Offering the Tools for Success
On a midwinter day in his Manhattan office, Josh Kapelman, A12, executive vice president and managing director at Hilldun Corporation described a typical day at his family’s firm, which provides financing to clients in the fashion and luxury goods industry.
“My days are spent talking to young designers and helping them to get on their path,” Kapelman said. “But right now, I’m just trying to survive Fashion Week.”
Though he never expected to work for the family business, Kapelman loves his work, and believes that Tufts gave him the perfect preparation. “The person I am today is a direct result of my experiences in the REAL (Resumed Education for Adult Learning) program, and at the Derby Entrepreneurship Center at Tufts.”
From an early age, Kapelman took nontraditional paths in learning and work. He founded his first company—a gaming venture—at age 17, and though he had plenty of energy and ideas, he wasn’t yet “at a place where [he] was ready to go to college.” Then, while working as an EMT and EMT instructor, and taking classes at Harvard Extension School, he applied to Tufts’ REAL program.
“Jean Herbert [former REAL director] told me, ‘Josh, you don't have the grades, but you have the life experience. We want to take a risk on you here at Tufts. Don't let us down,’” recalled Kapelman. “They gave me a chance and for that, I am forever indebted.”
At Tufts, Kapelman “fell in love with entrepreneurship all over again,” majoring in political science and studying topics like conflict negotiation and leadership. “Entrepreneurial education was the capstone of my liberal arts education, where I took what I learned in political science, psychology, finance, writing, and brought it all together,” he said.
Today, Kapelman serves on Tufts’ President’s Council, and the advisory board of the Derby Entrepreneurship Center. Entrepreneurship is the largest minor at Tufts, but for Kapelman, this is just one facet of the center’s mission. “Our goal is to become the hub of entrepreneurship not only for undergrads, but university-wide,” he said.
He remains a passionate supporter of the REAL program, and its current students, many of whom balance school with full-time jobs, families, and other obligations. “Whatever we can do to make their lives easier, whether it’s stable internet, proper laptops, or financial aid, that’s a good investment,” he said. With their wealth of life experience and motivation as learners, Kapelman views these students as a tremendous asset to Tufts.
The past few years have been an exciting time of growth for the Derby Entrepreneurship Center, and Kapelman hopes that more Tufts alumni from many fields and industries will engage as learners, mentors, and leaders.
“For us, it's teaching people the entrepreneurial mindset,” Kapelman said. “Whether someone is a tech entrepreneur, a fashion designer, a game developer—it’s someone with a great idea that they want bring to life.” Through entrepreneurial education, he offered, Tufts students can attain “the tools they need to be successful in whatever they want to do.”