For entrepreneur and brand strategist, Daniel P. Calderon, when the world was shutting down, he knew it was time for him to open up. Calderon opened up his creativity, his network and a masterclass on how to maneuver with intention during a pandemic. While many of us were frantic and trying to figure out the next steps during the beginning stages of quarantine, the former human resource and operational leader who once ran a 300 million-grossing district at Target, had a pivot in his entrepreneurial journey. Daniel launched #WFH (Work From Home) this past Spring and the more recent Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow (EOT), which are meant to give back and inspire.
“I always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” Daniel explains, “I grew up in an entrepreneurial family.” And even at childhood, when Calderon did not quite know what being an entrepreneur meant or looked like, he can trace his first experience with entrepreneurship to his grandmother who shined in the barrel culture. “My grandmother would buy full price retail in NYC, mark up prices, and then go on to sell in the Caribbean.” Watching his grandmother create and sell something translated to Daniel, as a young Black boy growing up in Brooklyn, New York, to sell lemonade in order to buy a pair of sneakers that he wanted. “You really did not see Black children selling lemonade on the block. I took my sister with me, she was my assistant, and I made the best lemonade,” Daniel says. “Watching my grandmother do what she did and make money off of it, automatically clicked in my head. You make money, you are entrepreneurial,” he continues.
From selling lemonade to recently celebrating five years as a full-time entrepreneur, Daniel continues to elevate while not only inspiring those who follow his journey but also speaking truth to those who also aspire to enter the entrepreneurial field. During a time where people seem to shame those who are okay with working a 9-5, Calderon keeps it honest about failure and hardships of working for himself. “People are so in love with the idea of being an entrepreneur. They sell this fake idea of what it really means and what it really takes. I think it is irresponsible for entrepreneurs to paint a picture that doesn't exist because it makes people feel good,” Daniel says. “I rather share the uncomfortable truth so people can make the best decisions because it is very hard.” The hardships of being an entrepreneur heightened this past Spring when Covid-19 stopped the world in its tracks. For businesses and brands, figuring out how to sell to consumers became a challenge. Monetizing on social media became challenging. Freelancers and creatives suffered from losing projects to relationships that were being built breaking down. And in true Daniel P. Calderon fashion, he met these challenges by creating opportunities.
In response to the pandemic, what was supposed to be a virtual party to help raise money for creatives, freelancers and entrepreneurs, #WFH was launched. An acronym for hashtag work from home, Calderon produced a virtual party to lift spirits and raise money for those he knew needed help. “Being an entrepreneur is all about the right collaborations,” Daniel says regarding his quick ten-day turnaround in getting #WFH launched. The community project went on to produce weekly virtual events for a cause, helping to mobilize resources for the same very people who thought it was just a one time party. The first event raised over $3000 and hosted over 200 attendees. #WFH has now evolved to a creative studio that produces brand strategies and digital campaigns for brands, and non-profit cause-based initiatives.
Daniel’s quick turnaround time not only shows the genuine relationships that he has built with his network but his ability to meet the demands of the reality he faces, while still staying true to his entrepreneurial core. The demand that Daniel faced was stepping away from building his company Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow, to focus on #WFH, but he didn't step away for too long, launching EOT this past Summer. “I wanted to create something that lives beyond me and that is bigger than me. I want to solve problems and not always talk about the problem,” Calderon says about the creation of Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow. Along with his business partner and education director, Jack Salomone, Daniel launched EOT to teach at-promise youth in every community how to solve problems through entrepreneurship. “My network and I have a reach of millions of people, so building structures and programs that can spread positive messages and correct poor behaviors, can help amplify voices and create a platform for change,” Daniel says. “Our goal is to teach at-promise youth, in every community at the margins, entrepreneurship. I believe that those in marginalized communities have not had the opportunities to own the communities in which they live, why not create a future of owners?”
Those who know Daniel know that on any given day he is ready to discuss the importance of positive people in your circle, legacy and impact. “I want people to say I created leaders,” Daniel speaks on the legacy he is working to leave behind. The truth he speaks of comes off as a person who genuinely cares about those he gives his time to. He is intentional with how he chooses his projects, which shows by his partnership with the recently relaunched The Tenth, a media organization that documents the history, ideas, and politics of the Black LGBTQ community. It shows with his growing film producing career, with award-winning projects such as the dance film Unapologetic Me; Black/Gay/Man by Justin Dominic and Kings America made, by Kameron Mack. For all of what he has accomplished and more, Daniel is certainly a man on a mission.