WEST CALDWELL, NJ — In preparation for his upcoming TED Talk at Brooklyn Tech in February, Brandon Steiner, chief executive officer (CEO) of Steiner Sports, the No. 1 sports memorabilia company in the United States, rehearsed his presentation in front of James Caldwell High School seniors and a selection of other students on Tuesday.

TED Talks are powerful discussions that are devoted to spreading ideas and presented by expert speakers. Steiner, who is currently in the process of writing his third book, wanted to use his TED Talk as a kick-off.

Major topics of Steiner’s presentation included business, how individuals can differentiate themselves from others—whether it be in a college interview, job interview, when pursuing a relationship, etc.—and dirt. Since seeing a model of a real TED Talk would ultimately help JCHS seniors with their final English assignment, called their “Senior 20” project, administrators at JCHS jumped at the opportunity to invite Steiner to the school.

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“He was looking to essentially rehearse the material in front of a few audiences,” said JCHS Vice Principal John Bertollo. “It worked well with us because as part of our senior English class, seniors choose a topic of interest to them to research. In lieu of a final exam, seniors present their ‘Senior 20’ project, which is essentially a TED Talk.”

Steiner, who told his story about growing up as a poor boy in Brooklyn, said he began his career as a newspaper-delivery boy and helping out his neighbors by going to the corner store to pick up bagels, milk, and whatever else they needed. He also reflected on 2006, when Steiner Sports hit hard times and Steiner struggled to come up with new ways to grow the business.

As Yankee Stadium was closing, Steiner said he thought about the stadium dirt and how legends like Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Yogi Berra all walked on that dirt. People would love to own a piece of that dirt, Steiner thought, and so he began his dirt business—using dirt on stadium maps, photos and ball cases. In one of the video clips Steiner showed on Tuesday, he said his goal is to sell $100 million worth of dirt.

Steiner, who also spoke about the significance of networking, emphasized the purpose of knowing who a guest speaker is. That way, if an individual has something in common with the speaker, he or she can find a way to network with that speaker.

When he asked how many students Googled him to find out who he was prior to Tuesday’s assembly, only one student— Ashvin Nagarajin—raised his hand. The senior said that when he learned that Steiner was coming, he did not know who he was and was curious to find out.

“It was an honor and a pleasure to see Mr. Steiner’s presentation today,” said Nagarajin. “As a successful businessman and a self-made entrepreneur, he has real-life advice that is invaluable to us as high schoolers. Whether it is college or beyond, I look forward to making the most of his wisdom and finding my purpose.” 

Bertollo was excited to note that Steiner remained at the school following his presentation in order to talk to students individually, which is unlike many past speakers at JCHS. Bertollo said that Steiner loves talking with people, especially high school students, and feels as if his knowledge can help them succeed.