Bob Sansone, Founder of Sneakers to Beakers
Bob Sansone’s BIO
Bob Sansone is a 30 year insurance professional. His experience includes working as a Producer, Branch Manager, Business Analyst, Underwriter, Statistical Records Rating Supervisor & Underwriting Manager. After sharing a life changing experience with his two daughters in 2005, he became a leader and champion of diversity and inclusion.
While vacationing at the Ft. Lauderdale Sheraton in June 2005 Bob and his family found themselves poolside as the only white family in the middle of a wonderful African American family reunion. Approximately 75 people were present. It was the first time his children experienced what it was like to be a minority. Their initial discomfort was put at ease after he explained how God created everyone equally and that the color of a person’s skin or their religion did not matter.
The events of that day had such a profound impact on him that he twice filed legislation on the importance of race relations, diversity and tolerance and began a lifelong crusade in diversity and inclusion.
In 2011, while serving as a Diversity Ambassador at Martha Fields’ Global Diversity Leadership Conference at Harvard, Bob shared his idea for Sneakers to Beakers with 75 diversity leaders from across the country. Their response inspired him to pursue the idea. As a lifelong participant, fan and now coach of sports he realized the numerous benefits that sports has to offer and how pivotal a role STEM plays in sports.
Bob graduated from Northeastern University with a BSBA in Business Management in 1994. In June 2012 he graduated from Oiste’s Initiative for Diversity in Civic Leadership program at Suffolk University.
His involvement in diversity initiatives include:
- Boston Regional Diversity Council of a Fortune 50 Company
- 2012 graduate of Oiste’s Initiative for Diversity in Civic Leadership program at Suffolk University.
- World Unity Inc. Board Member
- Get Konnected, Boston Multicultural Networking Group Advisory Committee/Ambassador
- National Center for Race Amity Day Volunteer Coordinator
- Martha Fields Global Diversity Leadership Ambassador at Harvard University
- Creator of 10th annual Celtics family/group night. Over 200 people attend a Boston Celtics game. Twenty children, including several from underrepresented groups and Boston area homeless shelters, play on the world famous parquet floor before the game.
- Christmas in the City Volunteer (helping Boston area homeless families) since 1999.
- Big Brother for eight years during the 80’s & 90’s.
- Founder of sans-one-doubt.blogspot.com .
IN THE SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW
1. Please share with us what prompted your creation of Sneakers to Beakers?
Bob: Sneakers to Beakers was created out of my passion for diversity after an amazing experience I shared with my daughter in 2005 which propelled me into the world of diversity and inclusion.
While attending diversity conferences a couple of years ago I continued to hear about the need of underrepresented groups to pursue careers in the STEM field, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. This concept was validated by diversity leaders from all over the country and in my mind while serving as an Ambassador at Martha Field’s Global Diversity Leadership Conference at Harvard in 2011.
It is my belief that children will become more inspired and engaged when they can identify with curriculum in a way they can’t with the traditional curriculum they receive during the school day. Sneakers to Beakers is a multicultural curriculum of Sports and STEM which also includes physical activity related to the material covered in the classroom. It will also include mentoring from STEM professionals and college students as well as a component of volunteerism.
I became much more aware of diversity and tolerance one Saturday afternoon in 2005 when my eight year old daughter Rachel found herself as the only white child, along with her five year old sister Hannah, in the middle of an African American family reunion (about 75 others) at the Ft. Lauderdale Sheraton pool.
For the first time in her life she experienced what it was like to be a minority. It’s not something a suburban white child from the Boston area is used to, or even thinks of for that matter. That afternoon had such a profound impact on me that it triggered the beginning of an amazing journey.
She told me that she didn’t feel comfortable and wanted to go back to the room. So I took her inside the hotel and sat down with her and asked if it was because everyone else at the pool was black. Like a typical eight year old, she shrugged her shoulders and didn’t answer, but I knew what she was thinking. I told her that it was ok if she felt a little uncomfortable because she had never been in a situation like this before.
I reminded her of two of the only black children in her school. This is what their life was like every day. I explained to her how happy everyone at the pool must be, seeing cousins and family members from all over the country, many of whom they’ve never met before. (I later learned that over 200 family members gathered that weekend.) It just so happens that this family had a different skin color. That was the only difference as we’re all the same. (She subsequently told me that people were staring at her). I hugged her, kissed her on the forehead and told her that I loved her very much and that God created many different kinds of people.
Just because their skin color was different than ours that doesn’t matter. Good and bad people come in all colors. At that point we went back to the pool and she did what every other eight year old did. She splashed, swam and had a ball for about two more hours and I had to literally drag her out of there.
That day became the rest of my life. I subsequently filed legislation on the importance of race relations, diversity and tolerance; and started attending diversity conferences and multicultural events.
2. There is no typical day in the life of an entrepreneur. Please share with us a sample of your day, start to finish.
Bob: Well we are transitioning from concept to implementation and growing the organization. I work full time for an insurance company and work on S2B during lunch, after work and on the weekend. When you have a passion for something you really don’t view it as work.
3. What are your ‘can’t live without’ Smartphone or desktop applications?
Bob: I haven’t really taken advantage of the apps on my smartphone to be honest.
4. What are your tricks for time management?
Bob: I wish I had more tricks in this area. One thing I learned recently is that it is ok to say no. You can’t be everything to everyone. Of course there are certain things that are priorities to me that deserve my time. Planning and being realistic is very important in this area.
5. What was the best advice you received when you started your career?
Bob: The best advice I received was from my father, he simply said do the best job that you can.
6. Given the current economic climate, what has been your strategy for building awareness of Sneakers to Beakers? (what you do for short term and long term growth)?
Bob: Certainly these are two different things. I promote Sneakers to Beakers at various networking events and online via LinkedIn and Facebook. Since we are just recently eligible to commence fundraising after Wheelock College agreed to become our fiscal sponsor we are focusing on raising enough funding to develop our curriculum, get insurance, hire staff etc. We have diversified our funding targets and have some other creative ideas for future revenue streams.
7. What is your proudest achievement as an accomplished entrepreneur?
Bob: My proudest achievement is just being able to share my passion about diversity and attract quality likeminded people into the organization. It’s amazing how powerful a story can be and how many people want to get on board of an organization that has the potential to do something very special for children.
8. How do you achieve balance in your life?
Bob: It certainly isn’t easy. I love helping others so much but realize in order to do that I must take care of myself. To that end I exercise, meditate, take daily naps, spend time with my two daughters and the people I care about. Work can become all consuming if you let it.
9. Your top 3 book recommendations?
Bob: Bill Russell’s Russell’s Rules. Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Good to Great.
10. What are your most rewarding charitable involvements?
Bob: Ultimately I know Sneakers to Beakers will be by far but I’ve been blessed with some incredible experiences. I was a big brother for 8 years in the 80’s and 90’s and when Tommy my little brother turned 18, our match officially ended we had the longest match in the state. We’re friends to this day. I drove him, his mother and grandmother to his first day of college at Norwich. He was an usher in my wedding and I actually lived with him for a few years after my divorce. It’s a pretty amazing story.
I’m also very grateful for being involved with Christmas in the City since 1999. We help families from Boston area homeless shelters. Each year we have a party and over 3000 guests attend. The following day we give gifts to over 10,000 people. Words can’t describe how rewarding that is.
I have also been involved with World Unity Inc. which is an organization that promotes the elimination of racism and discrimination.
11. Who has influenced your career the most?
Bob: I can’t really say there has been one person who stands out. I’ve been fortunate to work with many quality people over the years. Those relationships are key to having a positive career.
One thing that does come to mind was that when I was younger I got passed over for a promotion by a friend and coworker. When I took a step back and realized that he was in very early in the morning and putting in the extra time it was very eye opening and caused me to look inward and make changes. A year later I ended up getting my first management job at the age of 24.
12. What is your advice for someone interested in entrepreneurship?
Bob: Find something that you are very passionate about and is meaningful. Educate yourself as much as possible through workshops such as those offered by Lawyers Clearinghouse.
Be enthusiastic about sharing your vision and find quality people who are likeminded and are willing to work towards a common goal. It’s all about the people you surround yourself with. I have been incredibly blessed with Sneakers to Beakers to have surrounded myself with wonderful people who are extremely smart and committed. Great friendships have developed as a result too.