Benjamin Banneker High School
Third Place Winner, District of Columbia
George Washington was the first United States president and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. His face can be seen today on U.S. currency one-dollar bill. Andre Young known as Dr. Dre is an American Rapper and record producer. He is the current CEO of Aftermath Entertainment and Beats Electronics. These two men are as different as night and day, living at least two hundred years apart, one owned 135 slaves the other would have been a slave in Washington’s lifetime. But ironically, both of these men have something in common, they were both successful businessmen and entrepreneurs that increased growth in American economy.
Both of these men had three qualities to become successful entrepreneurs. They both were innovative, persistent and diligent. They didn’t follow the trend of the day. For example, Washington cultivated wheat at Mount Vernon, which was a risk because everyone was growing tobacco. He turned Mount Vernon into a center of production by installing a gristmill, churning out “George Washington” Brand Flour, which was marketed overseas. He also built a whisky distillery that was very profitable. Washington didn’t know anything about the distillery business but he researched it wisely and decided to risk a significant investment. The distillery was successful and one of his most profitable enterprises. Washington was also fascinated with technology. He experimented with tools to help create less work and boost productivity.
Another idea Washington introduced to America and is still in existence today is the “communities of interest.” Washington believed: “That different nations, cultures, and interests can come together through commerce. If people trade with each other, they will learn to develop, and emphasize their common and shared interests – and be more peaceful as a result.
A major trend in today’s society is “name brand” clothing and sneakers. Dr. Dre’s lawyer approached him about selling sneakers. But an accidental meeting with record producer Jimmy Iovine stopped Dr. Dre from following this trend and paved a different type of branding. Dr. Dre and Iovine started Beats Electronics, a company that sells high-end audio equipment products and specializes in headphones called Beats by Dre. They also founded Beats Music, a streaming service and “Beats Pills” wireless speakers. Dr. Dre stated, “It was crazy to see my kids listening to my music on tiny earbud (headphones), this is not how it’s supposed to sound.” These headphones have a bass-heavy sound and a high-quality sound. Dr. Dre also used popular celebrities, Lebron James, Li’l Wayne, and Serena Williams were seen wearing Beats, artists like Lady Gaga wore them in videos. This was an innovative branding tool Dr. Dre used to promote his product. Beats controls 27% of the $1.8 billion headphone market and 57% of the market for “premium” headphones. Today, Beats headphones dominate the $2 billion headphone market and has literally changed the audio world.
George Washington became the 1st U.S. president in 1789, he stated: “Building the national prosperity is my first and my only aim.” His main focus was to eliminate national debt that was caused by years of war and build the newly established America’s credit. Washington worked very diligently to eliminate America’s debt by establishing a debt repayment system through taxation. Washington also established a national bank, so the economy would not have to pay the whole debt at once. It was paid over a period of years, so the nation did not go bankrupt and the nation was not in financial ruin. Washington passed the Excise Act in 1791, which charged taxes, payable in coins that gave the government ample revenues. The Funding Act in 1790 made arrangements for paying dollar for dollar the old debts of the Union and the newly created states. The Bank Act of 1791 set up a nationwide banking structure that was owned by private citizens, which was authorized to issue paper currency that could be used for tax payments. The Coinage Act of 1792 directed the government to mint both gold and silver coins. With these Acts in place, Washington created a stable foundation and helped set up the nation for future success.
Like Washington, Dr. Dre had to depend on his hard work to get started in the Hip Hop music world. Record executives did not want to take a chance on rap music because they didn’t think it would sell. Dr. Dre had to promote his own music. He created mixtapes and gave them away in the streets so people could hear it. He dropped out of school so he could focus more on becoming a DJ and rapper. His first group NWA’s first album sold 3.5 million copies. Dre established his first success as a producer when he produced Snoop Dogg’s first album. Snoop Dogg’s album sold six million copies and was a huge success. Dre continued to prosper with his own new record label, Death Row. Dr. Dre raps, “I handle my business because it’s work before play.”
Not only did hard work drive both of these men to succeed but persistence and determination not to fail help mold their business success. Dr. Dre’s contract disputes with Suge Knight and the death of Tupac forced him to leave Death Row. He started a new label, Aftermath Entertainment, but it struggled for years without any hit records or rappers. But Dr. Dre did not quit. He was asked by Iovine to produce a new rapper Eminem. Eminem’s album was a huge success and reached number two on the Billboard charts. Dr. Dre also made sure that he earned a royalty from all of his records that he produced which increased his revenue. Washington also had disappointments but he was determined not to fail. Washington’s tobacco raising business was not growing. British laws required that his exports should be sent to Britain and sold by British merchants. His tobacco was damaged during shipment and was being soled at really low prices. He was being overcharged for freight and insurance. Washington was not able to control the buying and selling of his goods in England so he decided to reduce his production of tobacco, cutting ties from British traders. He had his slaves make cloth to export instead. He developed a fishery on the Potomac and increased his production of wheat. He exported fish, wheat and flour to the West Indies instead of England.
Andre Young and George Washington, two entrepreneurs from different cultures, backgrounds, and centuries, used their business savvy to become wealthy innovators in their own lifetimes, but I would consider George Washington the greater entrepreneur of the two.
Washington’s ideas, business mind, and risk taking can still be applied in today’s culture. He was an innovator who thought “outside the box” to create revenue for the country. He thought of the country as a business. He built up the nation’s credit, and established a stable currency, built national infrastructure; the country could have ended before it began if Washington didn’t have his business mindset. If the country had failed, the American entrepreneurs would not have been able to create and grow their businesses and practically dream the American Dream.