After graduating college at the top of his class, Greg Forbes Siegman walked away from his own lucrative career dreams to spend one year as a substitute schoolteacher in Chicago’s public schools. Two months into teaching, on March 8, 1997, Greg ran into two of his African-American students and took them for milkshakes. When the kids were treated poorly by a nearby customer, Greg was furious and vowed to return to the restaurant with ten people instead of two. In the process, he had started the BrunchBunch.com Program– bringing adults and students together over brunch on a weekly basis. 243 weeks later, Greg– now 29– had still never missed a single week of BrunchBunch.com. Not even four operations on his feet got in the way (the kids simply pushing him to brunch in a wheelchair). The one year teaching turned into five.
After the first 70 brunches, Greg created The 11-10-02 Foundation. Named after Greg’s 30th birthday and his belief young people can do anything, this 501c3 nonprofit organization oversees BrunchBunch.com and now gives out tens of thousands of dollars a year in grants and scholarships at their annual ShakingUpChicago.com Gala thanks to support from the likes of Kinko’s, AT&T Wireless Services, LaSalle National Bank Senior VP Michael W. Kiss, business advisor David Weinbeg, global consulting firm Strategos and the Gordon & Karen Millner Family Foundation. To raise funds– and to prove his principle that everyone and everything in life has value– Siegman has made a practice of selling seemingly ordinary items for extraordinary prices (convincing Nordstrom, for example, to pay $8000 for the piece of a Sprite can and later this year, auctioning off a piece of a baseball and the splinters of his Grandma’s rocking chair). The bulk of the funds raised by 11-10-02 now come from its “Milkshake” Campaign — instead of just taking kids for shakes, Siegman now sells shakes for $7500 apiece (and notes it is a fair price because it comes with a straw).
Greg has still never taken a salary for his efforts– still substitute teaching to this day while also speaking at companies, conferences, colleges and schools around the country. The principle behind ’11-10-02′ that young people are as capable as anyone has been put into practice as well thanks to the efforts of talented interns like Michael Berardini of Lake Forest High School, Kris Ekdahl of Latin School, Katrina Beltran of Loyola University and Naomi Fox of Highland Park.
Greg Forbes Siegman, whose stockbroker dad named him after the magazine, said he could not have made the foundation a success without his parents’ (unwitting) support. He joked, “Every year, my Dad sends me the Crain’s Book of Lists in the hope that I’ll go work for one of the CEOs featured inside of it. And every year, I end up convincing those CEOs to come volunteer with The 11-10-02 Foundation. It’s been a huge boost to our efforts.”
Jokes aside, Siegman insists that while his parents do wish he was more concerned with IPOs than SATs, they still remain the two most supportive people he knows and uses the lessons they taught him daily. He said, “My dad taught me that an investor invests not just in companies but in the people who are part of them. He also taught me that return is a function of risk. I never wanted to follow the Forbes family’s footsteps or for that matter, my dad’s, but in the end, ironically enough, in trying so hard to carve out my own path, I’ve ended up doing exactly what they do — investing in people– and in the process, I discovered my Dad was right– the risk may be greater when you invest in something or someone in whom nobody else believes– but the return is too.”
In a fitting irony, Siegman now even consults his Dad on the stock market but notes “some things will probably never change. He still ignores me when (CNN Anchor) Lou Dobbs is talking.”
For more information about Greg and The 11-10-02 Foundation, go to www.ShakingUpChicago.com