An evening of support, advice, and hope was offered to attendees as the St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) Alumni Association held its second Alumni Information Series – How To Be An Entrepreneur During A Pandemic on Tuesday, June 23, 2020.
The session was a great success thanks to the efforts of the Alumni Association, the school’s Alumni Office, and the dedication and commitment of the experienced panelists.
Ron Scarafile ’05, SMCS Alumni Association’s Event Coordinator and host of the second information series, welcomed and introduced the alumni entrepreneur panel to a wide range of alumni spanning the last 51 years. One alumnus even joined the hour-long Zoom session from British Columbia.
The panel included Nick Di Donato ’76, OSM, John P. O’Neill ’86, and Michael McCarthy ’88. Di Donato, who is the President and CEO of Liberty Entertainment Group, has been redefining the restaurant, nightlife, and special event experience in both Toronto and Miami. O’Neill is President of JP Logistics, which was founded in 1986 and has grown to be one of Canada’s premier logistics companies, managing warehouses in Canada, the United States, China, Europe, and Jamaica. McCarthy is an Executive in Residence at the University of Toronto. As an executive adviser, board member, and investor, McCarthy works with several innovative entrepreneurial software companies to enhance profitability, develop products, expand markets, optimize operations, and refine strategic direction.
The three guests are very active within the St. Michael’s College School community especially with the school’s Board of Directors, the Community & Learning Partnership Programme, and the Alumni Association.
The evening began with the panel sharing their COVID-19 experiences as entrepreneurs, providing insight on how, despite the circumstances, they are finding ways to be leaders in their industries.
“Nick, Mike, and John are rock stars in their respective industries,” says Scarafile. “Their insights and experiences were very informative. I think everyone appreciated the evening as much as I did.”
Participating alumni learned about how Di Donato was affected as a restaurateur but was able to redefine what the Liberty Entertainment Group was able to offer to the community, which involved providing meals to frontline workers.
O’Neill shared how JP Logistics was shut down to the bare minimum staff both in Canada and in the United States. He also explained how he was able to acquire new business during the pandemic by reaching out to those that had been thinking of switching providers.
McCarthy provided a software entrepreneur perspective and key insight on three attributes entrepreneurs require – opportunity, resilience, and problem-solving skills.
“I found the session worthwhile not just from the business insights, but the continued importance of Liberal Arts education, which was also stressed,” shares Larry Colle ’69, an attendee of both the first and second Alumni Information Series.
An unplanned offshoot of the evening included participating alumni connecting with panelists for future mentorship and career advice.
Throughout the evening, several questions ignited fruitful discussions between all participants. The guest alumni expressed their appreciation for the opportunity and the information shared.
“The information series, included an experienced alumni panel of SMCS entrepreneurs,” says Sal Italiano ’79, a first-time attendee of the series. “They provided valuable insight on how their businesses were impacted during this crisis and the positive strategic initiatives that came to fruition as a result of it.”