"I think it's important for all entrepreneurs to realize that they not only have a business but they have a life," says Ron Rubin, "and part of life is giving back to others."
Thus, for Rubin, being the "Minister of Tea" is not enough."Rubin makes a living as president and CEO of The Republic of Tea, the leading purveyor of premium teas. "He makes a life out of his passion for entrepreneurship as a teacher, mentor, corporate philanthropist and writer.
Rubin's class at St. Louis University's Jefferson Smurfit Center for Entrepreneurial Studies is one of the most sought-after in the school's MBA program. Management 624 – Selected Topics in Entrepreneurship – builds on a lifetime of experience, from his early involvement in the family wholesale business to his current role at The Republic of Tea.
"I get a lot of attention in my class," says Rubin, "because we teach the real world. Sure, we use a lot of texts and case studies, but what most excites these young entrepreneurs are real world experiences. Letting them see the mistakes we've made and the successes we've had."
For Adjunct Professor Rubin, the payback from teaching is best measured in two words: appreciation and enjoyment. Appreciation from students whose thank you letters fill an entire box. Enjoyment from staying connected to his students, watching them grow their businesses, knowing that he had at least some small role in their success, and contributing to the development of the country's next generation of entrepreneurs.
Global Student Entrepreneur Awards
Rubin's interest in student entrepreneurs goes well beyond the classroom. Rubin serves on the advisory board and as a judge for the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards.
This two-tiered program, which originated at the Smurfit Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, recognizes the entrepreneurial efforts of undergraduate students from sixteen regions, including North America, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand. The first place winner from each of the sixteen regions competes for first-place as the Global Student Entrepreneur and a prize of $10,000.
Rubin compares the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards to the Heisman Trophy in football. "This is the outstanding college undergraduate business entrepreneur," he says.
But Rubin doesn't just give his own time and expertise to the awards. As an advisor to the awards program and an author himself, he found a unique way to contribute that cultivates a culture of entrepreneurship and giving back throughout The Republic of Tea.
In June 2003, St. Louis University announced that The Republic of Tea pledged $50,000 to publish a book featuring the stories of past winners of the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. The stories in the book, entitled Student Entrepreneurs: 14 Undergraduate All-Stars Tell Their Stories, give insights into how these young men and women were able to operate successful businesses while attending college. In many cases, the students had to overcome significant odds to make their businesses thrive. A second book, Beyond the Lemonade Stand released in the fall of 2004, was also funded by The Republic of Tea.
As advertised on the website for the awards at http://www.gsea.org, "The main characters [in the books] are a diverse lot of students from multiple backgrounds and cultures. The plots are varied and the action is fraught with obstacles, perseverance, and triumphs."
In addition to funding the books, The Republic of Tea gives back by providing pro bono public relations assistance to the awards program.
"Our Minister of Enlightenment uses her skills to help this award program flourish and grow," says Rubin, who envisions the award winners of today as the entrepreneurs who will give back tomorrow.
"Twenty years from now," he says, "I see these winners presenting awards to future generations of entrepreneurs. I feel they're going to want to give back to entrepreneurship, just as we're doing today."
Books Build Awareness
So far, Rubin is thrilled with the results of the awards program and related books.
"The program has brought a lot of awareness to these young entrepreneurs, especially in their local regions," he says. "The PR has helped them grow their businesses tremendously. People really look at them as being young entrepreneur business owners. And because of the books, they are now all published authors. The book is also being used by a lot of college professors, as well as in high schools."
Rubin, who describes himself as a Zentrepreneur, or someone who not only creates a business but also a way of life, is no stranger to writing and publishing books himself.
He is the co-author of the Zentrepreneur Guide's series of books (Newmarket Press), including:
- Success At Life: How to Catch and Live Your Dreams
- Dragon Spirit: How To Self-Market Your Dream
- Wowisms: Words of Wisdom For Dreamers And Doers
- Tiger Heart-Tiger Mind: How To Empower Your Dream
Prior to the Republic of Tea, Rubin formed the Mount Vernon, Illinois-based New Age Beverages. The company became the master licensee for Clearly Canadian Sparkling Water in the Southeastern United States.
The beverage business is part of the Rubin lineage. Rubin entered the family wholesale business in his native Mount Vernon upon graduating from the University of California at Davis, where he studied viticulture and enology. At the company 22 years, he managed the distribution of wine, liquor and beer in 48 counties and developed and introduced numerous new lines to the product portfolio.
Now living with his family in Clayton, Missouri, he begins each day with a steaming cup of Republic Darjeeling and the great feeling that he has not only created a successful business, but that he's able to share the knowledge and experience that contributed to his success with others.
© 2006 Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. All rights reserved.
Ron Rubin Minister of Tea Republic of Tea