At 4 a.m., most people are still catching a few more hours of sleep before their alarm clocks go off, but that’s the time that VIBEHEAVY founder Arif Gursel is usually sending out emails and starting his day. 

“I believe in getting a start on my day before the world gets moving,” Gursel said. “I know a lot of people probably think I’m weird because they’re getting messages from me at 4 a.m., but it allows me to clear my day and understand the most burning issues that I’m going to have to deal with.”

Gursel isn’t alone. Many entrepreneurs know the struggles of early starts and late endings to their days. It’s one of the few ways Gursel can effectively manage his time between his digital agency VIBEHEAVY, his coworking space, The Union Seattle, and his non-profit PACE. 

VIBEHEAVY offers a wide range of services in product development, marketing, and business strategy. Gursel works as the founder and CVO (chief vibe officer) for VIBEHEAVY while implementing new initiatives as CEO for The Union and executive director of PACE. 

Arif Gursel

Despite his lengthy resume, Gursel said he’s constantly trying to fire himself from a job.

“I spend a lot of time saying no,” Gursel said. “I watch people all the time. They’re doing things because they want to look busy, but it doesn’t mean that they’re being effective.”

Gursel attributes his entrepreneurial success to his time at Tuskegee University, where he majored in computer science and graduated in 2001. 

“A lot of my first business ideas, I failed at right there on the yard,” Gursel said. “A lot of the principles that I apply today like behavioral economics, how people respond to things, how to sell to people — all of that was bred on the campus of Tuskegee.”

Tuskegee University is located in a rural Alabama town of the same name, making it more difficult for students to branch out. Gursel said this isolation helped him learn business skills for a lifetime after developing software products, clothing lines, and music labels while in undergrad. 

“There’s different types of HBCUs. You’ve got your Howards that are located in dope cities, and you’ve got your NCATs that have millions of students,” Gursel said. “But at Tuskegee, there were no buses and no transportation, so you’re literally looking at a student population as your bread and butter. You have to create businesses and services that your classmates are going to buy or engage with.”

Now — as a resident of Seattle, Washington — Gursel continues to use these skills when consulting for PACE and VIBEHEAVY with hopes to change the face of entrepreneurship and inspire younger generations to pursue STEM.

This piece originally published on October 9, 2019.