Gentleman of the Month – Volume Four: Ricardo Sebastian

Welcome to Gentleman of the Month, volume four. This ongoing series highlights the notable men of our generation who deserve recognition for supreme effort and achievement in their chosen craft. For our August edition, we’ve chosen to laud a man with an acute awareness of what it means to give back to the world: Ricardo Sebastian, the Founder and Project Manager of Luxury Management. Not only does he go above and beyond in various aspects of his humanitarian work, but does so quite fashionably. We invite you to familiarize yourself  with him further below!

 

Why did you choose to live in Chicago?

 

I was born and raised in Chicago- so not really a choice initially but I did decide to build and headquarter my company here. This is an incredible city with so much to offer. It’s amazing to see how Chicago has evolved and grown over one lifespan—very proud and grateful to be from Chicago and to have my company headquartered here! I’d say my favorite aspect of this city is the combination of hustle and hospitality with its people.

 

What is the most important thing to you regarding personal connections and family?

 

While every relationship I have brings out a different side in me, and is unique in its own way, I would say being able to be authentically me is the most important—whether it is on my worst or best days. We all have something positive to contribute to this world and we all have our downfalls.

 

It’s important to surround ourselves with people who will be there for you unconditionally. We live in a world driven by instant gratification and that mentality has made it challenging to build meaningful relationships for many. I’ve noticed how quick everyone is to move on when they’re not getting what they want out of people. That’s not what life is about. We’re in this together and that’s why I think it’s important to build unconditional type relationships.

 

On a more personal level—being gay, I have experienced what it’s like to edit myself in order to fit in, to feel loved and to just have friends. It’s been a long time since I last had to edit myself but the feeling of freedom still exists to this day when I think about all the people in my life who empower me to be simply me—and I think that’s a reasonable expectation for anyone to have of those around them.

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What is your most important business philosophy?

 

Communication is Key: I know that’s might not be most original-eye opening philosophy but I think a lot of people
tend to overlook how effective being clear about ones wants, needs and expectations can be. The more you’re able to articulate yourself then the more effective you will be in achieving your goals and objectives, whether you’re working independently or in a team.

 

 

What is the most important thing to you regarding philanthropic service?

 

Results. I’ve been working with Habitat for Humanity for a long time and I love it because you can quantify results in a very specific way. From how donations are spent to how many hours it takes to build a home, to how many families become homeowners. “Feeling good” about contributing isn’t enough if the work of the organization isn’t generating social and/or economic change.

 

Tell us a little about your involvement with Habitat for Humanity and why you’re so passionate.

 

My first volunteer experience was with Habitat for Humanity 10 years ago. I was a sophomore in college and President of our International Business Club. Through this club I raised enough money to create a scholarship fund and few 10 of my peers to New Orleans. We worked on building 5 homes during our time. In 2013 I became the Chair for Habitat’s Young Professionals Committee in Chicagoland and now sit on the National Advisory Council for Habitat’s Young Professionals initiative.

 

My passion stems from humble beginnings. My family moved around a lot when I was growing up—went to 6 different schools by the time I was in 6th grade, which was the year my parents bought our home. Becoming homeowners changed the entire dynamic of our family. We now had stability and a place to build memories together. It also put us in a position better to help others. I’ve experienced firsthand what having a place to call home can do and it’s built a connection to the 1.6 million families who have been given access to affordable housing through Habitat for Humanity.

 

13950723_10100108047444593_534099193_oWhat is the current event/project you’re working on?

 

I’m currently working on the international expansion of Three Stops for Humanity (#3S4H). This is an awareness and fundraising initiative that started via Habitat for Humanity Chicagoland’s Young Professionals Committee. We are recruiting up to 30 Taste Makers, Community Leaders and Habitat Young Professionals to raise funds/awareness in Chicago, NY and LA through October. We will then fly to South America for our first #3S4H International Build & Experience. More info is available here: https://share.habitat.org/gv17234

 

What is your favorite piece of clothing and why?

 

I recently got this amazing snapback by @shopnastyAL. It’s bold in color and floral print, but the best part is the patch that says “Have a Nice Day”. I fell in love with it the moment I saw it and can’t help but to notice the reaction it gets out of people—random strangers will smile at it (not me but the hat).

 

Smiles are contagious. So, for me, it’s about instigating happiness and sending positive vibes. The world is intense right now. We are surrounded by disparity, terrorism, violence and a lot of madness. I think we’ve gotten to a point, as a society, where a lot of people have forgotten the power and influence of smiling or just being happy.

 

It’s impossible to be happy all day-everyday. Life will always through us curveballs. So I like to think this hat has the power to interject some happiness into the lives of others—even if it’s just for a moment in time.

 

What is a life lesson you’ve picked up along the way?

 

OMG. Seriously, one lesson? I’m definitely a work in progress. Many lessons have been learned through my own mistakes and through the lives of others. Maybe the most important one is learning how to take responsibility for our own actions. We all make mistakes. It’s inevitable.

 

An old friend once told me it’s impossible for two people to know each other and to never hurt, upset or offend each other. We are each so uniquely sensitive and often times we learn of others sensitivity too late. There is a lot of power in acknowledging and embracing this, by doing so we can resolve a lot of conflict. This also goes hand in hand with basic tolerance and acceptance. Everyone is different. Learning to live and let live, accepting each other’s difference and considering the perspectives of others are some great ways to make this world a better place.

Gentleman of the Month – Volume Three: Leighton Smith

We’re happy to announce the third volume of our ongoing segment, Gentleman of the Month. Here at GentlemenCare, we want to highlight talented men and women from our community who are doing great things, and changing our world for the better. This month we want to introduce you to a truly phenomenal philanthropist, Leighton Smith. We’ve had the pleasure of working with Leighton on several occasions, and the impact he has within his local community is truly of note. His involvement with 100+ Men Who Care has helped the organization grown to thousands of members across the nation. You can learn more about 100+ Men Who Care, and Leightons local chapter here: 100plusmen.org. With no further ado, let’s get started:

 

So Leighton, why do you live in Iowa?

 

I live in Iowa because of the people and the feats we are capable of here. This is a place large enough to dream grand dreams yet small enough to get things done.

 

What is the most important thing to you regarding personal connections and family?

 

The thing that makes me happiest is helping the people around me to experience their dreams. At the risk of exposing myself as cliched, the high school football movie ‘Friday Night Lights’ includes a coach’s speech on ‘being perfect’ that sums it up for me. He explains that ‘being perfect’ is about ‘being able to look [your friends] in the eye and tell them the truth that you have done everything that you could.’ People are the why, how and what for me in making a dent on the world. What’s most important to me is giving them all that I can each and every day.

 

What is your most important business philosophy?

 

Find ways to help by asking the right questions.

 

What is the most important thing to you regarding philanthropic service?

 

The most important thing is to operate from a place of caring. It’s very important to find ways to use your gifts and to meet needs, but acting out of a sincere passion is the only non-negotiable in service.

 

Tell us a little about ‘100+ Men Who Care’.

 

#ThePowerof100 is a notable movement in philanthropy today. More than 500 ‘clubs’ around the world are now making quarterly gifts of more than $10,000 in less than 100 minutes. The basic concept is that 100 or more people gather, some of those people nominate charities, three are randomly drawn, ‘pitches’ are made by the nominators, all those present vote, and the highest vote-getter receives a $100 check from each club member. 100 people x $100 –> $10,000+ gift to a deserving charity. No extra meetings, fundraisers, stuff to sell, or events to plan. It’s an energizing way to give back to the world in a refreshingly simple and efficient way. We are fortunate to have clubs in the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids area. Though the concept began in Michigan, we’ve added more new clubs in Iowa than any other state in the last year. #IowaBrag

 

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Working on anything exciting lately?

 

I am really excited about a new event supporting Eastern Iowa Honor Flight. When’s the last time you saw a group of people pulling a full sized jet? Pulling for Honor: Eastern Iowa Honor Flight is a team-based event where groups of people will compete to see who can pull a FedEx jet the fastest. Google ‘plane pull’ for visuals. The Eastern Iowa Airport has been an amazing partner in making this happen. In addition to the main event, ‘they have also made arrangements for a variety of exciting opportunities for people of all ages, including flights for young people through the Young Eagles program, a variety of static displays for kids like large fire trucks, and other ways to have some fun on a Saturday morning. The end goal is to raise enough money to fund an additional Honor Flight for this region next year. Honor Flight takes Veterans to visit memorials in Washington, D.C. Save the date for August 6th and find out more here: http://eihonorflight.org/

 

Favorite piece of clothing you own? Why?

 

My favorite article of clothing is a pair of Allen Edmonds chelsea style boots. My grandpa once told me that a man’s watch, shoes, and handshake tell you just about all that you need to know about him. Truly fine watches are something I’m saving as gifts to myself after major life achievements, but good shoes are something I prioritized at an early stage in my career. Though I wear oxfords most days for work, my boots strike a good balance between my small town farm upbringing and the (slightly) bigger town life I now live.

 

One last thing… we were hoping to hear about a big life lesson you’ve picked up along your journey. Kindly indulge us, if you would.

 

I struggle mightily with impatience, but I’m learning to take a long view with my decisions and values. Legacy is something that slowly and deeply took hold in my heart as I grew up watching my parents work together to build something that can last. Warren Buffett, a large figure in our family’s financial philosophy, is known for saying that “you can’t produce a baby in one month by getting 9 women pregnant.” Though I’ve never tried to prove him wrong (smile), it seems to me that things that really matter take at least one lifetime to achieve, and often many more. I encourage people to think about what they would like their legacy to be, and I do my best each day to maintain an orientation toward the very long term. I hope that when my days are nearing an end, I will be able to reflect on a life well-lived alongside my partner in all things, my bride, Sarah.

Gentleman of the Month – Volume Two: Stacey Walker

We recently had the great pleasure of interviewing our friend Stacey Walker as he announced his campaign for District Supervisor for Linn County. A true difference maker, Stacey has had a big impact in everything he has done. Before we get into the interview, here’s a quick rundown of the impressive Stacey Walker:

 

Born and raised in Cedar Rapids, Stacey Walker feels a personal commitment to make Linn County a safe, healthy and prosperous place for all of its families.

A product of public schools and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cedar Rapids, Stacy understands firsthand how government, non-profits and businesses can collaborate to foster opportunities for all children.

In 2010, he helped launch the LBA Foundation; a Cedar Rapids non-profit that works to keep school-aged kids on track to graduate. He then assisted AOL Founder Steve Case in his efforts to reinvigorate America’s entrepreneurial ecosystem through the philanthropic non-profit Case Foundation, which invests in people and ideas that can change the world. 

Most recently Stacey helped execute on growth and development strategy for Hawkeye Hotels and Patel Endeavors, companies that operate nearly one hundred hotels across the country with additional investments in Iowa-based startups. 

Currently Stacey serves as the Chair of the Safe, Equitable and Thriving Communities Task Force, a multi-jurisdictional partnership formed to address systemic poverty and gun violence across Linn County. 

Stacey graduated from Washington High School in Cedar Rapids and earned his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Iowa in 2010.

 

We’re sure you get asked this a lot, but tell us – what made you decide to run for office?

 

I do get asked this question quite a bit, but for good measure. In short, I’m running for office because I want to help my community. Linn County is the second largest county in the state of Iowa. Our sheer size and diversity presents us with a lot of challenges, but also a lot of opportunities.

For instance, in District 2, there is a mix of high-end residential properties, public housing in low-income neighborhoods, the up and coming New Bohemia District, industrial communities, and rural neighborhoods to the south. Each area has a specific set of needs and I hope to be a representative for everyone. I want to make sure that the same economic opportunities that exist for the worker in Cedar Rapids are there for the worker living in rural Ely; that the child growing up in my neighborhood of Oakhill, Jackson has the same opportunities as the kid who grows up in Bowman Woods.

 

A lot of what you’ve conveyed in your campaign speeches and writings has centered on equity. Why is this so important to you?

 

I talk about equity often because I believe it is the defining issue of our time. When there are groups of people who are not treated equally or lack the same opportunities afforded to others, then we defy who we are as a people. We are the United States of America, which means we all stand together, and our prospects for success and failure as a society are intrinsically tied together. We live in a time where so many people are experiencing unprecedented wealth and prosperity, which means there’s no reason why we should tolerate the massive inequality and poverty that exists in some marginalized communities.

 

We couldn’t agree more. With that in mind, how do you plan to address issues like inequality as a county supervisor?

 

That’s a great question. The simple answer is: everyone has a role to play doing this very important work, whether you’re an elected official, a community leader, or corporate leader. Whatever your role, a good amount of your time should be spent thinking about how you can help others, and particularly, how you can assist those who by reasons outside of their control, have not been given a fair shake in life.

As a county supervisor, I will have the ability to continue the work of the Safe, Equitable, and Thriving Communities Task Force, which is a multi-jurisdictional effort that leverages the capabilities of city and county government, along with the Cedar Rapids Community School District to address systemic poverty, inequities and other hardships plaguing our communities. In addition, I can work with other county departments to ensure that they are placing a premium on equity when it comes to the services they provide to the people of Linn County.

 

Shifting gears a little bit. Whenever a younger candidate runs for public office, they are usually met with a lot of skepticism as to whether or not they possess the wisdom needed to be successful in office. Have you faced any pushback because of your age?

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You know, it is really unfortunate that so much attention gets paid to a person’s age. I don’t see how the number of years a person has been alive is a good indicator for how capable they will be doing any job. With that said, I understand that people often associate age with maturity — however if they have been paying attention to national politics lately, that association might very well be thrown out of the window.

Look – I’m 28 years old with several meaningful life experiences, both personal and professional that make me qualified for the job. I’ve helped manage growth and development strategy for a multi-million dollar company. I’ve helped run non-profit organizations. I’ve worked on campaigns. I’ve managed people. I’ve studied policy and organizational systems. I know how to lead, and more importantly, I know how to listen. These are the sort of things that I believe matter most when it comes to assessing the qualifications individuals running for elected office.

 

 

 

Sure. We’ve heard it’s just a number, anyway. But surely there have been people who influenced you along the way. Who are some of your heroes?

 

The individual who has had the single greatest impact on my life was my grandmother, Shirley Martin. She took me in, along with my younger sister, when our mother was murdered in Buffalo, New York when I was just four years old. She retired from her job early to raise us. She kept us in church, stayed on us about school, and did the best she could to raise us on a fixed income. She taught me how to be strong in the face of adversity and what it means to really love someone. I really do wish she has here today to see me embarking on this path for public office.

On a more local level, one of my favorite elected officials is Representative Liz Bennett. She cares about everyone in her district and it shows. She shows up at events in the community. She has a wicked awesome style. She brings people together. She has conviction, which means you’ll always know where she stands on the issues, even when the political winds are blowing against her. That sort of courage is rare in today’s political system, and that is why I admire her.

 

Tell us a little bit about your personal style.

 

Well I go for clean, functional looks. If I don’t need a tie, I’ll leave it at home. I’m a sucker for a good cardigan. I think presentation is important, but I’m also a believer that style and fashion is really all about personal expression. If you get down with Chuck Taylor Converse shoes and graphic t-shirts, then wear it with confidence. If the job requires a suit and tie, then choose a tie that makes a statement. I’m all about freedom of expression. If it feels good on you, and you like what you see in the mirror, step outside with a little pep in your step and take on the world.

 

You’re the Chair of the S.E.T Communities Task Force, you’re Ravi Patel’s right hand man, and you’re even teaching a class in Cedar Rapids. How do you find balance?

 

I think everyone struggles with finding balance. As you get older and take on more responsibilities, it gets a bit harder. I try to meditate in the mornings, and focus on what needs to get done that day. I remind myself to pay more attention to relationships than I do to tasks and deliverables. I try to “disconnect,” once I get home from the office. I’ve found that most e-mails can wait to be answered in the morning. I find micro-hobbies (things I get into for a month or so at a time). My Sundays are sacred, meaning I reserve that day for my significant other. I laugh a lot. I remember that I’m human. I keep in mind that while we ought to make the most of our short time on this earth, in the final analysis, it’s all about people and the relationships you make. That keeps me grounded.

Gentleman of the Month – Volume One: Aaron Horn

We’re starting a new segment called the Gentlemen of the Month here at GentlemenCare. We want to highlight talented men and women from our community who are doing great things, and changing our world for the better. We sat down with our Philanthropic Advisor, Aaron Horn. Aaron is someone we have had the great pleasure of getting to know well over the last few years. A true difference maker, Aaron is the Director of IT at Iowa Interstate Railroad, President of Beat Cancer Today, and Founder of Corrobo, a proofreading service for startups. We’re honored to have him as part of our team, and we think you’ll agree. Here we go:
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To get started, Aaron, why do you live in Iowa?
I live in Iowa because most of my family is here.  My parents live in Stuart, IA and my in-laws live in Cedar Rapids.  I also live in Iowa because of the quality of the schools, the quality and low cost of living, the great local talent, the community support of entrepreneurship , and the friendly and helpful people in general.  I even appreciate the full range of seasons we get here, although that’s harder to say after getting 10+ inches of snow recently. 😉
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What is the most important thing to you regarding personal connections / family?fam (1)
I am married with five kids and family is my priority.  I don’t really worry about the idea of work/life balance.  It’s all life, so I just try to do the best I can in making time with my family a priority.  Of course there are times that I have an evening meeting or need to travel for work and be away, but making sure I’m spending as much time at home as I can is important to me.
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What is your most important business philosophy?
Integrity in everything I do.  How I do business is a reflection of who I really am.  When you and I meet, I’m going to be the same guy whether we meet as potential business partners or at a social event after work.  I look for long term business partners, not just one off vendors or customers, so honesty and real relationships are important.
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What is the most important thing to you regarding philanthropic service?
I think that doing something that impacts other people is important.  I feel very blessed to be able to dedicate some of my time and resources to helping others.  Whether it’s financially supporting a local ministry, a global ministry, or spending time and effort on Beat Cancer Today, serving others is something that is important for me to make time for.  I might regret spending time on certain things at the end of my life, but spending time helping others won’t be one of those regrets.
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Tell us a little about ‘Beat Cancer Today’. How / why did you start it?
My son Eli was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma at the age of three and a half in 2007.  He fought it for over four years and the harsh treatments ended up causing secondary cancer (leukemia) and he passed away in 2012 during a transplant a month before his 8th birthday.  I co-founded Beat Cancer Today back in 2009 with a few other families in Iowa that were battling childhood cancer.  One of the moms saw those “Beat Iowa” and “Beat State” tshirts and thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if both teams wore ‘Beat Cancer’ shirts instead?”
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 We decided to make them and sell them with profits going to Children’s Cancer Connection, Children’s Oncology Group Foundation, and the University of Iowa Dance Marathon because these are organizations that do really great work for childhood cancer families and had touched all of us personally.  It really took off and we became a 501(c)(3) that still sells the tshirts/hoodies/bracelets for schools and businesses and also holds fundraising events to continue to support those three organizations.  In 2015, we were able to give $57,000 to those charities.  In the last 3 years, we have been able to donate $118k to these organizations that offer family and patient support programs as well as research for childhood cancer.  If you’re interested in seeing our Beat Cancer apparel, just visit www.BeatCancerToday.org!
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Favorite piece of clothing you own? Why?
Is this where I’m supposed to say my GentlemenCare belt?  😉  Honestly, I really do love the GC products.  I love the high quality and that I know the great guys that made it.  I wear my belt every day and it works with any kind of situation.  I also love the ability to throw on a nice blazer from Men’s Style Lab and instantly step up my look a notch.
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What is a big life lesson that you’ve pick up along the way?
Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Eli’s battle with cancer was obviously a very difficult time in my life.  Over those four and a half years, it became very clear to me how silly it is to get so worked up over small things.  I used to get upset over things like my kids spilling their drinks on the carpet.  I would give anything to have Eli around spilling his drink on the carpet today.  I think it was a huge eye opener for me to realize that there are way more important struggles in life you could be stressed out and anxious about than the little things that just don’t matter in the long run.