Inspired by a colorful, deep-fried, parade-filled, culturally rich upbringing in New Orleans, Gene Kansas ('95) has garnered a reputation as a champion of historic preservation, adaptive reuse, community-building, and storytelling through the built environment. Each of his projects blends an appreciation of culture and history with creative, responsible, and vital refashioning, bringing new relevance to space and how it is enjoyed. An award-winning cultural developer, Gene leads with passion and purpose, with the ability of looking forward and a mindset of giving back. He is also founder of Constellations, a culturally-based workspace in Atlanta "where stars come together to shine." As the creator and host of award-winning, Sidewalk Radio, Gene spent five seasons exploring life in the modern city through the lens of history and context of community. Gene holds a BS in Entrepreneurship from the University of Arizona and a Masters of Science in Digital Media from Georgia Tech University.
5 Questions with Gene Kansas ('95)
Q. What is most surprising about being an entrepreneur?
A. I knew about the flexibility entrepreneurship offers, and I was surprised and delighted to also learn how much accountability comes with the role. There's true satisfaction in being responsible for and to others. It's motivating, it instills self-worth, and it makes you feel good when you deliver. It's not something that's talked about much, and it doesn't have to be. What matters is that you know it.
Q. What was the most important lesson you learned in the Entrepreneurship Program?
A. Have a plan. And then, be honest with yourself about the plan. If your plan doesn't work, or the numbers are not honest, you have to make a change. There's enough risk out there when a plan is solid, take 2020 as a great example of this. I'd add that in addition to goals and objectives and a comprehensive business plan, it's a smart idea to have Guiding Principles and Operating Principles. It took me a long time to realize this. When the world changes – like in a global pandemic – your Guiding Principles will carry you through. One of the Guiding Principles of our company is to create and enjoy meaningful connections. In addition to having fun and enjoying life, you're also building a network, learning from others, and being a resource to others. Working together is a key component to success, if not the primary conduit to it.
Q. What impact has the Entrepreneurship Program had on your career or life?
A. The Entrepreneurship Program has been beneficially paramount to both my career and life, and they obviously are inextricably tied together. I learned so much from the Mentors in Residence about life, and that helped tremendously with my career. At Gene Kansas | Commercial Real Estate we operate with a few mantras in mind. One of them is "Ad Posse Ad Esse", translated: From being able to being. The tools and teaching and tough love and fun I had in and from the Entrepreneurship Program instilled that in me and it remains today, gratefully.
Fun Fact: “I hosted a radio show for 5 years called Sidewalk Radio. It's a show about real estate that's not about real estate. The experience was a great gift.”
Q. What do you consider your biggest entrepreneurial success?
A. When I learned it's infinitely more important to be led by passion and purpose instead of money. Some of you will have to learn that the hard way, like me. I sincerely recommend you think about what you're passionate about and what inspires you. When you start with that in mind, you'll have more fun and be much more successful. And, keep in mind, success is a spectrum, it's certainly not just about making money. Make joy, enjoy happiness, find fulfillment, do things for others, demonstrate what's possible.
Q. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
A. Be honest with yourself. You know when things are true and right and feel good. You're here for a reason, you have the talent and ability to reach great heights. Believe in yourself, and be true to yourself. We're all counting on you! Now, go have some fun.