Main Street Ventures newest executive director Sean Parker has extensive experience in both the entrepreneurial and corporate worlds.
His personal journey extends across different industries, companies and coasts, including stops at some of the largest companies in the world, such as Procter & Gamble, Fifth Third Bank, Nike and Kroger. In addition to his corporate experience, he’s also founded multiple businesses. In his new role, Parker aims to use his experience to be a bridge between founders and the corporate world.
“I’ve been inside the big companies and also am an entrepreneur,” Parker said. “I know how to pitch big companies in a way that they will be receptive to because I’ve been pitched to before. I was able to then go and sell to the decision-makers internally in order to make things happen. I want to bring that forward.”
As an entrepreneurial support non-profit, Main Street Ventures provides capital and coaching to entrepreneurs in the Greater Cincinnati region. Parker’s responsibilities as their executive director include serving as the organization’s chief fundraiser, leading the team responsible for grant management and spearheading outreach to entrepreneurs.
“Sean’s energy, background, and passion for entrepreneurship make him an excellent fit for Main Street Ventures, and we look forward to seeing the impact he makes on both our organization and the local entrepreneurial community,” said Abby Ober, Main Street Ventures director of community engagement and entrepreneur support.
In partnership with Blue North – Northern Kentucky’s primary entrepreneurial advocacy and resource group – Main Street Ventures launched the Northern Kentucky Entrepreneurship Fund in late January. The fund aims to increase Northern Kentucky’s visibility as a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship and assist regional entrepreneurial support organizations and startups.
“Not only does he bring deep experience at some of the largest companies in the region, but he brings an entrepreneurial mindset that will be invaluable for the next stage of Main Street Ventures,” said Blue North’s Executive Director Dave Knox. “With his partnership, Main Street Ventures and Blue North will be able to continue to grow the Northern Kentucky Entrepreneur Fund to support even more companies in Northern Kentucky.”
Parker told LINK nky he’s excited to work with Northern Kentucky entrepreneurs and business leaders to continue growing the region’s startup ecosystem and also to find ways to connect those upstart founders to institutional capital.
“The Northern Kentucky Entrepreneurship Fund is helping us (Main Street Ventures) and Blue North combine our resources and put real dollars and working capital behind founders in the region,” Parker said.
Growing up, Parker said he was always fascinated by money. From a young age, he was determined to figure out how to earn himself a slice of that proverbial pie. He would hear stories of kids making hundreds of dollars from stenciling home addresses on the curbs of Cincinnati neighborhoods.
His interest led him to pursue various money-making endeavors in his youth. Parker first dipped his toe into entrepreneurial waters once his father taught him how to mow grass as a teenager.
“He wouldn’t pay me but other people would,” Parker said. “I was hooked.”
For several summers, Parker would walk around his neighborhood, offering to mow his neighbor’s lawns. In addition, he participated in “Rent-A-Kid,” a program for teenagers aged 14 and up to assist seniors with home and yard work. Participants were taught how to fill out job applications and save their earnings.
“I was always interested in working, but was too young to get a job,” Parker said.
His formative adolescent experiences helped craft his interest in commerce. After graduating from Walnut Hills High School, he attended Howard University in Washington D.C. where he majored in journalism with a specialization in public relations.
It was at Howard where started his first business – a public relations agency called Relentless Communications and Public Affairs. In fact, one of his first clients was Adrian Fenty, a D.C. city councilman who would go on to become the city’s mayor from 2007 to 2011.
After graduating from Howard in 2005, Parker returned to Cincinnati and was hired by Procter & Gamble to work in their corporate communications department. He was promoted to a senior position where he was in charge of developing and implementing a communications strategy for P&G’s Olay, Noxzema and DDF Skin Care lines in North America.
He left P&G in 2012 to start a credit card processing business for small and medium-sized companies that did business with large corporations. The business succeeded, but Parker realized he couldn’t beat the banks on pricing. Upon this realization, Parker joined Fifth Third Bank, serving as their corporate communications vice president.
This role helped Parker develop an understanding of corporate financial communications. He served in the position for five years, then left to become the head of financial communications for Kroger, where he had similar responsibilities.
During his last corporate role, he was the global senior director of finance and strategy communications at Nike, headquartered in Beaverton, Oregon. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he had to remain in Cincinnati. Nevertheless, he made frequent flights to Oregon during his tenure.
When the pandemic restrictions waned and it became time for Parker to relocate to Oregon, he and his wife decided it would be better for their family to stay in Cincinnati. The couple has two children.
“I left Nike and took some time off for the first time since I was a Rent-A-Kid,” Parker said. “It was supposed to be me taking the summer off. I called it the ‘Summer of Sean.’ It turned into taking the fall off well. It gave me an opportunity to really decompress and think about what I value most in life.”
It was during the time off that Parker decided to focus his time on what he was truly passionate about: using his relationships and communication experience to help people and organizations reach their goals. In addition, he wanted to commit his time to working on projects that could have a major impact on his hometown.
“The opportunity to work at Main Street Ventures presented itself within that vision,” Parker said.
In Parker’s opinion, large corporations don’t have to think about failure as a barrier to success in the same way entrepreneurs do. Corporations have access to more resources and talent compared to startups. In his new role, Parker said he wants to eliminate the stigma surrounding failure in local entrepreneurship.
“The idea of pass or fail isn’t what’s most important at this stage,” Parker said. “It’s about taking a risk and learning from it and being able to use it to either make your business better and to grow personally.”
As a Black man with years of valuable business experience, Parker has been in many different “rooms.” He understands what the big investors are looking for and the mindset of an entrepreneur with a diverse background looking to connect with those investors.
“Generally speaking, people are most comfortable and familiar with folks they’ve had experiences with. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been in a lot of rooms,” Parker said. “I want to help change the narrative in this region that you have to look a certain way or have a certain background in order to get access to funding and resources to make your vision a reality.”