Everything that rises must converge
BE YOURSELF AND ALWAYS ADD VALUE. Today, Oliver Luckett wears so many entrepreneurial hats concurrently that it's hard to keep track of them all. He’s the founder of Niceland Seafood, founder of QR-enabled marketing company DigiFresh, founder of micro retailing platform HausMart, and most recently the founder and co-CEO of Ilex Organics, a leading producer of American Yaupon tea brands Yaupon Brothers, Yazoo Yaupon, and Sea Island Yaupon Tea, and of Yaupon-based skincare lines Yazoo Beauty and Ilexir.
That’s not even counting his previous companies. Notable past successes include marketing agency theAudience that worked with The Chainsmokers and social media distribution company DigiSynd, which was acquired by the Walt Disney Company. “I’m always the tip of the spear, trying to apply everything I’ve learnt to the next challenge, be it cold supply chain management or network systems. We’re just interconnected nodes on a system.”
All of his successes draw back to a set of commonly-held tenets—always add value, make something better, add brightness to the world, he says. Being true to his values helped bring the people he needed to succeed to him. “You have to be yourself because everyone else is taken.”
LEARNING TO LOVE THE SELF FIRST. Oliver felt like he had to achieve success before he could be accepted for who he was. He didn’t come out till he was 25. “I felt I had to be a millionaire before I could come out to my father,” he says. Oliver’s friends had driven him to his father’s house in Mississippi, and he regaled all of his achievements leading up to revealing he was gay. Turns out, the big speech was unnecessary. “You’re my son and I want you to know I love you no matter what,” Oliver’s father told him.
Perhaps the lack of any openly-gay role models back then led Oliver to think he needed to make a name for himself before he could be accepted. But he wants to change that. “I want to show people you can be yourself unapologetically.” I open every speech when I teach at the University of Southern California with the fact that Scott and I are married for over 12 years now, he says. He married Scott Guinn, a chef in Iceland, in 2017.
INDIVIDUALS HOLD THE POWER. As Oliver teaches students the value of embracing themselves, he believes that power is shifting to individuals, away from institutions. Being an entrepreneur is not about thinking how to build up a great institution anymore, but rather how to empower individuals to succeed, he notes.
"The age of record labels is over; the age of massive brands has passed; technology has provided individuals and new business ventures the tools and flexibility to thrive in this new landscape." It still seems not too long ago he was still trying to persuade Disney to open its assets up to the internet. “They don’t know what they don’t know, but they had been so used to the old way of doing things, accepting new ideas can be daunting.”