By Ivonne Yee-Amor
It seems these days we look to celebrities for fashion, food and lifestyle advice, what type of clothes to wear, what techie item to buy, what soda to drink and what restaurant to see-and-be-seen. Hollywood is taking over the consumer market.
Many celebrities have built multimillion and even billion dollar businesses and brands—not just through their popularity, but with sweat equity. Now, FIU students are learning those business lessons directly from some of the world’s most famous celebrities thanks to a class taught by Miami nightlife entrepreneur David Grutman.
Grammy-winning singer and music producer Pharrell Williams surprised the 200 students in Grutman's class during thier visit to LIV in November. Williams led a panel discussion with Grutman; Jeff Soffer, chairman and CEO of Fontainebleau Development; and FIU alumnus Philip Goldfarb ’79, president and chief operating officer of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach.
“If I had to think about what would be the strand between all the pearls of the different partnerships that I have, I think it first starts with a little bit of delusion that you can do something,” Williams said. “Then, there needs to be some stubbornness, and then there’s got to be a whole lot of belief.”
Goldfarb and Soffer spoke about the history and restoration of Fontainebleau Miami Beach, the importance of relationships in the hospitality business and daily operations of the hotel’s 56 departments.
Throughout the class, Grutman shared his own pearls of wisdom. “In order to be successful, you must make everything you do personal,” he said.
He stressed the importance of “persistence and perseverance” and to “always be intentional” and “never stop getting better.” Lessons were interweaved with business concepts, such as leasing versus ownership, restaurant purchasing, relationship building and even landscaping.
Grutman started off his first class by bringing in DJ Khaled to energize the room. Other surprise celebrity visits included: Foodgod Jonathan Cheban; Rolling Loud Music Festival co-founder Matt Zingler, via Facetime Hollywood Talent Manager Shep Gordon; and famed street artist Alec Monopoly, whose name and paintings are inspired by the popular board game’s Rich Uncle Pennybags.
But celebrities aren’t everything; Grutman says there’s a lot more to it. He believes in delivering an X-factor to your guests.
“The best way to learn is from someone who is in the industry living and breathing hospitality all day and night long,” Grutman said. One of his most popular lessons was about creating “Instagrammable dishes."
The class is Grutman’s first venture into academia.