Legacy Conference Brings New and Experienced Entrepreneurs Together

Thursday, October 19, 2017 post has photos

Regina Bernal summed up San Diego’s entrepreneurial spirit in one sentence: “We are in a city that loves innovation, loves creativity and wants to make change."

The 2012 University of San Diego alumna and Entrepreneurship Manager for USD’s School of Business said this during the kickoff to the sixth annual USD Legacy Entrepreneurship Conference, which attracted 600 registered guests to campus on Oct. 12 in the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice building.

Legacy Entrepreneurship 2017

What students, staff, faculty, alumni and countless entrepreneurs throughout the county and beyond came for was knowledge, to be part of something vibrant and to be inspired. Entrepreneurship is, indeed, a pathway toward success for individuals in a San Diego-Tijuana region that is a reportedly $230 billion-dollar economy. 

“The School of Business wants to be a proactive agent in developing sustainable wealth,” said Jaime Alonso Gomez, dean of USD’s School of Business, in his conference welcoming remarks. “But what we want is not just wealth creation, we want a new kind of wealth. We want sustainable wealth creation that is social inclusive (people), ecologically friendly (planet), financially solid (profits), wealth that builds a harmonious society (prosperity) and fosters a sustainable economy (peace). That’s the bottom line approach to business enterprise.” 

To do this, Gomez reasoned, the aim of the business school is “education with a purpose” and “to graduate students who are socially responsible, internationally competitive entrepreneurs and who are agents of change to transform lives in our society.” 

The conference gave the audience the opportunity to hear entrepreneurs who are USD or San Diego-based alumni and more share their varied experiences, offer advice and encouragement for those who are in the early stages of the entrepreneurial path. 

Michael Lawless, a USD professor and leader of entrepreneurship initiatives such as the fall USD Legacy Entrepreneurship Conference and USD’s Venture Vetting (V2) Pitch Competition in the spring, began the program by hosting a Fireside Chat with entrepreneurs Omar Alfi, managing director and CEO of Pacifico Aquaculture, and Amanda Lettmann, who is a global business investor, founder, CEO/COO and an Air Force veteran. 

Both Alfi and Lettmann shared their life stories and answered questions from Lawless that touched on their experiences, their insights on entrepreneurship and how they achieve work-life balance, which for both comes in their own unique way and on their terms. Both are go-getters and, like most entrepreneurs, their business mind is on 24 hours, seven days a week. 

For Alfi, he is committed to his family, but friends understand that lapses in his connection with them isn’t a slight, it’s merely that the business is what his family and 158 employees’ families, “a whole community of people, are relying on what we do.” 

“Entrepreneurship is very messy. What most people see is the glamour, media and the sexiness of it, but you can’t just love the end goal. You have to love the process,” Lettmann said. “You have to give 100 percent of yourself. It’s your investment and you’re all in. You can’t be half in, half out.” 

The next part of the evening centered on two panel discussions with five entrepreneurs each to answer questions connected to a set theme. 

Lawless hosted the panel conversation titled, “If I started my business today …” with Alfi, Lettmann, USD alumnus Steve Wilson ‘92, UCSD alumnus Sidao Li and Point Loma Nazarene alumnus Nate Spees. Their comments focused in on being persistent, speaking to customers before creating your idea and that even if someone else has your same idea, the difference is in the execution of it. 

A second panel, hosted by School of Business Associate Professor of Management, Dr. Rangapriya Kannan-Narasimhan, centered on, “What Would I Tell My 21-Year-Old Self?” This panel consisted of three USD alumni members, Nathan Resnick ’16, Anita Mahaffey ’80, Christian Rosier ’14, current MBA student and 2017 V2 Pitch Competition winner David Jimenez Burgos ’18 and Los Angeles-based Cecilia Sibony, who mixes her passion for both food and peacebuilding into her entrepreneurial venture. 

Perhaps the best advice from the panel was offered by Mahaffey, who is the CEO of Cool-jams Performance Sleep Products. “I’m a big believer in education. Be systematic because it enhances your chances of success. It’s great to have an idea, but it’s another to research the heck out of the idea. You want to start a business, but you need a plan. Have a road map and goals. Use your tools, have ethics and be nice and kind in business. I tell my employees that every interaction with the customer should be kind.” 

The evening concluded with all 10 entrepreneurs stationing themselves at tables throughout KIPJ Rooms A and B for small-group discussions with students and community entrepreneurial aspirants and to delve deeper on a specific question or topic. 

In all, it was a chance for all participants to listen, learn and take another positive step forward in their own entrepreneurial journey. 

“You never know who you’re going to meet in this room who can change your life,” Bernal said. 

— Ryan T. Blystone


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