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Queens College opens center to help young entrepreneurs

Queens College alumnus Len Schutzman got a welcome at his alma mater at the house he helped build: the new entrepreneurship center on campus.

Schutzman, a venture capitalist and 1967 graduate of Queens College who served as senior vice president and treasurer at PepsiCo before turning his sights to investing in minority-owned businesses, returned home Friday to inaugurate the center that bears his name.

The Schutzman Center for Entrepreneurship is to provide students with the tools and skills they need to build profitable new businesses, but while the current semester is winding down he said the center's initial interest is coming from other parts of the world.

"We have already been approached by several developing countries who know entrepreneurship is big and know about the big immigrant populations in Queens," Schutzman said.

He has big dreams for the center, too.

"We're going to be a real fulcrum in providing a number of things of interest. We can give businesses a chance to come in and road test ideas," he said. He added that his plans include hosting networking meetings to help businesses find venture capital, tapping the U.S. Small Business Administration for further resources and input and connecting with other universities.

At the dedication ceremony for the center, Queens College also honored Don Won Chang, founder and CEO of the women's clothing chain Forever 21 as the recipient of its first distinguished entrepreneurship award.

Chang, a Korean immigrant, opened Fashion 21 with his wife in Los Angeles in 1984 in a 900-square-foot site. In 1985, they changed the name to "Forever 21," which has gone on to become a 460-store chain operating in 42 states and 10 countries with $1.3 billion in sales in 2007 and more than 20,000 employees.

"I came here 27 years ago with a couple hundred dollars and worked very hard to achieve my goals," Chang said. "The key to my success is my relationship with God, who makes all things possible. The American Dream is hard, but you can achieve it."

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