Max Shenkman on Running a Business

Max Shenkman, a freshman from Washington D.C., is interested in pursuing an international business track intending to major in Business and Enterprise Management and minor in Entrepreneurship. At school, Max is involved with Alpha Kappa Psi and is a member of the debate team. However, outside of campus life, Max runs and manages his own business. 

Her Campus: What is the name of your business and what does it do?

Max Shenkman: Currently it is called Socialis. I am the head of American operations for it since it is a Japanese business as well. I also have my own business that is currently in the process of splitting off from Socialis. It essentially connects Japanese businesses, who are trying to start a new product or are trying to garner American investment, to American investors who want to do the same thing. It is generally really hard for Japanese companies to get early-stage investment because it’s a different culture of investment. So, essentially, I both connect the company in Japan with investors here. The main client that I have right now is Socialis which is the company that I’m mostly working with, but there are a variety of clients that I’m also talking to. 

HC: What is your connection to Socialis and how did it form?

MS: I am the head of my own company in the US, but we are technically partnered with Socialis. At any point, if I wanted to I could technically break off that connection, but I just don’t really have a reason to do that. But we’re also going through a lot of re-branding and that type of stuff just so that I can have my own business completely independent of theirs. 

I’ve had a connection to Japan for a while. I learned the language and I’ve gone twice. Once, I went with a program called High School Diplomats. It’s a really cool program where they completely pay for a month-long trip to Japan and I was able to meet a lot of really cool people. One of the people I was able to meet was at the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan; his name was Kevin. We started working together, talking about what both of us can bring to the market place and what kind of gaps are there to be filled. Then, eventually, he introduced me to the greater company of Socialis and that’s how I started doing my own work of connecting multiple different companies in Japan.

HC: Why did you decide you wanted to start your own business?

MS: I felt like the way that I learn, the way that I do what I do best is not through the traditional school environment. I felt like there never really was anyone who told me you can do other things that are going to help you get your own success instead of just getting a 4.0. I just wanted to start having my own influence at a younger age, so I said, “What are my skills?” 

I’m really good at networking, I’m really good at talking to people and so I tried to put those into good use along with the fact that I have a connection with US and Japan and just found a hole in the marketplace. 

HC: What are your hopes for your business in the future?

MS: In order for me to grow it into the biggest version of what I want it to grow into there’s a bunch of hoops I have to go through that I just can’t go through at the moment. But, right now, I’m working on growing it into a marketing platform for Japanese companies and for American companies —  just bridging the divide between the two. When I’m older or when I have the means to be able to do it, I really want to be able to grow it into something that is more meaningful and can actually take the difficulty out of that process. In terms of the buying and selling of other companies, I want to be the intermediary between the two companies that are looking for American investment. 

HC: What is your advice for anyone who wants to start their own business?

MS: If you have an idea, figure out some way to do something with it. Don’t stop at having an idea. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination. I’m still going through a lot of the processing myself, but if you have the motivation to do it then that’s what’s going to be rewarding. Along those same lines, if you wait until the time you’re 40, it’s not going to have nearly that same significance and you’re not going to nearly have that same amount of expertise that you would have if you’re starting it when you’re 18. At the point that we’re at Wake or at any college campus, you have so many resources available to you. I’ve literally just walked into professors’ offices before and been like, “Hey, I don’t know whether to form this type of company or this type of company when I’m developing my business.” And they’ve been like, “Here’s advantages of this one, advantages of this one, advantages of this one and here’s why I think you should pick this one.” Where else are you going to find free legal and economic advice? This is the only place where you’re ever going to get that type of thing. I would say that just because people are going to laugh at you or think you’re doing something weird, that doesn’t necessitate a reason to stop it. When you take that first step and actually put yourself into it, then people are going to love you for it.