An Interview with Burak Esen: An Aspiring Entrepreneur

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Andy: We’re here with Burak Esen for A Virginia Blog. Thanks for meeting with me, man. What are your plans for the summer, in regards to gaining new experiences and business/networking opportunities?

Burak: For a while, I was trying to figure out my calling. I was looking at all that dry financial stuff that people seek. But then, sales happened. I started doing sales at school. And somehow, I found this opportunity through a friend and I got the job offer and I start it on August 6th. I’ve been out of this area for four years. I guess I’m back on my bullshit. I was out in the country, and I liked it though.

But now I’m getting into lots of networking in the Clarendon/Tyson’s area. I’m home now. I’m trying to network heavy, get involved in things on the side. I just took up golf. I’m trying to do little things here and there. 

I have three more credits left in school. But that’s basically over with, and then I start my job, get my degree, and then I’m out. 

Andy: College is an experience/institution that a fortunate few get to enjoy. What are three things you feel had the most impact on you while you were there?

Burak: Maybe hitting rock bottom, understanding myself, and then staying in your lane. A lot of times, we deviate a lot from what we truly like and love. Trying to impress people for different purposes. 

We get into things, go out too much. Sometimes, you hit this trough. And that’s when people sink. I tried to find a way to get though these classes. I would literally shake while taking a test. 

But now, I’m a first-generation college student. There’s a lot of people, depending on me to get this little piece of paper. Go through B.S. to get your B.A. 

I say that you learn more about yourself in one year of college than four years of high school. You learn a lot about people, who to like, and who not to like.

You form your life. 

Andy: We were talking earlier in the week on some of your goals for the near future. What are your plans for fulfilling and executing your personal brand? And how instrumental is social media in your life for achieving this goal?

Burak: Everyone has one. It’s another word for your reputation. A personal brand has more dimensions to it. And I’m still trying to figure that out. I don’t know what my true calling is yet. I’m learning about public speaking and mentoring. I think I have a lot to offer to different demographics. I have my 9-5 job, but I’ll be building from there. I don’t want to be a motivational speaker in a sense. I just want to be able to inspire kids. And tell them, that true happiness is not hard. There’s a couple little things here and there, that some people do that separate them from the pack.   

Social media is just a catalyst. Networking helps. You see certain things that people do, and you interact with people. And you can comment and post, and get connected in a way. Show them gratitude and let them feel important. People always want to feel important. I’ve cold dmed Gary V. And he commented back: 100, 100. 

And that’s fucking Gary V. Gary Vaynerchuk. He breaks down social media and tells you how to post content on social media.  

Andy: Do you prefer IRL networking as opposed to building a social media presence? 

Burak:I think you need both in a sense. I used to be pretty well-known on Twitter. I don’t have a Michael or John name. People have called me Obama or Obeezy. It can go from: In. Real. Life, to the internet. Then it kind of switches. It goes both ways. Sometimes you ask for the IG first.

Andy: Who are you biggest influences? In terms of music, fashion, and culture? 

Burak: Music has been part of my life since Day 1. I was in fourth grade listening to Sucka Free Sunday, listening to Birdman and Lil Wayne. 

I’ve just been inspired by people. 

A$AP Rocky, at one point. Rick Ross. 

Started listening to Heavy metal, because of Viva La Bam. It’s just music, fashion, culture, it’s all in that one soup. It intersects in so many ways. In high school, I started listening to lots of EDM music. Then I listened to Tyler The Creator. I went to LA and went to the GOLF WANG store. Shouts out to him. I can identify with him and his fashion. He blew up and is now still being relevant. 

I was always the too black for white, and too white for black kind of kid. I’m mixed race. Tyler helped me get past that. It’s okay to listen to rock music if you’re a black kid. And it’s okay to listen to jazz if you want to. Paul Jackson Jr is the one jazz musician I really like. It’s more about the music, than the person. I’ve always never wanted limitations. No ceiling. 

When I started listening to A$AP Rocky, I got into Black Scale. 

And I used to hate Yeezy the brand, I’m still not a full fan of it. But he gets it, he understands it. Pharrell is just popping. Now you got Joey Badass doing fashion. I went from skater, diamond supply. Now I do Uniglow. Really simple, clean cut. Look good, feel good. The chill out, relaxed look. I don’t like ties. You got to dress nice in a sense. 

Andy: What intrigues you about mentorship? 

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Burak: So, mentorship, I went through it. That’s why I’m so passionate about it. Without mentorship, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now. I wouldn’t be in track to graduate. Raging Mammoth helped me. Shout outs to Nick Delanders, out of LA. I kind of stood out within the group of ambassadors. I don’t like tooting my own horn, but I was closing deals. I was just straight selling it; their product. I knew a lot of their marketing schemes. Those types of people I looked up to, this is the type of engagement I want to get into. They sent me a hand-written note and I got it on my bulletin board. It has not moved since.

I’ve also gotten into mentorship in Alumni at Penn State. I’m a first-generation college student, to get my Bachelors. I’m the first one. It’s been a tough ride, but it’s been worth it. And it’s not over. 

Dad’s been in the school of hard knocks. And my niche, is helping a black or brown kid. When I was doing Econ, it was mostly white, or Chinese exchange students at Penn state. 

And I never felt like I really belonged. 

So, first generation college kids are the ones who I want to help. But I’m also out to help all backgrounds and races. My parents are still figuring out things. Jeez, Fafsa is huge. Sometimes people don’t have money for books. 

College is like a basketball game and right now I’m in my OT. Some people gas out in the third quarter, and don’t make it to the fourth. 

There’s an edge that I didn’t have, that I have now. And I want to be a resource for people. As they say from Day 1, it’s about who you know, not what you know. Although, you still need work ethic. 

Andy: What are three aspects of NOVA that pulled you back to it after college?

Burak: There’s hustle, there’s people moving. It’s a fast-paced environment. And especially, I was living in central PA, and it was slow paced. There was one streetlight. It’s such a contrast. But it’s quiet it’s humble. However, I’m so used to that grind. And just the NOVA area, I love seeing success. Young people here are up to something.

I like the options. I love the diversity. I love seeing the diversity. There’s just so many options. And real cool stuff that you can’t get in central PA or Ohio. 

NOVA is a melting pot. You got every type of culture, religion. And I didn’t know that until I left. 

Andy: As a millennial, I’m driven by soundtracks that have positive effects on my creative output. What music drives you, as you’re building yourself on the inside, as well as the tangible moves you’re making in the real world?

Burak: I think about a situation that I was in when that song was playing. So, when I was lifting in school, I would listen to Rick Ross and remember where I was and this music would get me pumped. That old song you would bump as a kid. Like that new meek, “Milladelphia.” I played it like five times before I got to the coffee shop. That’s what Meek does. Sometimes I’ll listen to lo-fi hip-hop. Then some Wu-Tang. For a period, I was very angry, trying to find where I stand in high school. 

Andy: What are your thoughts on festival culture? Do you think it’s a waste of time, or a space of enlightenment?

Burak: It can go both ways. I personally don’t think it’s a waste of time. Who can say what’s a waste of time? You forget you’re in reality. I was in Camp Bisco. I was a free-bird. Didn’t touch my phone really. There was a water-park. All of my favorite music was there. There were some things we indulged in safely. 

I think everyone needs to experience a festival. It’s kind of mainstream now, but it’s like a wave. There’s a lot of things out in our culture nowadays. It’s somewhat easy, you can pay 60 bucks and see an awesome lineup. 

Certain genres of EDM are still for a certain demographic. There’s cross genres—Hip-Hop and EDM. Skrillex producing for Rick Ross has happened. 

Everything intersects nowadays. 

Andy: How often do you hit up DC on the weekends? 

Burak: That’s one thing I haven’t really got into that much. I’ll usually go to Echo Stage or Soundcheck. I really don’t have the income to go out and not hate myself when I go home. Now that I’ve made my official return. 

A lot of my friends go to DC, but they’ll spend like 200 a night. When they don’t even have that salary. 

My mom will get pissed off and be like: why are you going out to these bars out here, why not DC? 

I kind of fell back on that a little bit. The process of getting out there is annoying. 

Andy: Where do you see yourself in 3 years, in terms of your personal growth?

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Burak: Hopefully, I pay off my loans by then. Hopefully travel a lot by then. Move to LA, perhaps. In three years, I hope I’m happy still. I want to do engagements with young kids, through nonprofits. 

I want to establish my brand. Maybe start to write a book at that age, get involved in publications. I like long-term goals, but sometimes you’ll get steered this way, and that a way. 

As long as I’m happy. If I can wake up on a Monday in three years, and not be pissed off, that’ll be great.  

Andy: Text and lingo have had a significant impact on a way people communicate with each other. What are your favorite slang terms of millennial and Gen Z kids? 

Burak: Let me see here. Philly lingo is funny. In Nova, I used to say “hip,” “bet.” 

A lot of people in New York say: say less.

In Philly, they say: jawn. And it can go to anything. Like pass me that jawn, like at that jawn. 

It’s not even slang anymore, it becomes normal verbiage. A lot of people around here, don’t used the DC, DC lingo. It’s more like an off-white Nova thing. Maryland and DC have a different lingo. 

Andy: Memes and Gifs have oversaturated the internet culture. But regardless of their presumably distracting impacts, do you think they can be used for the greater good?

Burak: I love those. Memes are things that keep the conversation going. It adds a little flavor to what you’re saying. 

I have Memes and Gifs right on my phone, on lock, for certain situations. It makes things more interesting. It adds something different to texting, and normal communicating. I got the Borat success one. 

I have a couple Barrack Obama memes too. 

Andy: How important is it for millennials and Gen Z kids to be tech savvy? Or is it better to not be so invested/connected to tech?

Burak: If you’re not tech savvy or invested in tech, you’re fucked. 

The thing is you have to control the tech, don’t let it control you. When you wake up, what’s the first thing you do? You check your phone. You check your IG. 

But nowadays, before I check my phone, I listen to a meditation video. 

I think that once you let things not control your point of view, or your bottom-line, you’re fine. Social, social, social, can get you from point A to point B. I think we definitely need social and tech, but there’s a certain extent where we can’t let it control you. 

I have a physical calendar, and that’s my separation. I check my calendar. 

I’ve written it down.