Inside USD

Entrepreneurs Show They Mean Business

Friday, November 12, 2010

It’s often said the best time to start a new business is when the economy isn’t so rosy. Some succeed, many fail, but the attempt is often what matters.

And then there’s the true entrepreneur. They’re the ones constantly on the move, working all the angles to make things happen at any time of year, regardless of what’s happening with the economy. The margin between success and failure remains thin, but a true entrepreneur is different.

“You get to be your own boss. It’s exciting to take a risk and get rewarded for it,” said Sonny Marshall, a 1978 University of San Diego graduate, when asked what he enjoyed most about being an entrepreneur.

Marshall, founder, president and CEO of PW Construction Inc., was one of four businesspeople — and one of three USD alumni — who delivered motivational insight at “Exploring Strategies in Entrepreneurship,” the latest USD Knowledge Transfer event, on Thursday in the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice Theatre. The event was co-sponsored by USD’s Office of Parent Relations, USD’s Student Alumni Association and USD’s E-Club.

Joining Marshall were Kyle Miholich ’07 (BBA), who hatched a business plan to start a self-serve frozen yogurt business, now known as Fiji Yogurt, while he was a USD senior; Diolinda Monteiro ’94 (BA Biology) is owner of Diolinda’s Chocolates, a business in which she controls everything that goes into her handmade confections; and a USD parent, Michael Harris, who is a professional entrepreneur and whose business successes include Fairbault Mills and Velocity Express.

Moderator Helder Sebastiao, assistant professor of management in the School of Business Administration and faculty advisor of USD’s Entrepreneurship Club, questioned the panelists on a variety of areas, often drawing out a bit of what each individual’s philosophy and path to success has been.

Monteiro said networking with people is a constant in her success as she is always striving to find the finest ingredients for her products. “If it’s not about the chocolates and the material that goes into them, my heart’s just not in it.”

Miholich, who has four Fiji Yogurt locations in San Diego, including one down the hill from the USD’s west campus entrance, has been in business for almost four years. While the self-serve frozen yogurt business has seen a host of newcomers enter the market, Miholich has been steadfast in his approach. Several factors, including classes he took as a USD student, have helped.

“Accounting is the language of the business, the pulse of business,” he said.

Harris spoke often about being the kind of person who truly wants to be an entrepreneur. “You have to really understand first who you are because when you do take that risk you have to learn to accept failure. My recommendation is that when you decide what you want to do, analyze the possibilities and set expectations with the opportunities you can manage as an entrepreneur.”

Marshall, who has had an entrepreneurial spirit since he was 17 and started a roofing company, credits the need to have the right attitude: “never give up and be stout in your pursuit.”

And what about an entrepreneur’s advice when the economy’s not so rosy?

“Help others and help them get started,” Marshall said.

— Ryan T. Blystone

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