Lois and Richard Nicotra, the philanthropists I proudly represent, donated $1.6 Million to open their COMMONS café, a quick service eatery where they give 100% of their profits away to our Staten Island community. They’ve gifted $800,000 so far – and they are just getting started. The Nicotras are opening a second social enterprise eatery this year, called Pienza, and we are on track to have total gifts exceed $1 Million by the end of 2020. There is a love, joy, and kindness that emanates from their work.

On behalf of The Lois & Richard Nicotra Foundation and the COMMONS café, I often have an opportunity to speak to students about careers in philanthropy and hospitality. We use that classroom moment as on opportunity to teach about the concept of “social enterprise” and how you can do good things for your community while you earn a living.

When you speak to young people, it is often a reflective process. When you teach, you learn – and you recall how you felt at a younger age.

If I could reach back in time and talk to my school-age self, I would simply say, “BE yourself” – and this is what I share with students who are dreaming about their future:

  • Do you love to connect ideas and people? Keep building relationships in kind, respectful ways – it works!
  • Do you love sharing positive information? Let it all shine bright – people NEED good news! Social media is an opportunity to share knowledge and inspiration.
  • Do you love writing? There are careers shaped around communicating – and you can be a community builder by listening and communicating clearly.
  • Do you take joy in being kind? Think about a career in hospitality, community relations or nonprofit administration! If you’ve never heard of those professions, you’ll meet people along the way in interesting professions like these. If someone seems happy working, ask them what they do and how they started doing it!
  • Don’t worry, it will all work out…if you WORK HARD on working it out!

You can take care of your business, your family, and yourself – but not all at the same time. Integrate your approach to each area because it’s all a part of who you are, and don’t try to balance life. It’s an imperfect world, and “balance” is rarely achieved. Aim for each day to have a healthy integration of every aspect of who you are – a blend, if you will.

The most important thing for children and adults alike, and something I have learned from the Nicotras, is to set aside worry aboutWHAT you will be when you grow up. Your career path will unfold as you learn and grow.  Focus on WHO you will be – what kind of person you want to be.

Your strengths are uniquely yours, and that passion and purpose may be the greatest gift you share with your community.

Episode 44: Kristine Garlisi & COMMONS café

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