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Darren Mattos: Student, leader and entrepreneur

Darren Mattos, a leadership student from Buccino

Darren Mattos, known as DJ to friends and family, is a leadership student who attended Seton Hall’s 3rd Annual Pirates LaunchPad Summer Accelerator Program. During this program, DJ expanded his business, Elite Arts, an art brokerage firm created to provide young artists with greater awareness and value for their art. The company primarily operates through festivals, conventions and other events, but can also be reached through its website.

The Pirates LaunchPad Summer Accelerator Program is run by Seton Hall’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. This competitive program is offered to all undergraduate students, but selects six to eight start-up teams or individuals for the program. Once accepted, students met weekly to meet with entrepreneurship professors, industry professionals and alumni to improve their businesses. Throughout the program, students refined their ideas and goals through workshops to create business prototypes and improve pre-existing business ventures. Upon completion of the program, students who completed all stages were eligible for $2,000 in start-up capital for their business ventures.

DJ was inspired to start Elite Arts in his spare time throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. He initially took it upon himself to make his room prettier, but realized he wanted unique artwork and other decorations that couldn’t be found anywhere else. With this as inspiration, DJ began researching the field of art brokerage. As someone who had always wanted to start his own business, he realized this was his opportunity and he formed his LLC in June 2020.

In an effort to provide affordable and diverse art with a wide range of customizable options for newly commissioned pieces, DJ sought out a community to assist in his endeavours. This is where Pirates Launchpad provided him with support and resources to improve his business.

As a participant in the program, DJ received various resources, one of the most useful being the LivePlanner software which manages and predicts income, losses, etc. Additionally, he has found discussions with his peers extremely productive as they ease the burden of being a solo entrepreneur.

When building his business, DJ used the skills he learned throughout his journey through the Buccino leadership program. His experience as a student of leadership taught him the value of leaders who “listen first and talk later”. With this lesson in mind, DJ was receptive to feedback from others and constructive criticism. This receptivity was decisive in the first two years of Elite Art and enabled it to refine its vision of the profession.

With the help of his peers and mentors, DJ changed the initial framework of Elite Arts as an art customization business to more closely resemble the structure of a traditional art brokerage firm. He cites his previous hands-on experiences receiving feedback from his peers through the Buccino leadership program as key to teaching him how to be an adaptable leader and achieve his vision for developing Elite Arts.

Even after the conclusion of the Launchpad program, DJ and his peers are still discussing their activities and keeping up to date with new developments. DJ recently heard of a classmate who attended her first farmer’s market where she showcased her pesto business in memory of her father.

When asked about Elite Arts’ future, DJ explained how his future “is uncertain in the best of ways”. He knows his ultimate goal for the business is to own an art gallery of his own design, but before that he would like to pursue pop-up galleries, create an online storefront, and add other sales events. He hopes to expand into North and Central Jersey, possibly expanding to New York in the future.

The institute is extremely proud of the work DJ has done on the Pirates LaunchPad Summer Accelerator Program, and we can’t wait to see what’s next for Elite Arts.

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