeavor. It is truly a unique organization that makes the world smaller.
While I was in South Africa in a professional capacity, I was able to enjoy the beautiful country. Please enjoy a few of my favorite photos from my travels.
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