He’s known by a lot of different monikers as “Young Global”, “YG”, or just plain Larry. Regardless of what you call him, this young man is on his grind. Larry Ossei-Mensah is the mastermind behind the My Global Hustle blog. Ranging on topics such as entertainment, trend analysis and business news Larry covers it all. Jason introduced me to the blog a while back and I was instantly hooked. I was curious about what made Larry tick. He travels the world, is an accomplished photographer, and has the business savvy of a man far beyond his years. He’s broken bread with celebrities, dignitaries and his photo work was recently shown in a gallery in Brooklyn. He eventually hopes to take this exhibit on the road during this coming year. This guy is on the fast track and it doesn’t seem like he’s planning on slowing down anytime soon.
TR: First, tell us a little about yourself.
Larry: I’m the eldest of two boys and my parents are immigrants from Ghana, West Africa. I was born in Harlem, NY and raised in the South Bronx. I’m a blogger, photographer, “professional globetrotter”, information maven and bon vivant :).
TR: A real renaissance man, how did your blog come about?
Larry: The blog came about at the behest of my boy Joe Colli. I actually tried to start a blog before I moved to Switzerland for grad school, but it never picked up traction. So, after moving back to New York City I was “g-chatting” with Joe Colli and he suggested that I give it another shot. I took his advice with no real idea of how I wanted to shape the blog; then it came to me and that transformed into the birth of My Global Hustle. The best way to describe it is an amalgam of information that I find to be particularly interesting. Whether it is the conflict in Sri Lanka or how to pick a good merlot, it’s all relevant information to be aware of. In today’s microwave society people are looking for a medium they can trust to receive information and be inspired.
TR: Any insight into what projects you will be involved with in the future?
Larry: I have a couple of projects on the horizon. I’m currently working on photo exhibition that will go up in the Spring. The exhibition is a group show called “The Sankofa Series: Ghanaian Reflections on African/American Identities” featuring Stanley Lumax and myself. I’m also looking to launch Paraply Global, which is a business venture that I am a partner with Coby Farrow in. It will specialize in tackling issues focused around the Hospitality Sector and under that umbrella will fall a boutique hotel concept that is currently in the development stage.
TR: That’s a huge undertaking do you feel ready?
Larry: To start my own company? You will never be fully ready for anything. However, I do love to challenge myself and I know that I will give 110% to make sure that this venture is a success. Owning a hotel is a dream of mine and this opportunity came about
so I have to take advantage of it plus there are other opportunities in the hospitality sector to make an impact. As we transition into a more experience-based economy there will be a need for certain services. There are also a few projects in the arts and culture space that I would like to launch back in Ghana very soon. Right now I’m in the due diligence stage for those ventures to gauge the feasibility.
TR: I’ve always seen you as a people person so this seems very much an extension of that…
Larry: Yeah, it’s my life- fine dining, traveling, theater, sporting events- it all falls under that umbrella and is an integral part of our daily life.
TR: I have to ask- being a student myself how did you juggle globe-trotting, conferences, and academics?
Larry: I just did it and continue to do it! I’m not one for excuses and once I’ve decided I’m going to do something I will do it. A lot of it was being in the right place at the right time. Some of it is has been from my will to dig deep for information I find of interest. I also have a really good network of people who are constantly sharing information with each other. I enjoy the luxury of having friends and family all over the world and if there is a place I don’t have a friend I make it a point to get one.
TR: What are your network assets?
Larry: An example would be my participation in the World Economic Forum which came about as a result of a conversation with OG Greg in Chi-town. He gave me the skinny, so I did my part and was blessed with the opportunity of a lifetime. Not many people can say they broke bread with Chris Tucker, John Bryant, or Al Gore. You only live once so you have to be willing to take risks in order to get to the next level.
TR: Can you give our readers one tip for traveling?
Larry: Start a travel fund. Yes a travel fund! Just like your 401k, when you get a little money put it towards the fund. The main reason why most people claim that they can’t travel is due to lack of funds. With a travel fund you will have a little nest egg of money that will allow you to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. Because traveling to a different continent, country, even city is one of the best educations a person can get. The more I have traveled the more my horizons have expanded.
TR: Can you give us the lowdown on your best practices?
Larry: Focus on building a relationship first. Become genuinely interested in the person and not just what they can do for you. When someone sees that you actually care and are not just out to use them for resources when you need a favor they will look out for you in turn.
TR: I can only imagine your Rolodex of assets is ever growing in various fields; a testament to how you’ve fostered relationships with individuals.
Larry: Exactly, I’ve been blessed. I started networking for real back in ’97 when I started interning at Sony Music. So, with ten years of relationships since high school I’ve seen and met a lot of people who have witnessed my growth and encouraged it. I’m not as involved in the biz as before but still maintain relationships with most of my mentors from the industry.
TR: Who or what are some of your inspirations?
Larry: I would have to say my family first. My little brother is going for his PhD in the Fall and is only 23. Great books like The Alchemist or The Richest Man in Babylon inspire me. A lot of my mentors keep me inspired because they always let me know that there is still a lot in life I need to learn. If we are talking about noteworthy people- John Bryant (my OG), Steve Stoute, Andrew Carnegie, Vijay Mallya and Conrad Hilton just to name a few. Folks that I came up with in the South Bronx also inspire me because they keep me motivated to rep for my hood. But it’s also a reminder of what could happen if I don’t make the right choice in life. I’ve always said that their success is my success. Due in to the fact that I’m a very competitive person, when one of my friends shines it give me the motivation to get my hustle on and one-up them.
TR: A while back I really identified with a piece about “Afropolitans”. It spoke of, “young African people making their mark on the world”. I myself am Congolese, what are you thoughts on the topic?
Larry: Afropolitians are a reality of our globalized world and it is reflective of this trans-cultural evolution that is occurring as we speak. It is something I truly identify with- having parents from Ghana, born in NYC, traveling the world thrice times. It’s an interesting paradigm-shift that has been a catalyst for the rebirth of African culture and pride. It’s interesting to see the difference in thinking but it also creates wonderful opportunities. You see cats like Wale- Nigerian parents, born in DC who is a rapper or Marcus Samuleson, Ethiopian-raised in Sweden, who is a chef in NYC. I think it’s just great to see people adapt to a new environment and still be passionate about their culture. Like right now I’m doing an exhibition and looking at African immigrants who have moved to Harlem and have thriving businesses; it’s a true convergence of cultures.
TR: Where’s the exhibition located?
Larry: It will be going up in Brooklyn at Harriet’s Alter Ego on March 30th. In a nutshell, being an Afropolitian is a convergence of cultures and an opportunity for expression. Whether through business, arts or style of dress; it is uniting Africans because we are all on the same page.
TR: What’s one new trend in any genre- fashion, technology, entertainment, or marketing/advertising for example- that you think is ridiculous and one you think is brilliant?
Larry: If it’s selling then it isn’t ridiculous. I think what we have to realize that we live in a microwave society so if the market can bare it, despite how corny it may be, you can’t knock it. One trend I have noticed is the increase in focus on cause-based marketing. Everyone and their mother is looking to be involved with a project that is doing good in the global community. You have big firms like Chase, ML and Google who are pumping money into social entrepreneurial /cause based projects, anything cause related is a good look right now.
TR: Do the next few years look promising for those companies’ ventures?
Larry: Well yeah and no. The key is for non-profits to take advantage of the current climate because it’s hard to tell if it is a trend or a disruptive shift. The fact is big corporations want to project an image of actually giving a damn about the key issues in our global community. Whether it is sincere or a case of “wag the dog”, the NGO community has to recognize the opportunity they have to use the corporate machine to move forward the overall agenda of making our world a better place. So it will be interesting to watch this all play out. DIY (do it yourself) is going to be big as well.
TR: How so?
Larry: Well look at youtube, for instance, social networks have user-controlled content where people drive the experience and businesses are only a conduit. I was reading “Long Tail” and they mentioned a company named Lulu where individuals pay a fee to self-publish their own books. People want to cut out the middle man and get to the goods.
TR: I’ve been interested in seeing how technology has caused the business model in many fields to adapt or change rapidly to fit the need -i.e. digital music.
Larry: You have to, its part of the “long tail effect,” the user is in control, not the supplier, and some have figured it out while others are clueless. I mean, look at something as simple as Bart; you don’t go to a booth to get your tickets you go to a machine. So people have already been conditioned in a sense, people want a customized and unique experience. Chipotle is another example, people like the freedom to choose toppings instead of standard menus right? Self-check-in at the airport (EasyJet) , Fandango (movies) and online banking (ING) are all part of the experience economy. So, companies will be judged more now on the experience. Why do you think Starbucks had to reposition the special quality that made buying a 5 dollar coffee worth it? The romance was gone, can they get it back is another question
TR: What’s one thing you can’t live without?
Larry: My peace of mind. I’m not addicted to any of these gadgets, they come and go like neo-geo. As long as I have my piece of mind I can do what I have to do.
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