For Immediate Release - Southwest Tennessee Community College

Date: June 20, 2011

GEAR UP Students Get a Unique Lesson in Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneur Chris Burns recently was the featured speaker who followed pitches from the Southwest GEAR UP – Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program – student entrepreneurial teams. Clad in a green linen shirt and light khaki trousers, he told the students, "This is as dressed up as I get." Burns, a take-me-as-I-am kind of person, seizes every opportunity he can to teach/educate people via what he calls impromptu presentations. "I'll do a presentation in the middle of a store while I am shopping for tennis shoes," Burns told the class. After the students presented their business plans, he briefly critiqued them and then went on to unfold the rewarding and treacherous road to his business mastery.

The 39-year-old Burns currently owns and operates four businesses:, a footwear company; CB Publishing, a book and movie release publishing company, Center Court Basketball (CCB) Sports Network, a sports blog; and a consulting and writing firm. He indicated that success came at a high price for him. Luck, accidents and mistakes, he said, forged his knowledge base. One of his most painful lessons Burns said was the loss of his ownership rights in a joint venture (reorganization) that forced him to file bankruptcy. "The little things that I didn't know caught up with me in 2008 and that's when I had to file bankruptcy," he candidly admitted. "Because I filed bankruptcy, it has enabled me to learn and do everything that I do now."

Burns catapulted off a basketball stint at San Diego City College to coaching high school basketball, then to recruiting undiscovered college athletes and helping them acquire scholarships. After founding CCB in 2004 to help under-recruited basketball players attain college scholarships, he helped to launch SHO-SHOT Athletics (offers athletic equipment and supplies) into a nationally recognized brand. The CCB Sports Network was a series of sports networks that covered high school and JUCO basketball players in Louisiana, Mississippi, California, Arkansas, and Tennessee. CCB is now a nationally recognized WNBA, NBA, and NCAA blog.

Burns said that it is important that the students become knowledgeable about entrepreneurship because of over the next 10 years, the warehousing and distribution industry (which powers the local economy) will become automated and will no longer need the current capacity of its labor force. That translates into fewer jobs. He said gone will be the days when one can get work, support a family and retire from a job at a distribution center. He encouraged the students to create their own businesses and build sustainable wealth for themselves. "So what you have right now in the GEAR UP program is an opportunity to start thinking about business," said Burns.

Cautioning students to be weary of people poised to snatch their dreams and steal their steam; he read to them from a book he is currently working on titled, One Hour to Wealth, about the five types of dreamers: Dream deferrers – never follow through and attempt to keep you from following through; Dream stealers – take your idea and do it before you do; Shaky dreamers – worry about what others think and never give 100 percent; Dream killers – discourage and break you down; and Dream builders – encourage and support your initiatives.

GEAR UP is a five-year federal grant program that helps students in designated middle and high schools in the Memphis City School District successfully complete high-level rigorous courses in preparation for post-secondary education. According to Dr. LaDonna Young, assistant professor for the Department of Education and GEAR UP site coordinator for Southwest, "More than 200 GEAR UP students have enrolled in Southwest as first-generation college students since the grant has been awarded to the college."


Photo caption: Entrepreneur Chris Burns shared with the GEAR UP students books from his personal collection.

For more information contact: Brenda J. Rayner, (901) 333-4247,, Farris Bldg., Room 1002, 5983 Macon Cove, Memphis, TN 38134