Greetings ONEin3ers. I’m Srin, and I’ll be writing profiles on young entrepreneurs and other interesting individuals who are connected to our fine city.
Many of you work or volunteer in the social cause sector and may have met and/or heard of Robbie Samuels, a man who is the definition of a passionate social entrepreneur! Winner of the 2010 Service Nation’s Boston Service Hero Contest, Samuels is a trainer and consultant at RobbieSamuels.com and teaches skill building workshops including his popular training the “Art of the Schmooze”. He is also the Co-Founder/Co-Organizer of Socializing for Justice (SoJust), a grassroots organization funded solely on member contributions that encourages people involved in various progressive social justice causes to come together, mobilize and socialize in the Boston area and beyond.
Samuels was born and raised in Long Island, NY, received a BA and MSW from SUNY Stony Brook and has been an activist and entrepreneur since high school. He campaigned against school funding cuts at 15 years old and started a recycling program that was utilized by his school district. His decision to move to the Boston area occurred in 2002 after being introduced to the city’s multiple cultural and social offerings by personal connections. He has lived in Dorchester and currently resides in Jamaica Plain. His first job was waiting tables before moving on to fundraising for organizations such as AIDS Action and The Theater Offensive. Samuels has spent the last five years as the Special Events Manager for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) based in Downtown Crossing.
Previously identifying as a woman, Robbie’s physical emergence to a man began in 2004 and he wanted a space to explore the implications of being perceived as straight, white man. He joined the Boston chapter of National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS) to meet peers dedicated to addressing male privilege. “At NOMAS I went from liberal to progressive, looking at issues from an institutional level as opposed to individual.” SoJust and the “Art of the Schmooze”, a workshop teaching networking skills, were born out of a desire for wanting more connection with fellow progressive individuals. In the summer of 2006, Samuels gathered together local organizers to discuss creating a new cross-issue social group in Boston. The result was Socializing for Justice which was co-founded by Samuels and Hilary Allen. Since the group’s inception, SoJust has hosted 85 events and grown to almost 1600 members.Samuels encouraged regular attendees to make newcomers feel welcome and an organic offshoot of his efforts spawned “The Art of the Schmooze” so that everyone would have the tools to connect with confidence. This is in line with his strong belief in the philosophy of abundance, “sharing knowledge allows for more not less.”
Many people might not know that Robbie met his partner and SoJust’s co-organizer Alison Brill through one of SoJust’s earliest events. So who knows, if you’re looking for love along with your movement building you might find it SoJust style!
Does Robbie have advice for budding business folk?
“When I first moved here I was not as familiar with resources as I could be, which is why ONEin3 is so important, so the government is not seen as a usurper of resources.
Get a mentor (s), a community, a two way conversation. Get guidance about your choices, how do you spend your time? Social change entrepreneurs should share their vision of a just world. Be super clear about your mission and do your piece really well and trust that that [others] will do their piece really well.”
Samuels states that time is the biggest constraint of running a small business. The joys of self employment? Freedom of choices. He adds, “My signature training, The Art of the Schmooze, has helped a wide range of people with capacity building that gives value to organizations and individuals.” I enquired about other applications of these social skills, and he suggested that they can be fairly universal. You can use schmoozing to navigate the bar culture to family life, “tools in the toolbox to handle difficult conversations.” In the end, Samuels is clear about his priorities, “I’m not worried about the numbers, I’m worried about what relationships are being built.”
Other Boston area businesses/restaurants/artists that Robbie would recommend?
Boston can be a hard area to get to know new people and you should definitely check out a SoJust event to meet, “someone like yourself and someone you otherwise wouldn’t have.” Events are held in all areas of the city and beyond, including downtown, Mattapan, East Boston, and JP so you have a great reason to check out parts of the city you haven’t yet enjoyed.
Those of you who have taken the “Art of the Schmooze” will know that Samuels talks about the idea of approaching people in groups of three as croissants vs. bagels. I’m a huge fan of food so I literally had to know in Cake vs. Pie style….Croissants vs. bagels?
“English muffins.” Nope, Srin wanted more and wasn’t taking any diplomacy. “ If I were in NY, it would be a bialy.” I finally got it out of him. “I eat more bagels, Everything bagels. I don’t judge.”
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