“To be an entrepreneur means you can take your ideas and, with a vision and hard work, you can make a difference.” Les Meszaros
Since the very first settlers arrived to this country, America has always been a land of opportunities, a place where the most humble immigrants could become successful beyond their wildest dreams by sheer determination and hard work.
There is no shortage of these stories, but at this point in our nation’s history maybe no story is more significant than that of Laszlo J. Meszaros (who briefs his name as “Les”) and the work he is doing to promote young entrepreneurs in this country and his native Hungary with an organization called Meszaros International Center of Entrepreneurship, or abbreviated as MICE. It’s a business mentoring program that helps young high- school students develop ethical entrepreneurial skills. And even though it’s only been in operation in the United States since 2007, his organization is already creating a new wave of young entrepreneurs in this country at a time when they’re desperately needed. With a steep downturn in the world economy and a generation who has become accustomed to taking the easiest route when it comes to choices, the principles taught by Les Meszaros are needed in America now more than ever.
A good example of the results of the program at MICE is the work of St. Francis High School student Peter Calabrese Smith, who always wanted to be an entrepreneur. He had watched his parents operate successful businesses and saw firsthand the benefits of hard work. Coupled with his desire to make his mark on the world, Peter signed up to participate in the Entrepreneurship Training Program. After the 20 weeks of training with MICE he now has the necessary skills needed to start and operate a successful business.
“The MICE Entrepreneurship Training Program has showed me the steps to becoming an entrepreneur. I know that I was born with an entrepreneurial spirit, but I needed training to translate my energy into a workable business model” says Calabrese Smith. “Thanks to the program, I now know how to approach investors and to write a business plan.” Calabrese Smith has put his new training into action by creating his own E-Bay Musical Instrument business and he knows that there is plenty of opportunity for growth.
Other great student testimonials can be watched in the following MICE videos:
These live and unscripted testimonials truly touch the heart and souls of all of us understanding how these young, talented people have gained a meaning to their lives through MICE thanks to the brilliant thinker who founded it.
The MICE foundation would not exist without the youthful bravery and steely determination of its founder, Les Meszaros. His story really begins when, as a teenager living in communist Hungary, he risked his life for the freedom and opportunities in the post-war Western World. Deciding to escape the harsh regime, Meszaros and a friend braved the barbed wire fences and machine gun towers to cross the border into Austria, where he found a job and eventually, through the sponsorship of Catholic Charities, came to the United States.
He arrived in the United States on October 23, 1956, the day of the Hungarian revolution broke out, with a single dollar to his name. As his ship pulled into New York harbor, young Meszaros was stunned to hear his name being paged, and he was called up on deck where he was met by a group of photographers and had his picture taken under an American flag and holding a newspaper. The breaking news in the headline told the story of the Hungarian revolution, and young Meszaros had suddenly become a symbol of the quest for freedom in America.
With further help from Catholic charities and the local Hungarian community, Meszaros, who didn’t speak a word of English, was offered a job in Buffalo, NY, where he worked sweeping floors and washing dishes, did hard labor work at places like Bethlehem Steel and J H Williams corp. painted houses etc. before gaining employment at Roswell Park Cancer Institute taking care of research animals. He eventually became an influential experimental surgeon in the department despite his lack of training and formal education. “I had good hands, good perception and learned quickly which resulted doing things like kidney transplants in monkeys and dogs, and doing it just as well if not better than some of the physicians,” he says. “I really wanted to go to medical school and become a surgeon, but didn’t have the resources and couldn’t afford it.” Meszaros instead took on to digitizing Roswell Park’s medical records. “I worked for a doctor at Roswell Park, and he gave me the opportunity to learn about computers, and I decided to learn everything there is to know about computer technology.” Intent on expanding his business knowledge, he also earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the School of Management at the University of Buffalo.
Meszaros’ computer skills and enthusiasm led to him being appointed the Director of Data Systems Manager for Roswell Park, and he also served as a Sales and Marketing executive for Computer Task Group and as Director of Management Information Systems for Erie County Central Police Services. In 1980 he started COM PRO ( Computer Professionals) a nationally recognized, privately-held systems software and professional services company where he served as President, Chairman and CEO until 1989 when he sold the company. The same year he founded Voice Technology Group (VTG) and served as President, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of VTG prior to its acquisition. In June of 2000 Intel Corp. acquired VTG and Meszaros was appointed Vice President of Business Development with Intel, and he served in that capacity for one year. The sale of VTG to Intel gave him a financial comfort level after his many years of hard work. Today he is “semiretired,” though he says “he is busier than ever with his MICE program for high school students. The secret to a long life is not to retire, but to simply change jobs. “
MICE came about after Meszaros was selected to serve as a member on the Dean’s Advisory Council for the School of Management at State University of New York at Buffalo. There he met a lot of academic people and kept thinking about how he could give something back to his native country Hungary, and to the country in which he prospered, America. He knew both needed true revolution so badly in terms of schooling. “As an immigrant to the United States from Hungary in the 1950s, I was inspired by the promise of this great country to build a new life and pursue success,” Meszaros says. That promise is something he wanted others to take advantage of.
Professor Joseph Salamone’s earlier informal efforts to provide visiting Hungarian students with educational challenges attracted Meszaros’ interest to financially support entrepreneurship training in support of Hungary’s economic growth and membership in the European Union. MICE was therefore launched to formalize and deliver The Entrepreneurship Training Program in Budapest Hungary.
Professor Salamone, who had been teaching Entrepreneurship at SUNY-Buffalo since 1976 knew immediately that they might be on to something important and truly life changing. Salamone developed a formal course syllabus/outline and created a business plan workshop as the capstone component that precedes the formal Business Plan Competition, an event that showcases the student teams’ efforts to design and defend their business plan.
“We took the idea back to Hungary in 2003 and announced it to 4 or 5 high schools and explained all the benefits it offered,” explains Meszaros. “Professor Salamone trained the teachers on the curriculum. Nobody had ever done anything like this in Hungary, and it became an overnight success. We really produced some super kids with that program. After a few years the need for a practical yet academically correct book to standardize the program became evident. Based on his experiences, Salamone researched and collaborated with co-authors (Pirrone and Anderson) to publish a book (Entrepreneurship: Foundations) – the program just took off.” The program is now in its fourth year in Hungary and a grant from the European Union for the past two years has allowed the course in Budapest to be expanded from 40 to 120 students for each year. The text has since been translated and exists as a dual English-Hungarian work making it a valuable English tutorial for Hungarian students.
“We knew that we were doing something that was important, that was making a difference not only in Hungary, but also in the States, and so when I was in Buffalo, many of my business friends began asking me ‘Why aren’t you doing something like that here?’” Meszaros says. “They told me we needed the same thing in this country. So we got started in Buffalo in 2007, taking on diverse groups of kids from all over western New York – everything from country club girls to tough inner city kids – and put them all together in the program and we saw an amazing transformation with them. We took these kids who at the beginning of the course could barely introduce themselves, to kids who were the equivalent of polished businesspeople doing Power Point presentations in just 20 weeks.”
“Our goal is to give young people an early opportunity to learn to evaluate business opportunities, ethical decision making, and development of their business skills in terms of self-employment,” Meszaros says. “After all, the youth of civilization represents the greatest asset we have. It is the young who will inherit our society and the responsibility to perpetuate our civilization.”
MICE, which is a registered 501(C) non-profit organization, works on many levels, with Professor Salamone’s textbook as the core curriculum, and also brings in guest speakers from successful companies and schedules field trips to interesting local businesses. Where the classroom work may teach them about the concepts of brainstorming, evaluating market opportunities and developing teamwork and communications skills, it’s the practical applications that really make the program effective. Professor Salamone says, “when these kids realize the potential they have and what their capabilities are, and thus are able to convince themselves that they can be leaders, can take risks, and are willing to work hard, then the light bulb goes off and they realize that the sky is the limit. We assign them something that deals with a real life situation and they are able to create just as well as if they were presenting a business plan thus they really start owning it.”
An example of the progressive thinking encouraged by MICE is what Laeticia Mbukapindu has planned for her future. Although just a junior at Leonardo da Vinci High School, Laeticia isn’t wasting any time starting her own salon business. A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who came to Buffalo when she was 10, Mbukapindu is already braiding and styling hair for friends and family. She’s also honing her business skills as a participant in the Entrepreneurship Training Program run by MICE.
“I wanted to know more about facts regarding how to maintain and have a big business,” she says. “I’ve learned how to address people in the business world and how to choose locations. This was a beautiful opportunity.”
“We also encourage these kids to do a lot of things that most high schools discourage,” Professor Salamone says. “We want them to have fun, since we think that you will learn something much more quickly if you’re enjoying yourself, and we also encourage them to question, to think, to challenge the status quo, and to speak up! I decided at the beginning that this curriculum was not going to be watered down, and as a result this program has been approved for full college credit in SUNY-Buffalo”s Advanced College Credit Program.”
The graduation process at MICE is really more like a competition, where kids develop competitive plans and present them. As an example: the winning Hungarian team was invited to the U.S., where they took an advanced class with Professor Salamone, and enjoyed visiting with American students, barbeques and other recreational opportunities in the area.
“It’s always amazing to see the transformation that takes place in these sometimes disadvantaged children, from the beginning to the end of the program,” Meszaros says. Salamone adds, “We have parents come up and tell us ‘You have made such a big change in my child’s life, we see them being thoughtful and considerate and mature and we wonder what you have done to make this change.”
“When we set out, the goal was to help students pursue ownership and operation of their own business,” Professor Salamone says, “but where we saw the quickest change was in the development of their soft skills. They readily developed a greater sense of market diversity, as they came from diverse backgrounds, and also quickly developed leadership, negotiation and presentation skills. These are qualities that are not only key to success in business but also easily transferrable to any single thing you do in life.”
As successful as MICE has been in Hungary and in the States, Meszaros feels that they are only beginning to scratch the surface of what can be done on a national level in America. “These are the principles this country was founded on,” he says. “To be a self-starter and self-reliant is how so many businesses got started. I see so many kids with a first class college education who end up working in a cubicle for a large corporation that doesn’t even know who they are. To be an entrepreneur means you can take your ideas and, with a vision and hard work, you can make a difference. This kind of thing isn’t being taught in our schools now, and it is more critical than ever that youth have these options explained to them.”
“When I began teaching Entrepreneurship back in 1976 I believed that these skills were important in any student’s development,” Professor Salamone says. “Now, in the current economic climate, everyone is suddenly talking about entrepreneurs and how critical they are to our economy. My feeling is that this is a program whose time has really come and should be integrated into every high school curriculum. I have begun working on a model that would be a supplement to a traditional 4 year high school curriculum and benefit each student regardless of their immediate interest in entrepreneurship”
With the ongoing commitment of Les Meszaros and Professor Salamone, the good news is that they intend to make this program available as widely as possible. “The course is transferrable to any school anywhere,” says Professor Salamone. “The core concepts and principles lend themselves to any geographical area, even though the market opportunities differ widely from Buffalo to California to Alaska.” As with any service program, which is limited only by the amount of their funding, MICE depends on people who understand how important the values they offer are, and support it both academically and financially. MICE also is exploring a strategy to deliver this valuable training through online tutorials, a program now being contemplated by Professor Salamone, based on his course textbook and interactive course components. “It must be a very interactive program, since we’ve found that getting the students to participate is key to their success,” he says.
One of the sayings you hear frequently in discussing the MICE program is this: “The greatest good you can do for another is to reveal to them their own unique inner value,” says Les.
It’s exactly the kind of education that we as individuals and this country desperately needs at this point in our history, and with the continued success of the MICE program it’s a message that will be carried far and wide to ensure the success of our young people, and our country. And, of course the best example of how one can become a successful entrepreneur stating with nothing at first is Les Meszaros itself as his own story speaks for itself.
The importance of this program is too paramount to describe. We are asking banks, investment firms, venture capitalists and private citizens who understand the importance of entrepreneurship and education, through which our great country, the United States of America can survive, to take a closer look at the good work being done through this organization.
Given that some of the students pay only a nominal tuition, about half of them are in the disadvantaged status and cannot afford to pay anything. Please consider a respectable participation, which will serve to benefit humanity in a highly ethical manner. Education is the basis for any country’s future. As we fight for America, let’s recognize our children as the cornerstones of what we treasure most: our freedom, our lives, and the successive generations of this great land that will benefit so many! It’s time we open our hearts and minds to return the biggest gift of all: Life itself, – the quality of the American dream!
For an easy pledge go directly to Pledge Form.
or visit the webpage of MICE where you can find a physical address, contact the founder, as well as find other methods of donation opportunities, and participation in this most crucial mission!
About the Author of This Article: Lady Adrienne Papp is a recognized journalist who has written for many publications including Savoir, Beverly Hills 90210, Malibu Beach, Santa Monica Sun, The Beverly Hills Times, Brentwood News, Bel-Air View,Celebrity Society,Celeb Staff, It Magazine, Chic Today, LA2DAY, West Side Todayamong many others. She is the President and CEO of Los Angeles / New York-based publicity company, Atlantic Publicityand publishing house, Atlantic Publisher. Adrienne writes about world trends, Quantum Physics, entertainment and interviews celebrities, world leaders, inventors, philanthropists and entrepreneurs. She also owns Atlantic United Films that produces and finances true stories made for theatrical release or the silver screen. Spotlight News Magazineis owned by Atlantic United, Incwith Adrienne Pappbeing the majority shareholder.