Charleston, SC – Caleb Milligan of West Ashley High School is not your average teenager. Two weeks ago, instead of sitting on the beach during spring break, Caleb was up in New York City, being honored by a national entrepreneurship organization, the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). He was one of the nation’s top 25 young entrepreneurs invited to an intimate gathering, as a part of NFTE’s annual Global Showcase, where he engaged with Chelsea Clinton, vice chairman of the Clinton Foundation, and Troy Carter, the CEO of artist management and entertainment company, Atom Factory.
Caleb is a magician, performing under the name Caleb Alexander, but there was no trick to landing in front of Clinton and Carter. It was just passion and hard work. In 2014, Caleb took an entrepreneurship class at West Ashley High School through a program developed by local nonprofit YEScarolina – Youth Entrepreneurship South Carolina. Caleb, determined to make an opportunity out of every relationship, identified that YEScarolina held an annual gala, so he asked Executive Director Jimmy Bailey to perform during the event. Bailey couldn’t resist the offer and at the 2015 gala, after performing a memorable illusion, Caleb was named the YEScarolina Student Entrepreneur of the Year.
Always one to put on a great show, Caleb then grabbed national attention when he won “Most Creative Marketing” in a National Elevator Pitch Competition sponsored by NFTE for his professional-quality video pitch for his business. This led to an invitation to attend NFTE’s annual Global Showcase, which took place on March 30-31. There he, along with 24 other students, received NFTE’s Global Young Entrepreneur of 2016 award, and hours later, Caleb found himself in a room with Chelsea Clinton and Troy Carter.
Before a formal question and answer session began, Troy Carter, who has managed big names in music like Lady Gaga and Meghan Trainor, approached Caleb. Always one to impress, Caleb performed a small illusion for him. When it came time for the formal question and answer session, Caleb had prepared a question for Troy. When he began to talk, Troy cut him off, asking “How did you do that trick? You need to teach me that!” Without missing a beat, Caleb responded, “Before I teach you that trick, or any magic trick, you must sign me.” The crowd laughed and applauded.
Carter later offered some rudimentary, but crucial advice to the group of young entrepreneurs. “Chop wood, carry water. It just means: do the work.” Caleb affirmed Carter’s motto. “If you want something done, you will probably have to do it yourself. As an eighteen-year-old, right now, I constantly have the tendency to be lazy. But then I remember how bad I want my dream, and that passion will always motivate me to put in the hours and persist until I succeed,” says Caleb.
Chelsea Clinton also made a comment that clearly resonated with Caleb and the other students. “I know you’re laughing,” remarked Clinton, “but I am serious about it. Those who face failure end up being stronger and achieve better,” she explained. Caleb admits that his path has not been easy. “You’re going to encounter a ton of people that will underestimate, intimidate, and tell you that you can’t do it,” he remarked. “Entrepreneurship to me means freedom. It allows you to become anyone you want to be, no matter your background. It creates success and even failure that can turn into opportunity.”
Caleb’s experience with YEScarolina and the NFTE Global Showcase has ignited his entrepreneurial spirit and he’s taking action to grow his brand and business. On Friday, April 22, Caleb will perform 90 minutes of grand scale illusions at West Ashley High School. Tickets and performance details can be found at calebalexander.com.
All photos © Margaret Fox Photography