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Lawrence Watkins Founder & CEO, Great Black Speakers

Lawrence Watkins is one of America’s leading entrepreneurship and personal achievement experts. His journey has taken him from an ultra-underachiever in high school to a graduate of an Ivy League business school as well as the owner of Great Black Speakers, Great Pro Speakers, co-founder of Ujamaa Deals, and principal of Sachs Technologies. Lawrence was born and raised in Louisville, KY to a police officer father and a mother who was a counselor for pregnant teenagers. Due to his lack of self confidence, lack of interest, and pressure to fit in with his peers, Lawrence underperformed in middle school and the early part of high school. He still remembers feeling stupid and worthless when he bought home 4 F’s, a D, and an A in gym on his 8th grade report card. It wasn’t until his acceptance into the Math and Science for Minority Students program at the prestigious boarding school, Phillips Academy at Andover, that his academic trajectory changed. Here he found educators who believed in his abilities, motivated him to achieve, and exposed him to new opportunities that he did not know existed. Lawrence fell in love with his new found academic success. He began to excel in school and was awarded a full scholarship to the University of Louisville where he majored in Electrical Engineering. Over his college career, Lawrence was very active in campus extracurricular activities. He ran for Student Government President, planned a 700 person regional conference for the National Society of Black Engineers, and was chapter Vice President for Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Lawrence proactively worked to improve academically by participating in the Summer Venture in Management Program at Harvard Business School and The Public Policy & International Affairs Fellowship Program at Carnegie Mellon. These experiences were the precursors that guided him away from engineering and into social entrepreneurship. After graduating from college in 2006, Lawrence stepped out on a limb and turned down job offers from two Fortune 50 companies to help grow the speaking career of his older brother, Dr. Boyce Watkins. This turned out to be one of the best decisions of his life as he was able to follow his passion for entrepreneurship. Immediately, Lawrence experienced success booking Dr. Watkins for speaking engagements. Building on this success, Great Black Speakers was born in January of 2007 and has grown from a roster of 12 speakers to one that includes over 200 of the best and well known speakers in the nation. Starting the company wasn’t easy as Lawrence experienced entrepreneurial growing pains and almost bankrupted the company within the first six months of starting it. After learning from this experience, his pain soon turned into pleasure as Lawrence continued to successfully grow his company and book speakers for over 200 organizations around the world. In the Fall of 2008, Lawrence decided to take a break from the day-to-day management of his company to pursue an MBA in Entrepreneurship and Marketing from The Johnson School of Management at Cornell University. He is also a proud alum of Management Leadership for Tomorrow and member of The Young Entrepreneur Council. After completing his degree in May 2010, Lawrence decided to dedicate his time to growing his speakers’ bureaus and teaching public speakers how to succeed within the industry. Lawrence’s mission of becoming a tycoon politically, socially, and economically so that he may have a positive impact on his community is well underway. Through his personal journey and knowledge, he wants to change the lives of as many people as possible.

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