Samuel Little – United States (New Jersey)
Social entrepreneurship through teamwork
“My parents exemplified the type of work ethic that it takes to bring a dream into reality,” Sam Little says of his mom and dad, owners of a successful restaurant in the heart of New Jersey. Sam is the eldest of four boys, and his close-knit family is highly important to him. As a big brother, he learned early on the finer points of being a team leader, “such as how to know when adding your voice or opinion will make things better or worse, how to be patient with someone you don’t agree with, and the importance of sometimes putting others first.” He began working at the restaurant when he was fourteen, learning firsthand how his parents fostered a team culture among the many long-term employees, building the restaurant’s reputation for service and hospitality.
Teamwork proved essential throughout Sam’s eight years of track and cross-country, where he served as captain and co-captain. When he first joined Tufts University’s team, a harsh division demoralized its members. Hoping to goad the team into a stronger commitment, the more intense runners tended to shame and bully others, but their tactics had the opposite effect. “My role in shaping culture is always covert,” Sam says, “Yet my biggest strength as a leader is my ability to positively influence my team’s culture.” Slowly, he introduced the “absolutely crucial” values of “inclusiveness, passion and forgiveness,” adding, “You can’t command someone to conform to a culture, they have to want to do it themselves. Making people feel wanted and passionate about being a part of the group is such a powerful unifier.” Now, Sam says his team is “one of the closest-knit groups I have ever been a part of. I take great pride in the culture that we all have built together and in my role in building that culture.”
Sam hopes to work abroad after earning his degree in international relations at Tufts. His minor in entrepreneurial leadership will help him with his ultimate dream which is starting a mission-driven enterprise. He knows “for certain that I do not possess the ability to do that alone.” He will need a team, he says, but it’s harder than he’d expected. He points to the tendency to “surround ourselves with similar and like-minded people, probably because we get along better with them, but it does not make for the best group of people to start a business with.” To find his future co-founders, he aims to connect with people who share similar goals, yet are completely different people with diverse strengths.
His extracurricular work and activities are either in line with supportive team efforts, product design, or employing entrepreneurial skills. During his year as a disk jockey for WMFO-Tufts Freeform Radio, he not only organized weekly shows, he also launched marketing campaigns to increase the number of listeners. Through Tufts Telefund, he built rapport with alumni and a network of donors while fundraising for the university.
Extending his supportive role, he has mentored young people through Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Cambridge for over two years. In his position at Tufts University as a Resident Assistant (RA), Sam put all his skills to good use. In addition to counseling and support of thirty-six students, he “designed, marketed, and presented creative programs to foster a healthy floor community.” He stressed their mutual role and that he would provide support for “the floor’s goals.” What he hopes they will remember are “those organic moments that they created themselves that brought them together.”
As a summer intern in 2016, he pursued a more entrepreneurial direction as a field-marketing intern for Honest Tea, distributing 42,000 samples at local events, Whole Foods Markets, and other retailers. He conveyed product feedback and learned Honest Tea’s strategy for connecting with target consumers. In August, his position with the Junior Class Council required contributing to the Tufts University Social Collective. Managing a budget of over $100,000, the group developed and ran programs for up to 1,500 students.
That fall, Sam began ongoing work with New England Revolution, the Major League Soccer soccer team based in the Greater Boston area. While inspiring participatory team spirit, Sam “marketed ticket packages and promotions on campus through social media and in person.”
As Sam learns businesses from the ground up, he says, “I tend to become passionate in the subject, or activity that I am most involved in, and I focus those passions for a short time and then find new passions.” As a young man of constant fresh ideas, one of his most recent emerges from his study of the American food system and nutrition. He is envisioning “a healthy corner store, marketed towards children.” Since he grew up working in the family restaurant and genuinely enjoys “the feeling of feeding people and showing them a good time,” this idea might represent a future goal.
He wants to have a role in making the world better, especially as part of a strong group. “Forming that group is a life goal of mine.” A core value in Sam’s life is “to leave every space better than I found it.”