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Supporter Spotlight: Meet Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee is an avid supporter of Youth Entrepreneurs, sharing his time, talent and treasure to advance the mission of YE. “For many of these students, owning their own business is a dream so far away that they can’t envision it. But YE teaches students that they can do it, and here’s how. There’s a Bible verse about teaching a man to fish. YE doesn’t simply give you the fish, but it teaches you how to fish. With the how-to, these students can fish forever. This is something that’s in my DNA and I’m very passionate.” Explore what drives Bruce’s passion for Youth Entrepreneurs.


His high school turning point: Bruce’s dedication to YE today has roots in his own high school experience. The son of first-generation Korean immigrants, Bruce began high school at a larger public school. “But my father felt that in order to get more attention, more focus, a smaller class size — I needed to go to a private school,” he says. “My time at the University School of Milwaukee had an indelible impact on me,” he says. “I became a top student in that type of program. This wasn’t cheap for my father; he came to America without a dime in his pocket. Today, it’s easy to see the marks it made on me. It influenced me significantly to this day.”


Bruce’s career path: After his time at the University School of Milwaukee, Bruce continued his education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He launched his career at Bear Stearns, quickly rising up the ranks and receiving the “Rookie of the Year” award in 1986. He has worked at a number of firms over the course of his career, primarily for Swiss firms including Credit Suisse. Today, he is Managing Director in the Private Banking Investment Group at Merrill Lynch in Chicago, with more than $2 billion worth of assets under his management.


His YE connection: Bruce’s initial connection to Youth Entrepreneurs stems from a relationship with Koch Industries and Charles Koch, who founded YE in 1991 with wife Liz. “I was impressed with how Charles Koch carried out his moral ethos of the business, Youth Entrepreneurs included,” he says. “Soon after I became familiar with YE, it was clear this was a good place to make an impact.”


Highlights of his YE involvement: A faithful donor and supporter, Bruce has served in a wide variety of capacities to grow awareness for YE. He has helped to make introductions to other supporters, sharing the YE story and gaining additional funding. He has helped coordinate behind-the-scenes tours for YE students, sharing his own professional history and belief in entrepreneurship. Bruce’s wife has also served YE as a judge for The Big Idea finals competition in Wichita, Kan.


Why he contributes to YE: One distinction of YE that Bruce appreciates is the unique combination of both business planning and presenting. “What YE does differently is it forces the students to engage in entrepreneurial thought not only on paper, but in front of a panel. This isn’t just Shark Tank. Students work on a number of skill sets, including the ability to organize a plan and then to sell that plan. The students are sincere, open and enthusiastic — and to watch that transformation is very fulfilling.”


What drives his YE passion: There are many organizations equipping students with knowledge crucial for becoming an entrepreneur, Bruce says, but YE helps students create value with their knowledge. “YE is that second link. YE turns the student from simply getting education to turning education into something that can create value for themself and their family. YE answers the question of what to do with all that knowledge, and how to turn education into something that can create value for themselves and for their families.”


Honoring his father with his YE commitment: Bruce’s dedication to YE is also a reflection of the values his father set in motion. “As my father ages and he’s more of a whisper than a force, I hope I can continue his legacy of knowledge and empowering people. He quite literally came from nothing, and he taught us to fish.”

The YE ripple effect: “The spark in these Youth Entrepreneurs students can light up a city. These kids energize me. That child who is a student in YE today will impact so many more people. When you think of the multiplicity of that, it’s remarkable.”