The latest episode of “The Blackprint” sure was a special one. On Monday (July 10), host and REVOLT CEO Detavio Samuels chopped it up with a close friend of 20-plus years, fellow Duke University alum and business owner Kareem Cook. In the dialogue, Cook talked about his experience growing up, how attending Duke shaped him, and knowing when to take advantage of small moments in order to make it far.

Before viewers learned about how his journey started, the entrepreneur kicked off the episode by introducing himself as the co-owner of Naturade, alongside business partner Claude Tellis. Naturade’s mission is to reverse the diet-related illness trends that disproportionately affect underserved communities. While becoming a business owner has been a huge accomplishment for Cook, it wasn’t his main focus growing up.

From age 10 through high school, he grew up in The Bronx with his mother. One day, a young Cook was given the opportunity to apply for a program called Prep for Prep. “I took a test and ended up getting a scholarship to attend a private school. For me, it took me off the path I was on in order to put me on a different path. This program showed me the possibilities of a world that I’ve never seen,” he shared.

Being a part of Prep for Prep allowed Cook to see what life could look like outside of The Bronx. Navigating through that, he jokingly admitted he kept one foot in the New York City borough and one foot in private school. But as the young go-getter got older, he realized he had to make a choice about which side would benefit him the most.

“One day, one kid took off running and instinctively, I started to chase him. As soon as I am about to grab him, somebody grabs me by my shoulders, lays me on the ground, and lifts me back up. I turn around, and it’s one of my big brothers named Omar. Omar says, ‘Reem, what are you doing? This ain’t you. This is not for you,’” Cook reflected.

He added, “That moment was so impactful. I ran into him a few years ago and I thanked him. I also looked at other moments in my life where people stepped up. Not everyone knew that I had this other life. But the right people knew, and what they did was protect me from those elements.”

Fast forward to college, Cook made the move to go Down South and attend Duke University. The New York native was able to build a network that would pay off in the real world later on. After obtaining his undergraduate degree, Cook continued at Duke for business school. But while getting his MBA, he wanted to do things differently. The perseverant student became more involved in groups and organizations on campus that helped him connect with different people and build meaningful relationships.

“My roommate and I signed up for this group called Executive Fellows. This group was for students that plan a distinguished speaker series. Like, the CEOs of Sony, Goldman Sachs, and others come to the school. These speakers would speak at the school at 10 a.m., but the students in the group would have breakfast with them. All of this was the opportunity to network with high-powered leaders of the world,” Cook explained.

He continued, “The group also has a trustee meeting twice a year and you are assigned a speaker. My speaker was the CEO of then-Bear Stearns. While we were talking, he asked me, ‘How does a guy from The Bronx navigate his way and get to business school?’ I told him that I was in the program Prep for Prep. The CEO told me that he invested in that program and that I was a walking manifestation of his investment. We instantly bonded from there, and this guy has been investing in me for the last 22 years.”

Cook went on to express that, that opportunity with the executive is how people should approach life. The businessman mentioned that you have to take advantage of moments because you never know how one encounter could cause a ripple effect and help you in the long term.

Cook rewound the clock a bit and discussed his first job before attending business school. He began to talk about his experience at an insurance company, where he saw a sign that he was destined for bigger things. The Naturade co-owner explained, “The decision to leave the insurance company really set the stage for everything else in my life up to this point. I realized that the company was encouraging us to use certain methods that didn’t jive with my spirit. They would teach us how to take advantage of people.”

He added, “I go into my office one day and I see the marketing assistant. She looked down and I offered to take her to lunch. The next week, we have this company-wide meeting, and she says, ‘The company talks about how you care about each other, but I think all of y’all are hypocrites. The only person that I want to thank is Kareem Cook because the day that I found out I had terminal stomach cancer, he was the only one that noticed.’ I lost it. I broke down, packed my stuff, and I was gone.”

Not long after leaving the insurance company, he received a phone call from famous actress, dancer, and choreographer Debbie Allen. Allen’s brother, who was part of the same fraternity as Cook (and host Samuels), mentioned to the dancer that Cook was one of the best steppers. So, she invited the Duke grad to come to New York and show her some moves. But to Cook’s surprise, he was not only going to show Allen his steps; he was also going to show them to the king of pop, Michael Jackson.

“There were two things I knew when I was a kid. I knew I was going to meet Michael Jackson, and I knew I was going to be on ‘Wheel of Fortune.’ When those two things happened in my life, I had a supernatural confidence about myself,” said Cook.

After his performance, Jackson asked him to choreograph his song “Bad” for an upcoming show. Even though the show did not happen, that experience would be a connecting dot to the entrepreneur’s future.

Samuels segued into inquiring about a word Kareem Cook loves to live by and incorporates into his daily life: providence.

“I remember watching The Matrix Revolution, and there’s this one scene where the machines are coming down on Zion. Everybody’s going crazy and Morpheus is watching everyone go crazy. Then Morpheus stops everyone and says, ‘Look, all of our lives we have fought this war. Tonight, I think we can end it. Tonight is not an accident. I do not believe in accidents. I do not believe in chance. We are not here by chance. What I see are three objectives, three captains, and three ships. I see providence. I see purpose. Today is our destiny, and tonight is going to reveal the very meanings of our lives.’” Cook shared.

He continued, “I thought that was so deep. And at that moment, I felt there was so much providence in my life. Being off my square is understanding that I am not on my divine path. Those are the moments I feel most uncomfortable and it just sunk in with me.”

The dialogue shifted and Samuels brought up their Duke University experience. The host reflected on a serious incident that would impact his own future at the institution. At the time, Cook made an effort to deescalate the matter and helped Samuels graduate. This circumstance was an example of the importance of community, brotherhood, and why Samuels and Cook have such a strong bond till this day.

As the conversation continued, Cook talked about how meeting Allen earlier would be the catalyst to his next business venture. Later on in business school, Cook and Tellis attended a conference in Anaheim, California. While there, they decided to visit Allen. As they were visiting, the famous dancer mentioned she wanted to open a dance academy. But Allen did not know how to write a business plan, and that is where Cook and Tellis stepped in. With their assistance, she was able to open the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. After a few years passed, the Naturade duo was moving to Los Angeles, and Allen needed help with another business plan. That time, the star paid the two young entrepreneurs with free office space at the dance academy they helped her with years prior.

Moreover, Cook and Tellis decided to start their own nutritious vending machine business called Healthy Body Products. The business partners also ended up helping to change a law in California in an effort to ban junk food in Los Angeles schools. This company was just the beginning of the healthy journey for them both. The two ended up acquiring Naturade in 2012.

“Naturade has been around since 1926. But our whole thing was how do we redirect its path? Now that it’s Black-owned, let’s make it really impactful for our community. Ever since Claude and I were children, our grandparents’ generation passed away from complications due to diabetes, high blood pressure, or other diet-related illnesses. We know the majority of the population cannot just switch to being vegan fully. That’s not what we are trying to get people to do. But if we can get people on the spectrum from vegan to carnivorous and just get a little closer with a plant-based shake in the morning, you will be healthier,” Cook expounded.

Since purchasing Naturade, the duo has been able to build a relationship with the Costco CEO, get multiple stores to sell their products, and inspire Costco to give half of the Naturade profits to inner city education programs of their choosing. This opportunity has allowed Cook to provide the biggest alumni-generated donation in Prep for Prep’s history — a true full-circle moment.

If you liked this recap, tune into new “The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels” episodes every other Monday at 5 p.m. ET on the REVOLT website, YouTube channel and app. You can watch the latest installment with Kareem Cook here.