Inside Kellogg recently connected with Jenieri Cyrus (2Y 2021) on his professional journey to VC and reflections on Black History Month this year. Here’s what he had to say.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from and what did you do before Kellogg?
I grew up in eastern North Carolina with dreams of playing basketball in college and professionally. I was able to attend Dartmouth College after being recruited to play basketball but the coach who ran my recruiting process was fired before I even made it to campus. I played two years under this new coach but it was not the situation I hoped for. So, after my second year, I decided to quit the team. It came to a point where I needed to recreate myself and the commercial real estate industry initially attracted me because it seemed like a great opportunity to combine my business and entrepreneurial interests, with a tangible product that has immense impact on people’s lives. So, I went for it and, prior to Kellogg, I spent five years in Boston working in Real Estate Capital Markets and Private Equity.
At Kellogg, which program are you in and what clubs or activities are you passionate about?
At Kellogg I’m involved in quite a few clubs and activities, but the one that I am most passionate about is serving in the Full-Time Black Management Association as VP of Careers. I really enjoy being in a position to help others in their journey by not only leveraging my background and experience but also giving students the space and resources to explore what they are truly passionate about and discover ways that the Kellogg community can support them. I’m working to be a finance major at Kellogg to help my transition into the world of Venture Capital and one thing I’ve found to be super valuable to my efforts is participating in accountability groups with other students also interested in VC. I’m in one group with a handful of Second-Year students and used that experience to form a similar group for BMA. Off-campus recruiting can be a lonely journey so creating that space for communities to come together and support each other’s journeys has been super valuable.
What was it like starting a startup while at business school? What do you hope to accomplish for the culture?
Starting a startup is one thing, but keeping the momentum going is quite another. With any startup you have to begin with a problem and come up with experiments to validate the hypotheses that you have. It’s part science, part art, but requires a whole lot of grit and perseverance. Business school is the perfect place to start because it’s so rare to find yourself in the company of so many bright and motivated individuals who are willing and able to help you with your vision. In terms of what I hope to accomplish for the culture with the idea I have, I’m really aiming to bring people together more than anything. We’ll see if I can actually accomplish it or not.
What has Black History Month meant to you, and are you acknowledging it differently this year?
BHM has always been very inspirational to me because it highlights people in the Black diaspora who had the courage and audacity to stand up for what they believe and go after the things they want — even when faced with adversities unique to Black people. I’m always amazed at the number of new Black historical figures I discover this time of year. Our history is so rich. But in recent years, I’ve been a lot more interested in the Black people making history today. Sometimes we don’t give people their flowers while they are still with us, so I’ve been a lot more intentional about hearing stories of Black people who are doing noteworthy things in our time.
What Kellogg event are you most looking forward to this BHM, and why?
Definitely Night at the Apollo. Last year was such a fun experience and I honestly learned so much about the Apollo and Harlem, NY. Our history can oftentimes get ignored or watered down through mainstream institutions and media, and I thought BMA did a great job of telling the true story of the Apollo Theater’s history and impact on music and art globally.