Howard Dvorkin, BSA ’86, believes in business as a tool for service. A self-defined serial entrepreneur, he’s founded countless companies on this premise—each with the mission to give back.
“Most of my businesses are designed to help people. It's a great feeling—I walk out of my office and really believe I’ve had a positive impact on somebody's life, daily. That's what I enjoy [the most],” says Dvorkin.
In 1993, Dvorkin founded his first large-scale venture, Consolidated Credit Counseling Services, Inc, to help people with debt relief. The company is about consumer education at its heart, offering financial advice, house counseling, and credit card management strategies, among other services.
“I wanted to use my knowledge and skills to benefit others, and financial management seemed like the right path,” Dvorkin says.
Consolidated Credit Counseling Services was just the beginning. Dvorkin quickly expanded the business and branched out into other facets of the debt relief industry, founding additional companies including PowerWallet, Start Fresh Today and Debt.com. Today, he’s founder of nine different businesses in four countries, with 700 employees total.
His business focus isn’t only in the financial services industry, however. Dvorkin is also a strong advocate of social service.
His latest venture is Parkland Cares, a non-profit whose mission is to provide funding and awareness for mental health counseling and programs for shooting survivors. Dvorkin founded the organization following the tragic Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, where he has been a resident for more than 30 years.
“The entire community was negatively impacted,” Dvorkin says, “and I needed to do something.”
Parkland Cares offers a resource center of vetted mental health practitioners that community members can turn to. The organization offers a centralized list of counseling and intervention services, giving those coping with tragedy an easy outlet for finding the help they need.
“Our goal is to make it easier for the survivors, their families and the community to easily find the resources needed to piece their lives back together,” explains Don Silvestri, president of Dvorkin’s company Debt.com and member of the Parkland Cares advisory board.
Dvorkin also relishes helping people who are working at his companies. He says what defines him the most is “giving people a chance”—offering others the opportunity to pursue excellence.
He recalls one staff member in particular, who now runs one of his companies. When she began, she had minimal experience and a complicated past. But, as Dvorkin describes, she was “incredibly bright, talented and hard-working.”
“I want to help my employees grow and be a part of something good. I find real happiness and pleasure watching people take advantage of the opportunities they were provided,” he says.
Dvorkin’s entrepreneurial roots run deep—even past his non-profit and financial services companies. His passion for entrepreneurship comes from his family, he says, who, as a child, encouraged him to work in the family business. As a teenager, he started his own company: a snow removal company he managed while still in school.
“I didn’t grow up in a normal household. We didn’t talk about sports or school. We talked about business,” Dvorkin says.
He also credits American University’s Kogod School of Business for providing the opportunities he needed to succeed. “Most of the good things in my life have happened because of Kogod,” Dvorkin says. “I certainly learned a heck of a lot and met some of my closest friends. The opportunities the school gave me were tremendous.”
Moving forward, Dvorkin hopes to continue giving people the same opportunities he received. “I want to provide people the chances they need—whether they’re running a business or working in one.”
Most of all, Dvorkin wants to keep giving back. He hopes to leave his mark on the world as a business owner that helps others—financially, professionally and personally.
Learn more about Kogod’s bachelor of science in accounting program.