Ben Smithee (’07 BBA, Marketing and Management)
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Arlington and currently live in Manhattan with my wife, Nicole, and our 8-month-old daughter, Quinn. We are excited to be relocating back to DFW in February 2023!
Why did you choose to attend UTA?
I actually transferred to UTA just before my sophomore year because of the music program, even though I was not a music major. Tim Ishii, the Director of Jazz Studies, took on the role at UTA and I really wanted to study under Tim. He became one of my most influential mentors and still is to this day. I learned so much about entrepreneurship and business in my experience playing music in DFW.
What did you study at UTA? What attracted you to that field?
I studied business with a focus in marketing. I have always been interested in business and entrepreneurial in my mindset even at a young age. UTA allowed me the opportunity to study business academically and still engage in my passion for jazz.
Describe your UTA experience. How did UTA help prepare you for your career?
Having a very well-rounded experience at UTA was extremely significant to my success today. I have been blessed to have a few successful startup companies. Studying business and working as a jazz musician really prepared me to be an entrepreneur. As a frequent keynote speaker, learning improvisation and performing an art helped me to hone my stage presence and ability to feel comfortable and confident on stage.
"Passion is the ember, not the flame."
What is your current professional position? What do you do in this role?
I am currently involved in a few initiatives:
- I serve as CEO for my core business, The Smithee Group (TSG). We are a digital growth and innovation agency. We have a department focused on consumer insights and innovation and a department that serves as a full-service digital marketing agency.
- Additionally, I serve as CMO for Enterprise Stewardship, which provides consulting and online education for faith-based entrepreneurs and leaders to help them utilize their business as mission and build economic, social, and spiritual capital.
- I also serve as CMO for Altfund Management, which focuses on investing in leading hedge funds within the blockchain space and providing investors with the opportunity to gain exposure to the dynamic crypto asset markets through a holistic investment approach.
Describe your path to your current position. What have you learned along the way?
I have always been entrepreneurial and realized early on that is how I'm wired, so I have always sought out opportunities to support that and hone my skills. Studying marketing gave me a great foundation of knowledge and then putting it into practice and putting in the reps is what led to eventual success. The hard things are called hard things because they're really freaking hard - there is no shortcut to that and it is through trial and error and a tremendous amount of preservation that it leads to opportunity. You cannot "like" entrepreneurship - you must love it and fall in love with the journey as much as the destination.
What's one lesson you learned at UTA that has stayed with you still today?
Some things I learned through studying and playing jazz music serve as a great template for being successful in business: show up on time, wear the right clothes, be easy to work with, know how to improvise your butt off, and you're only as good as your last gig.
What message do you have for the next generation of UTA graduates?
Passion is often given too much credit. Passion is the ember, not the flame. Passion is what keeps the spark from going out and what keeps you going through the hardest of times. Success is the flame that is formed through hard work, integrity, continuous learning, and willingness to be humble.
Anything else you would like to share?
I learned an important lesson from my business mentor, Pete Ochs. The key to flourishing lives in economic, social, and spiritual capital. You must find something bigger than yourself to believe in and put your trust in. You must develop deep friendships. And you must find a way to earn a living. Gather those things until you have "enough," and then spend the rest of your efforts giving them away - be generous, connect others, and share your faith.