The story of the Red Helicopter
The story of the red helicopter starts where most red helicopters do: in childhood. It is a story of wisdom, and how a simple act of generosity can create systemic impact. When our Founder was 5 years old, he was given an unexpected gift of a little toy red helicopter from a friend's father in thanks for a small act of kindness. Made tangible, human and shareable, this exchange created a collectively owned asset, called goodwill, that ultimately blossomed over time to become one of the most inspiring and impactful business stories.
Come learn about the story of the red helicopter. Come learn how the currency of goodwill can be transformed into real economic value, and improve our collective well-being. Most importantly, come share your own Red Helicopter story.
James Rhee is an acclaimed impact investor, founder, CEO, goodwill strategist, and educator who empowers people, brands, and organizations by marrying capital with purpose. He is an award-winning thought leader on topics such as multidimensional transformation, the intersection of capital, race, and gender, the future of capitalism, and values-based investing and leadership. James has dedicated his life to making knowledge, opportunity, and capital accessible to all. His practical theories on Money, Life, and Joy marry capitalism with ethics and offer individuals, brands and organizations an actual playbook on how to drive dramatic transformation by identifying and unleashing purpose through the union of mathematical and creative systems.
James catalyzes and invests in leaders who drive change. At Howard University, he serves as the Johnson Chair of Entrepreneurship, Professor of Entrepreneurship, and Senior Adviser to the Center for Women, Gender, and Global Leadership. He is also Executive-in-Residence and Strategic Advisor at the MIT Leadership Center, and he holds an appointment as Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and Investor-in-Residence at its Legatum Center. For many years, he has also taught a winter session course at Duke Law School entitled, “The Way It All Works: Investing, Negotiating, and Operating in the Real World,” a course that teaches the systems of “Money, Life, and Joy.” He teaches an executive education class for MIT Sloan School of Management called “Impactful Leadership: Operationalizing Purpose.” He regularly trains, advises, and teaches at the world’s leading for-profit, educational, and philanthropic organizations on how to conceptualize and execute sustainable and balanced change.
The acclaimed story of the remarkable transformation and re-imagination of Ashley Stewart, one of the country’s largest clothing brands serving plus-sized Black women, under James’s enlightened leadership as chairman, CEO and investor (2013-2020), has served as proof to millions of people, as well as the world’s leading businesses and organizations, that one can do better by being better. The reinvention of Ashley Stewart, which was facing almost certain liquidation in 2013, is proof of how trust and joy, grounded in math and amplified by authentic voices and digital excellence, can overcome impossible odds and fuel individual and enterprise-wide innovation. It is a tangible example of the power of diverse ecosystems, as well as a commentary on a potential way forward for achieving multi-stakeholder goals. At its core, it is also the story of an unlikely friendship between the son of Korean immigrants (who raised his hand to become the self-described “least qualified CEO”) and a predominantly Black female employee group who placed their mutual trust in each other, learned from one another, and then proceeded to quietly shock the world.
As an investor, James helped manage billions of dollars of growth and distressed capital at two leading Boston-based institutions before ultimately founding his own impact platform called FirePine Group, where he has stewarded the capital of some of the world’s most sophisticated investors. He played a leadership role as a lead investor and board director across multiple successful platform investments. Before his successful career in business and finance, James Rhee was a high school teacher and an editor of the Harvard Law Review, committing himself to education and shaping the public discourse. With an investor’s rigor, a CEO’s mindset, and a teacher’s passion, he builds and inspires his teams to drive change at the intersection of education and money and create multi-stakeholder solutions that never forget to center people.
James bridges seemingly unconnected people, communities, and industries under an inclusive and innovative umbrella. By weaving together these connection points, he sparks unlikely and powerful relationships and consequent exchanges of ideas. James serves as a member of the Advisory Council of JPMorgan Chase’s Advancing Black Pathways, a member of the Governing Committee of the CEO Action for Racial Equity, and a Board Director of Conscious Capitalism. He is a Strategic Advisor to start-ups focused on creating the world in which we want our children to live, and formerly served as Chair of the Innovation Committee of the National Retail Federation and board member of the American Repertory Theater. He is a client of both United Talent Agency and LGR Literary.
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