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Nathaniel Steele of Tully, N.Y., studied communication
Why did you choose Cornell?
The ability to take interesting electives in communication, marketing and entrepreneurship attracted me to transfer to Cornell after I graduated from Onondaga Community College. I knew I would never have a problem finding an interesting class here.
Main Cornell extracurricular activity -- why is it important to you?
Pi Sigma Epsilon, the sales and marketing fraternity on campus, because it was a good way to meet students from other disciplines who are passionate about their future careers.
While at Cornell, what other accomplishments/activities are you most proud of?
My startup venture, Cans for Causes, where I am working to achieve our motto of 'giving the nickel value again.' My company addresses the issue of unclaimed deposits in New York. New Yorkers pay nickel deposits on every water, soda and beer container; annually more than $103 million in deposits are not redeemed. We improve redemption rates by offering a collection service to businesses, making it easier for people to claim deposits, but we require that customers donate their deposits to good causes. I started the company with only a tank of gas and a stack of business cards, and so far we have facilitated more than $10,000 in donations to nonprofits and other good causes, and we have ambitious plans for the future.
What are your plans for next year; where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Next year I will continue in my role as founder and CEO of Cans for Causes, leading a student team at Cornell that helps with strategy and business development. I will divide my time between Ithaca, where I have leased an apartment, and Syracuse, where I will have my headquarters. In 10 years, I plan to continue to pursue my entrepreneurial interests. I would love to see Cans for Causes grow to become a multi-material recycling company with a social purpose, but it would also be great if it were acquired so that I could launch other ventures. I also hope to become a professional racing driver. When I was 18, I attended racing school, and I immediately became hooked and dedicated to pursuing a racing career. Most racing drivers have reached midcareer by my age, so it will be difficult to reach the upper echelons of racing, but motorsports is first and foremost a business, and therein lies an opportunity for me to succeed by finding great partners and sponsors. There are plenty of middle-aged racers that are either successful businessmen or dedicate themselves to the sponsorship search to fund their racing, and I can achieve my dream through this type of dedication. If I am not a racing driver, I would love to be working as a team principal or manager for a Formula 1 team or American LeMans racing team. I think that new vehicle technologies will finally begin to come to market in the next 10 years as petroleum becomes too expensive, so there is an opportunity for racing to innovate, and I would love to be involved in this transition.
Who or what at Cornell influenced your Cornell education the most?
In fulfilling my major requirements to take 12 credits outside the communication core, I was been able to take Leadership Theory and Practice in the Johnson School, and Entrepreneurial Management and Entrepreneurial Finance in the Hotel School, which provided new skills and an outlook that I can immediately apply toward my ventures.