Julian: Chart topper… Grammy-award winner… Multi-platinum recording artist. These are the words that describe the undeniable success of Ne-Yo. But for this superstar, humble beginnings had him singing a very different tune.
Ne-Yo: Right after everybody graduated high school, we moved out to California with nothing but a dream. And when I say that, I literally mean nothing.
Julian: Armed with that dream and an unwavering focus, Ne-Yo and his singing group stood outside the Capitol Records building in Los Angeles, California every day hoping for a record deal.
Ne-Yo: We had definitely gotten on a first-name basis with the security guards.
We did it for a little while. It was a few months – to the point where the security guards would always come out around the same time and go, ‘alright guys, wrap it up.’
Julian: But Ne-Yo kept singing and writing songs and, eventually, success came.
Ne-Yo: You have no idea how many times I’ve heard ‘no.’ How many times I’ve heard ‘that’s not going to work,’ ‘not good enough.’ It’s a part of achieving success. Like, you cannot achieve success without some failure somewhere.
Julian: It is a life lesson he is now teaching with his Compound Foundation, a nonprofit organization he founded in 2007 that gives young people growing up in foster care and group homes tools and skills to become successful entrepreneurs.
Ne-Yo: In this program, they are taught everything from how to tie a necktie to how to put together an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is 30 seconds to a minute to pitch an idea. At the end of the camp, they all have to bring their elevator pitches together for a group of judges. I’m normally one of the judges. And what happens is the person with the best elevator pitch is then given a grant to then start this business that they’ve come up with on their own.
The winner of the $10,000 grant…Joseph.
Joseph: This is a wonderful experience. I’ve got butterflies in my stomach. I’m really excited about winning. I feel like this is something that we all need.
Julian: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 400,000 young people are living in the foster care system right now.
Ne-Yo: When you are a foster child, it is a very unstable lifestyle. You know, you’re being bounced from place to place a lot. You know, so there are certain life skills that you just might not pick up.
Julian: Ne-Yo’s foundation builds recording studios in foster homes, giving the young people living there a creative outlet.
Ne-Yo: I didn’t have anything remotely close to this. The first studio that I recorded in was people’s bathrooms, and they put the egg crates on the walls.
Like, say you want a – I don’t know – do a t-shirt business, whatever the case may be. We’re here to let you know what steps you have to take to get that up and running.
Julian: Ne-Yo remains committed to his mission and offers this piece of advice.
What do you say to young people who are going through a tough time?
Ne-Yo: Embrace the difficulty. Get up and keep pushing. Because if you stop, that’s the one way to guarantee that you will never succeed. I’m walking, talking, living, breathing proof of that.
Julian: Julian Dujarric, Channel One News.