SHA students mentored by Ken Fearn, noted entrepreneur and civic leader

December 16, 2015

By Sandi Mulconry

“Be preposterous.”

Kenneth Fearn received that advice from his mentor, commercial real estate icon John Cushman, and took it to heart, founding Integrated Capital, a hotel-focused, private real estate advisory and investment firm, in 2004.

Now, as a participant in the Entrepreneurs in Residence program at the School of Hotel Administration (SHA) Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship, he will mentor entrepreneurial students “to help foster their interest in the acquisition and ownership side of business.”

Ken Fearn at a Meet & Repeat Speed Networking Social sponsored by the Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship at SHA

Ken Fearn at a Meet & Repeat Speed Networking Social sponsored by the Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship at SHA

“If I could learn the hotel business and ultimately run my own investment company, anyone can,” says Ken, in describing the “preposterous” arc of his career. He grew up in South Central Los Angeles, a few blocks from the heart of the 1992 riots, “My early background wouldn’t indicate that I’d ever be in a position to do what I’m doing,” he says.

"My early background wouldn't indicate that I'd ever be in a position to do what I'm doing."

After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MBA from Harvard Business School, he went to work for Capital Group Companies, J.P. Morgan, McKinsey & Company, and, finally, Maritz, Wolff & Company, where he served as managing director and chief financial officer and where he met his future partners in Integrated Capital.

Since its founding, Integrated Capital has acquired or developed assets with a total capitalization of more than $400 million. Current holdings include properties by DoubleTree by Hilton, Marriott, and Sheraton.

During the 2015-16 academic year, Ken will visit several times to engage with students and a variety of programming that will be happening in the school and institute.

He was the November 13 featured speaker in the fall 2015 Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series at SHA. He returned later that month as an entrepreneur in residence to meet one-on-one with students, participate in a Meet & Repeat Speed Networking Social at the Pillsbury Institute, and share his entrepreneurial journey with the Conversations with Entrepreneurs class, taught by Professor Mona Anita Olsen ’04, also the associate academic director of the Pillsbury Institute.

The Entrepreneurs in Residence program resulted from students’ desire to meet with industry leaders and explore topics supporting entrepreneurial development.

Ken’s final visit will be April 13-15 during Celebration, an annual event hosted by Entrepreneurship@Cornell. During his April residency, he will meet with students and participate in another Pillsbury Institute event, the Slice of Insight panel.

“We’re lucky to have Ken as an integral part of the growing Entrepreneurs in Residence program,” says Mona, noting the program resulted from students’ desire to meet with industry leaders and explore topics supporting entrepreneurial development.

“I enjoyed working with Ken in class as he shared his advice for entrepreneurial success, and with the class on Gallup’s Entrepreneurial Profile 10 (EP10) Assessment to identify their innate strengths.”

What lessons does Ken hope to impart?

“To succeed as an entrepreneur, you need more than drive and determination—you need the willingness to take educated risk,” he says.

“Don’t fear failure. Some of your greatest learning will come from failure. It’s how you move forward that counts.”

Most of all, he stresses the importance of hard work.

“One of the great things I’ve learned is that information is key, and it’s power,” he says. “Newly minted graduates can have a significant impact if they immerse themselves in the details and learn everything they can about a business. No piece of data is unimportant.”

Visit the Entrepreneurs in Residence page for more information on the program and a list of this year’s participants. For dates the entrepreneurs will be in residence, visit the Pillsbury Institute’s events page.

"To succeed as an entrepreneur, you need more than drive and determination—you need the willingness to take educated risk."

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