D. Keith Pigues is CEO and founder of Luminas Strategy, a consulting firm based in North Carolina’s prestigious Research Triangle Park that provides advice for some of the country’s top companies. Pigues started Luminas Strategy in 2015 after leaving N.C. Central University School of Business, where he was the dean. He is also an author and sought-after speaker. He also has more than 25 years of experience at large and small companies. While at N.C. Central University, he helped start the Summer Youth Business and Entrepreneurship Academy. A resident of Raleigh, N.C., Pigues agreed to share his expertise and experience with Rising Innovator.
Q: What experiences shaped your attitude toward being an entrepreneur?
My dad and two uncles were entrepreneurs [They all created successful businesses but it took trial and error, sacrifice and difficult times.]…I’m a reluctant entrepreneur having that experience…There’s not a whole lot of security in being an entrepreneur. While it’s appealing to a lot of people to be your own boss and own your own business, it requires sacrifice and it requires capital….If you’re going to build a successful business it takes time.
I went to work for big companies – IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Honeywell, RR Donnelley, etc. What I learned in those big companies I think really helped me. I got a broad set of business experiences — fundamental skills and experiences that good business people need. I learned that It takes more than just zeal and zest and a good idea. You have to have fundamental business skills, business experience and know-how….
Q. One of the things you did as dean at N.C. Central University was start a Summer Youth and Business Entrepreneurship Academy for high school students. Obviously, you thought it was important for students to learn entrepreneurship even before they reached the college level. Is it important for young entrepreneurs to have a certain mindset or specific skills – or both?
They go hand-in-hand. It takes both the right mindset and specific skills and know-how. The first thing I want students to understand is that business is all around us. I wanted to teach them to have a keen eye to the business aspects of whatever is going on….
Secondly, we help them to understand that just being aware of that is insufficient. There are very specific things you need to know to launch and operate a business. That’s important. Sometimes young people may think, for example, ‘I know the music industry.’ That doesn’t mean you know the business end of the music industry… If you know it as a consumer, that doesn’t mean you know the industry as someone who produces music and sells music and promotes concerts. …
You can’t understand those things unless you know math and critical thinking, unless you understand economics and finance, unless you understand planning and operations, unless you know a bit about marketing and lot about working with and managing people.
Q. What advice would you give young entrepreneurs?
A: Be creative. Most successful businesses come about by people solving a new problem or solving an old problem in a new way…
The second thing I would say is surround yourself with people who know business. The wisdom and experience of others can help you avoid some of the fundamental pitfalls from not having business acumen or experience.
Thirdly, any business you anticipate will be significant will require capital, you have to know how to raise money and align yourself with others who know how to raise money.
The other thing I would offer is you have to be committed. When someone tells you you’re crazy, you’re probably onto something…You have to have passion to succeed.
The last thing I would say is, if someone wants to become an entrepreneur to get rich, if they think it’s a way to get rich quick, they should choose another option…Making money is not a bad thing, but it is the result of something else. You first have to have a business that is successful, and the way to be successful is to solve a problem that has not been solved or to solve a problem differently and find a way to make money – people have to be willing to pay for your product or service. The entrepreneurs I know who are most successful are those who are passionate about doing that.
Q: What are some hot areas for entrepreneurs to go into?
A: Technology, technology, technology.
This is particularly true for people of color. A very small percentage of young people of color are pursuing careers in technology. To be at the front lines of creating wealth opportunities, you have to be able to bring some 21st Century skills to the table.