Interview: Vin Ko, Program Manager of St. Louis Mosaic Project

Vin Ko is the program manager of the St. Louis Mosaic Project, a program that connects international St. Louis residents.

What’s kept you in St. Louis?

So I get this question a lot—especially when I tell people I moved back from California—but I think at the end of the day I am committed to the St. Louis region. I grew up here, going to St. Louis public schools through the desegregation program and ultimately graduating from Ladue Horton Watkins vin_eqmagazine-(1-of-1)-2_sizedHigh School. I moved back to the area after graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara, not really sure what I wanted to do once I realized I no longer wanted to go to law school. But I did know that I wanted to have an impact in a community that I cared about, and for me, having had the experience in the deseg program, I knew that that had to be in St. Louis.

What does “entrepreneur” mean to you?

It’s something that’s incredibly personal. I lived it every day growing up, watching my dad run his eyeglasses frame business or manage rental properties, and I heard stories of my grandparents, my dad and his three sisters coming to St. Louis with very little. They came in hopes of finding the American dream, and they eventually started several restaurants and a cafe. Entrepreneurship is that pioneering spirit blended with a passion to see out a vision. I have a great admiration for the trailblazers out there starting businesses—it takes such a huge amount of time and dedication.

What three qualities do you think an entrepreneur should have?

I’ve thought long and hard about what most people should have in everything they do. And you can ask my interns—I say this a lot: In life, you have to have three qualities. First, become a life-long learner. Education doesn’t just stop in the classroom. Second, be adaptable. You can try to plan for everything, but life happens. Third, be passionate about what you are doing. To me, the quicker we surrender to these qualities, the easier finding solutions to most of life’s challenges can be.

Talk about the causes, involvements or volunteerism that are important to you.

I’d say my passion for St. Louis really culminates with my involvement with the St. Louis Civic Pride Foundation, but other causes I am involved in include education, with the Ladue Education Foundation; local events like TEDxGatewayArch; and, of course, soccer in St. Louis with St. Louis Pick Up Soccer.

Who have some of your mentors been?

State treasurer Clint Zweifel taught me what great public policy looks like and how to bring groups together to accomplish great things. In my current position, St. Louis Mosaic Project’s executive director, Betsy Cohen, has really taught me about the business community through her experiences in her previous career at Nestlé Purina. She is a phenomenal leader and a proactive mentor.

What’s one thing you want to learn?

I am constantly looking to learn new things. Last year, I learned how to curl (yes, the Olympic ice sport with the brooms and the stones). Currently I’ve been trying to find time to learn how to make screen prints. Art is something I really enjoy and find relaxing.

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