Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Spring 2007Kellogg School of Management
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Risk takers, value makers
Venita Fields '88
Joseph Levy '47
David Weinstein '00
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Julia Stamberger '02 and Pam Jelaca '00
Cheryl Mayberry McKissack '89

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Risk takers, value makers

Master entrepreneur Joseph Levy marks six decades of business innovation and mentorship

Joseph Levy Jr. '47 knows the secret of running a business successfully, at any age.

"Entrepreneurs never get too old if they love what they're doing, and are doing it well," he says. That view captures reality for this Kellogg School graduate, who continues to put his heart into entrepreneurship almost 60 years after earning his MBA.

Joseph Levy  
Joseph Levy Jr. '47  Photo © Nathan Mandell  

As part of the fourth generation of his family's enterprises in the Chicago area, Levy gained a passion for entrepreneurship early. His great-grandfather ran a horse-and-buggy business, and Levy followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and father by pursuing a career in the automobile industry. He opened his own automotive dealership after he worked at his father's for 13 years. In two years, Levy says, his Evanston-based business became the world's largest Buick dealership, increasing sales from 300 cars a year to 5,000.

He attributes his success in part to being always available for customers and employees. "I was at the dealership every day from eight in the morning until 10 at night," he says. "I wasn't hidden in an office." Levy also credits his employees and the importance of kindness. One of his hiring strategies is to recruit people who are smarter than himself and then put his trust in them. "I hired people with no automobile experience, just people who were nice to individuals," he says, which was a change for the automobile industry.

Today, he is chairman of Levy Venture Management, through which he assists other entrepreneurs of all ages and interests. One current client is Inclusion Solutions, which manufactures products that increase accessibility between merchants and physically disabled customers. Levy also coaches Leslie Lancry, founder and president of Language Stars, a business that immerses children in foreign languages, and he has brought his expertise to Gray Hair Management, an Internet employment agency for people ages 55 and older. Other beneficiaries of Levy's wisdom include a worldwide door-to-door service to take the sick to hospitals, research facilities and family occasions, and a company that operates hotels for pets near airports.

Regardless of the enterprise, though, Levy says, "You need determination to make your ideas work, and you have to accept and live with occasional failures. Success must come from within you."

But Levy does more: Through his philanthropic efforts, he shares his own success and creates opportunities for others too.  His longtime support of the Kellogg School includes financial contributions and the gift of his entrepreneurial expertise. In recognition, Kellogg has bestowed its Joseph Schaffner Award on him and named the Levy Atrium in the Donald P. Jacobs Center in honor of Levy and his wife Carole.

Levy is equally passionate about helping seniors. "You get to a point where it's 'give-back' time," he says. "I felt that seniors were neglected in the community and could be recognized with a place of their own."

To do that, Levy and his family have created three senior activity centers in Evanston, Chicago and Bolingbrook, where thousands participate in classes, sports, games, exercise, art, dance, theater, writing and more.

"Soon, the retiring age will not be 65, but it will be 70 as people are living longer and staying active much longer." Levy believes that age means nothing, though, and his advice for older entrepreneurs is to stay engaged, both personally and professionally, to enjoy life.

— Adrienne Murrill
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