A co-founder of the Global School of Entrepreneurship, Scarbrough believes in a “no limits” approach to life
By Justin Breen
Shelby Scarbrough lives by a simple mantra when it comes to living a full life and thinking innovatively: “It’s OK to color outside the lines, dream big, and not worry too much about what people think.”
Like her pioneering grandfather, early aviator Jimmie Mattern, Scarbrough has a “no limits” approach to life. She is leading the charge on numerous ventures and adventures, including:
- Co-founding the Global School of Entrepreneurship, an MBA degree program specifically for entrepreneurs that debuts this year;
- Running Practical Protocol, a special-events management organization, for the last 31 years;
- Working as a franchisee with ten Burger King restaurants for more than 20 years;
- serving as past Global Board President for the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (eonetwork.org);
- Serving as director of the Nancy Reagan Centennial for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute (reaganfoundation.org);
- Writing, Civility Rules! her recently launched book;
- Publishing her grandfather’s official biography, Undaunted, out later this year.
“I personally find the most joy in creating something new, unique, and innovative. Hopefully, others will find value in what I do,” says Scarbrough.
After living and working most of her adult life in Washington, D.C., she now spends much of her time in California’s beautiful Napa Valley.
“Life is a series of different chapters,” Scarbrough says. “I’m trying to maximize time on Earth and pack each phase of life with as many experiences as possible.”
Scarbrough is perhaps most enthusiastic about the Global School of Entrepreneurship, which will offer a fully accredited MBA by and for entrepreneurs. In this disruptive model, a cohort of eight to ten classmates meet every other week for a two-and-a-half-hour video conference with a dedicated professor for a year. Subject-matter experts join in throughout the curriculum to offer an individualized, custom program on a timeframe and curriculum structure well suited to busy entrepreneurs.
“I see GSE as something very scalable. We have the right people in the right seats on the right bus and everything is coming to fruition now,” Scarbrough says. “I see infinite possibilities to offer a first-rate education to entrepreneurs the world over with this new venture.”
Scarbrough said that’s the way Mattern approached his life as well. As an undergrad at UCLA, she would spend many weekends visiting her grandpa, best known for his attempt to be the first to circumnavigate the globe solo.
Scarbrough was a few years into her career and working at the U.S. Department of State as a protocol officer when her famous grandfather died at age 83. In a tribute to Mattern, Ronald Reagan said, “We stood on his shoulders to reach the stars.” Neil Armstrong—who idolized Mattern—noted: “the spectacular achievements of modern aerospace scientists and engineers are, in large measure, due to the inspiration they received from [Jimmie] and his brethren,” and satirist Will Rogers called him “the supreme pilot of his day.”
Perhaps the greatest honor for the aviator occurred when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin carried his pilot’s license to the moon on Apollo 11.
Always ahead of his time, in 1947 Mattern invented a navigational tool that pilots could use mid-flight, with one hand. Known as the “Mattern Course Mileage Computer”—well before the term “computer” was used worldwide—it sold well for over 30 years.
“He was a gadget guy, and I’ve always been a gadget girl,” Scarbrough says with a chuckle. “He was a visionary with the ability to see beyond the horizon—literally. He barely had a high school education, but he was a genius in a time when it couldn’t be validated. At a young age, he knew, ignoring skeptics, there would be a day when air travel by the average person would become commonplace, and even that one day we could go to the moon and beyond.”
Scarbrough’s parents were early Burger King franchisees. At 14, Shelby and her younger siblings were thrown into the entrepreneurship arena by starting at the lowest rung of the ladder, from working the broiler and sweeping floors. Eventually she owned ten restaurants herself with her former husband.
One of the greatest lessons she learned from her fast-food experience, she says, was learning the concept to always be moving. “Just because there wasn’t a customer in front of you didn’t mean there wasn’t something to do. You could always find an opportunity to do a task,” Scarbrough says. “I suppose that’s become my outlook on life. What a wasted opportunity it is to just stare at the clock, waiting for time to pass.”
There is no doubt that Scarbrough is on the move. She also just launched www.JoyJourney.Life, an e-commerce company with hand-selected gifts centered on a theme of ‘finding joy’ (which happens to be her middle name).
In one of the photos on the site, Scarbrough is gazing up into a bright, blue sky.
“It was about gratitude—appreciating the beauty of the sun coming through the trees, the fresh air, the deep breath, and the time outside in our gorgeous world,” Scarbrough says. “In those moments, I just feel a lot of gratitude, grace, and a simple joy in the infinite possibilities of the miracle we call life.”