Sometimes a rise to the top is not a linear line of progression but a winding road of curves and unfortunate dead ends. The saying “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans” is one of the truest statements written. Plans do not always work out in the ways in which we had originally envisioned. Ask anyone who’s achieved great things and they will tell you about the difficulties and setbacks they faced before finding success. For those who proclaim an overnight success story – perhaps, it was the longest night in history?
Business entrepreneur and budding television producer Corey Kareem Roberts, is the first to admit that the path to the greatest success stories can often come with massive failure. Without failure there is no growth or lesson learned. Corey’s story started off by living the dream he had originally imagined: living in New York City, graduating from University, interning for some of the top networks in America (MTV, NBC), and rubbing shoulders with music’s elite at Atlantic Records — Only to find himself back in Canada due to the difficulty of securing a job in the US with a Canadian Student Visa (post-Bush economic catastrophe era).
Corey first tried the 9 to 5 route, working for an HR company where he was paid well but did not feel satisfied with the direction in which his career was going. But, when a dream is placed in your heart it is hard to compromise your desire for capital. Leaving the safety net of his job, he took some time to explore his passions and create a new plan for his life. Realizing that the building blocks of success is simply in persevering, seizing opportunities and creating your own path, Corey took the step to create his own show UYE (Unified Young Entrepreneurs) on Rogers Television.
There is a lot that can be learned from his story. Black Ink Magazine caught up with Corey to find out more about his successful first venture into hosting and producing television, how he manages to stay persistent, and what some of his next moves are.
BIM: Tell us how you got started with Rogers Television?
I started off volunteering for the talk show Daytime Mississauga where I was able to make connections with a lot of the producers within the company. At the same time, I was also doing some freelance work for Tri-Lite TV which is a production company that provides support for sports, news and entertainment events across Canada. Throughout this time I kept seeing a Rogers commercial, that I’m sure everyone’s seen, to pitch a show for the network. I saw it over and over again and decided why not? To be honest I didn’t think I was qualified, but a woman by the name of Theresa Laurico (SociaLIGHT Conference) whose opinion I really respect told me to go for it. She said, “The time is now.” So, I started writing a pitch and treatment for the show that I wanted to create. It was eventually accepted; I shot a pilot and received great feedback. UYE aired this past August 2012.
BIM: What was your inspiration behind creating the concept for UYE?
It came from my own failures. I did everything I was supposed to do right out of university; I graduated from City University of New York – Brooklyn College with a B.A in Communications. Immediately afterwards, I did 4 internships for some very well known companies in the industry – NBC, MTV, Fuse TV and Atlantic Records. But due to timing and being a Canadian living in the States during tough economic times, I was not able to get hired at these companies. So, I moved back to Canada. The experience taught me the importance of timing and creating my own opportunities.
I started UYE as an outlet for myself and to provide a platform for young entrepreneurs who have gone through their own share of ups and downs in chasing their dreams. I wanted a place for them to share their stories and the lessons that they learned along the way.
BIM: In preparing for your own interviews did you look to any media figures for inspiration?
I started watching a lot of CNN for inspiration. I like the level of professionalism that Don Lemon demonstrates in his interviews. Also, he is often criticized and perhaps not the people’s first choice, but I also looked to Pierce Morgan for inspiration. I think he’s not afraid to go there and ask the right questions.
BIM: This is your first time being in front of the camera. Did you find any difficulties in being the host?
Being a host looks a lot easier than it actually is. There is often a producer talking in your ear while at the same time you have to pay attention to what your guest is saying to you. There is a countdown and if you have only one minute left, you have to decide if you are going to wind down and finish the interview or will you ask one last question. You have to have a good judgment of time.
BIM: What are you most proud of about the show?
I’m most proud that it came to fruition. I’m proud of being a person of my word. I did exactly what I said I was going to do. I’m also proud that I was able to keep the integrity of my show. It stayed pretty much the same as what I originally envisioned.
BIM: What do you hope to do with UYE for next season?
Well first of all, I hope that there will be a next season. I need people to show their support and call the station manager at 905.897.3928 to request a second season! But in regards to what I foresee for the show, I simply want the opportunity to give more entrepreneurs their time to shine. My goal for UYE is to create a community of young entrepreneurs and to have more episodes to do this.
BIM: In your Twitter profile you state that persistence is your talent. Has that always been a characteristic of yours?
I’ve always been a persistent person. Since I was young I’ve felt like I had to work twice as hard for the things that I wanted so I’ve never been afraid to put in that work.
BIM: Who are some of your mentors or people that you are inspired by?
My mentor is a business professional by the name of Teddy, who gives such a great perspective on things; he’s a good people person and just knows how to break things down in a way that resonates with me. As far as public figures, I’m inspired by Tony Robbins who is great at teaching you how to control your mind – one of the most challenging things to do. It’s important to learn how to teach your mind to be productive and work for you instead of against you. I also respect Tyler Perry as a business man. He’s able to maintain a humble attitude although he’s achieved great success. He doesn’t talk about his money.
BIM: What are some books that have made a great impact in your life?
The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck just makes sense on every level to me. Also, this may be a cliché choice but Rich Dad Poor Dad definitely opened my mind to a new way of thinking.
BIM: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?
A very prominent business man in Brooklyn once told me this and it really stuck with me, “In life you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.” Basically it means that you should not have an entitled attitude when it comes to getting what you want. You can’t expect for things to be given to you. You have to go out there and get it. Fight for what you want.
Our generation often falls into this entitled attitude. Going to school is not enough anymore. You are fooling yourself if you think having a degree or your Masters is enough. I believe that personal development and having people skills is becoming just as important as formal education. People should take the opportunity to invest in themselves. At the end of the day, if two people apply for a job and have the exact same credentials what’s the deciding factor if you are both qualified? Building relationships, understanding yourself and your goals and all of these personal development and people skills is what is going to help take you to the next level in pursuing your dreams.
BIM: It can often seem like there aren’t too many black Canadian professionals in top positions. If we look to the States, we can create a running list of successful black professionals for any given industry. What’s your take on this?
It could be because of a lack of black leadership in Canada but it can also be a lack of an effective platform to promote black leaders of the community. If your parents are not connected to these professionals or you do not attend any black professional organizations, then you will not know anything about the people who are doing big things in our community. In the States, you do not need to be involved with specific organizations to know. You can simply turn on the television and see Barack Obama or flip open a magazine and see another business leader. In Toronto, you have to actively be involved. I believe that the black community in Canada needs to work on solidarity and supporting each other. If you look to other communities in Canada, they exemplify working together.
BIM: What’s NEXT for you?
Right now I am working on further developing my show and gathering support for it to be picked up for another season. My long term goal is to have my own non-profit organization for preteens 13-18 years old. I want to create an organization that works to invest in their dreams and beliefs as well as offers them perspective. A lot of organizations mainly give money to invest in youth but I want to create something that will focus on providing under-privileged teens the opportunity to travel and gain worldly perspectives on life. I believe this will help them elevate their mind. Travel is the greatest teacher and can do more for someone than just preaching to them or watching a movie.
Connect with Corey on any of his below social media pages. Also, don’t forget to check out his YouTube Channel for episodes of season 1 and to find out how you can request a second season.