A leadership discussion with Stephen Schussler


On Tuesday, February 23rd, at 3 p.m., the Center for Career and Professional Development, along with the College of Business, held a discussion with renowned entrepreneur and creator of Rainforest Café, Steven Schussler.

During the hour-long discussion, Schussler spoke of his personal journey, laughter, making friends, budgeting, and change while also introducing us to his book, It’s A Jungle In There: Inspiring Lessons. All proceeds from the book will be forwarded to Smile Network International to help provide medical treatment to children suffering from cleft lips and pallets worldwide.

Schussler speaks about building the Rainforest Café in his house by remembering the ridicule he received from family, friends, and neighbors.

“My neighbors thought I was going to jail,” he states, “everyone has an opinion.”

Although Schussler went through many grievances trying to get his business off the ground, he states that laughter and good spirits helped him become the successful man he is today.

“Every once in a while, you should poke fun at yourself,” he says, “it will give people a break from all the seriousness.”

Schussler believes that by laughing and making your work fun, you are bound to have a successful business and make friends with all of the right people. Networking is another crucial aspect of Schussler’s discussion with Western Carolina University students.

“Make friends with the mayor and council members,” he states while stating that it is okay to ask for help. “I build with layering,” Schussler says while describing his Rolodex containing thousands of connections.

Multitasking and budgeting are also active in Schussler’s advice on entrepreneurship.

“Embrace multitasking…build multiple concepts,” says Schussler when creating the scene of his daily multitasking duties. “A ‘no’ is a ‘yes’ waiting to happen.”

“You can’t possibly plan for everything,” he says, “ideas are born along the way.” Schussler believes that money will come where passion and

It’s a Jungle in There

concepts are. Schussler allows us to look into his business by stating that he is almost always over budget, and while it is not something that he is proud of, it has made his passions come to life.

Schussler’s final piece of advice is about change. During the discussion, Schussler states how happy he is that zoom interviews are available at this time, and while he is 65, he still keeps up with modern-day technological changes.

“Change is inevitable,” he states, “you might as well keep up with it.”

The discussion ended with questions from the audience asking what his advice would be to students pursuing a career in entrepreneurship.

“Never give up,” Schussler says in encouragement to all future business owners, “you will fail, but you will also succeed.”

Schussler ends the discussion with a recap of his book, It’s A Jungle In There: Life Lessons, which was released in 2010. He recommends the book for anyone looking to get advice in entrepreneurship while also looking for a laugh as he discusses his business ventures’ success and failure.