Darren Mattos, a Buccino Leadership student
Darren Mattos, known as DJ to his friends and family, is a leadership student who participated in Seton Hall’s 3rd Annual Pirates LaunchPad Summer Accelerator Program. During this program, DJ expanded upon his business, Elite Arts, an art brokerage company built to provide young artists with greater awareness and value for their art. The company operates mainly through festivals, conventions, and other events but can be contacted through their website as well.
The Pirates LaunchPad Summer Accelerator Program is run by Seton Hall's Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. This competitive program is offered to all undergraduate students but selects six to eight startup teams or individuals for the program. Once accepted, students gathered on a weekly basis to meet with entrepreneurship faculty, 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 upon pre-existing business ventures. At the end of the program, students who completed all steps were eligible for $2,000 of seed money for their business endeavors.
DJ was inspired to start Elite Arts during his free time throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. He originally tasked himself with making his room look nicer but realized that he wanted unique art and other décor that could not be found anywhere else. With this as his inspiration, DJ began researching the art brokerage field. As someone who had always wanted to start his own business, he realized this was his opportunity to and he formed his LLC in June of 2020.
With the goal of providing affordable and diverse art with a wide range of customizable options for newly commissioned pieces, DJ sought out a community to help him with his endeavor. This is where Pirates Launchpad provided him with support and resources to improve his business.
As a participant of the program, DJ received various resources, one of the most helpful being the LivePlanner software that manages and predicts revenue, losses, and more. Additionally, he found discussions with his peers extremely productive as they eased the burden of being a solo entrepreneur.
While forming his business, DJ utilized the skills he learned throughout his time in the Buccino Leadership Program. His experience as a leadership student taught him the value of leaders who "listen first and talk second." Keeping this lesson in mind, DJ was receptive to other's feedback and constructive criticism. This receptiveness has been critical in Elite Art's first two years, and it has allowed him to refine his vision of the business.
With the help of his peers and mentors, DJ shifted the initial framework of Elite arts as an art customization company to more closely resemble the structure of a traditional art brokerage company. He cites his previous hands-on experiences of receiving peer feedback in the Buccino Leadership Program as imperative in teaching him to be an adaptable leader and fulfill his vision of developing Elite Arts.
Even after the conclusion of the Launchpad program, DJ and his peers are still discussing their businesses and keeping updated on new developments. DJ recently heard from a fellow student who participated in her first farmers market where she showcased her pesto business in memory of her father.
When asked about the future of Elite Arts, DJ expressed how its future "is uncertain in the best of ways." He knows that his ultimate goal for the company is to own an art gallery of its own design, but before that he would like to pursue pop up galleries, create an online storefront, and add more vending events. He hopes to grow in North and Central Jersey, possibly expanding to New York in the future.
The institute is extremely proud of the work that DJ has accomplished in the Pirates LaunchPad Summer Accelerator Program, and we cannot wait to see what is in store for Elite Arts.