We had the good fortune of connecting with Henry Kellem and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Henry, as a parent, what do you feel is the most meaningful thing you’ve done for them?
First and foremost, I’m a father. That comes first, even before Henry Kellem, CEO of Heights Entertainment. Having grown up in a continuous cycle of generational poverty and not knowing my own father, I’ve committed myself to being the best father I can to my daughter, Layla.
For starters, I didn’t really have a childhood. I was forced to grow up quickly, but I knew the importance of parental presence during early formative years, so my daughter will grow up into a resilient, caring, and strong individual. Being my own boss, gave me the flexibility to work from home, most of the time, and to be there to support her growth into an intelligent, curious, and wonderful young girl.
As I mentioned, I grew up without a father and, therefore, I had to learn a lot about life on my own. I believe in sharing these lessons so that somebody else won’t have to learn the hard way, like I did. When my wife, Dana, and I decided to become parents, we already knew what kind of influence we wanted to have on our child. We have created a safe environment full of mutual trust and understanding so our daughter can confide in us because she knows we will stand behind her, regardless of the path in life she chooses.
Famous French poet, Victor Hugo, said: “People do not lack strength, they lack will.” Layla is only five years old, but she has already learned from us that her mind can take her wherever her hearts desires. She lives by the code: LIVE, LOVE, LAUGH & LEARN.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I grew up in the small rural town of Wallace, NC. I was raised by a single mother, with my four siblings, in an impoverished area but I beat the odds by attending North Carolina Central University. There, I received my undergraduate degree and my MBA from the Strayer University. While I was in college, I would help friends and colleagues to organize events in my free time. They realized I had great “people skills” and an eye for a detail. Many told me I should start a business, but I laughed it off, initially. However, I realized they were right. Those connections and friendships I made, while there, materialized into a full-blown business. That lead me to creating, Heights Entertainment.
As CEO of Heights Entertainment, I’ve had the opportunity to host some of the biggest events throughout the nation, including New York Film Festival events, All-Star events, events with the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, and the Cannes Film Festival.
From day one, I knew what we had to accomplish in order to stand out. Often times, when I was a client, I’d had lasting negative impressions after hiring some company, whose final product didn’t meet my standards. On several occasions I was disappointed with the work-ethic of people, whose lackluster performance could turn my years of making a name in the industry, into a failure. Those negative experiences built a pathway for my desire to succeed. I wanted everyone who hired Heights Entertainment, to have a positive experience, and most importantly, a memorable event.
I was born with a natural attention to detail, and my mother taught me the value of hard work. When you combine those two things, you get a level of quality that most others can’t even imitate. An attention to detail and creativity is what really sets us apart for our clients. No detail is too small when it comes to designing incredible experiences.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
First, LA is massive, and introducing my out-of-town friends to our city’s best spots is no easy task. Here’s how I would impress them.
For the perfect day in Los Angeles, one must follow the sun; it is essential to start in the East and make your way West. The short hike to Griffith Observatory with panoramic views of the city is the perfect way to start the day. Do you know that Griffith park spans on more than 4,200 acres of land, and is one of the largest municipal parks with urban wilderness areas in the United States? Then, I would continue the day by uncovering some of the city’s best coffee, juice, food and boutiques. A visit to “Bestia” would be a must. It is my favorite Italian restaurant in Los Angeles, and is on par with any restaurant in Rome. My favorite dishes are burrata, bone marrow, and branzino.
For a perfect day, I would make sure we are West in time to get the perfect spot to watch the sun set over the ocean. No visit to L.A. is complete without spending time on our gorgeous coast. The best place do that? The Dockweiler State Beach. It is a three-mile-long shoreline complete with BBQs, firepits, volleyball courts, picnic areas, and even a hang-gliding facility. Over there, fun doesn’t have to end when the sun goes down. The icing on a cake will be, of course, visit to the Staples center and watch the Lakers game. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There is a man I want to thank for being such an inspiration to me throughout my life. That is Shawn Carter, better known as Jay-Z. Growing up in the Marcy Projects, a public housing complex riddled with domestic abuse, drugs, and gang violence, Jay-Z had the same urge of breaking free from a cycle of poverty as I had growing up on Dirt Road in North Carolina.
That very same urge became an indispensable inspiration in launching his rap career, as well as it was inspiration in my career. Our childhoods have many similarities, as well. His father left the family when he was only 11. I grew up without my father.
Initially, I was drawn to his lyrics but he became so much more than just a successful rapper. He became the epitome of the American Dream, rising from almost nothing to the top of the rap industry. Thanks to him, more than any other rapper, Rap music has proven itself as a conduit to artists, not to only get rich, but also to have significant and lasting impact on popular culture as we know it today.
He was always very entuned with the times and from his very first album “Reasonable Doubt,” I see his lyrics as a poetry. His songs are very deep and profound, and many valuable life lessons I learned following Jay-Z’s path.
Hard work is one of them. I’m far from being god, but I work god damn hard. (The Blueprint). In my opinion, the only two things that we were endowed with at birth are our minds and our abilities to work hard. Therefore, we have to use our minds and work in order to achieve our dreams. We can’t expect to just sit on our asses, and get free hand-outs.
Choose your own fate is an inevitable step towards success and also something I learned following Jay-Z’s career. Just know I chose my own fate; I drove by the fork in the road and went straight. (The Blueprint). I’m living testament to this. When we reach the crossroad in life, and we’re given choices between options A and B, we can opt for off-roading, drive straight, choose our own fate, and create our future.
Believe in the hustle. I do believe that our happiness is about finding satisfaction in life, rather than desiring more and more. However, a life without dreams, without a hustle, isn’t worth living. We should keep hustling to improve ourselves and to improve life conditions of others. You know my stomach getin’ weak from livin’ on the streets for real/Tryin’ to oversee it from suites, orderin’ eats/At the top where the criminal minds meet/That’s where the cream is right, that’s where your dream is (Dangerous Ground)
Create your own business. I’m not a businessman; I’m a business, man (Jay-Z). He used to promote the clothes of other brands, and one day he realized he should just create his own clothing brand. That’s when Rocawear, a $700,000,000 worth brand was born. That inspired me to create my own brand. I AM.
Finally, I think that Jay-Z deserves special shoutout for raising voice against inequality in this country. “Dope Man,” from 1999, decries racism for hindering black youth: “But my mind was strong / I grew where you hold your blacks up / Trap us, expect us not to pick gats [guns] up / Where you drop your cracks [drugs] off by the Mack trucks / Destroy our dreams of lawyers and actors / Keep us spiralin’, goin’ backwards.”
Jay-Z, thank you, for being such an inspiration to me and to others around you.