Jerry Brazie – Founder & President, Senvoy

Jerry Brazie is a serial entrepreneur who comes from a very poor and rough upbringing. The seventh child out of nine, Jerry’s family survived on food stamps and government assistance for much of his early childhood. His family (of eleven people) lived in a three-bedroom house, with one bathroom. Jerry’s first job was at eleven years old, washing dishes at a local restaurant, steadily moving up from one job to the next, always leaving for better pay. Surviving violent teenage years, Jerry is fond of saying that at age eighteen, he was certain he would not survive to age twenty-five.

With no education and no prospects for the future, Jerry took a job as a local messenger, delivering packages and paperwork, starting at the age of twenty-one. With a gift for operational efficiency, Jerry was running all of the dispatch operations for the company, and was instrumental in its growth from $2 million to $5 million in revenue within two years. After managing that company for six years, at twenty-eight years old with a infant son at home, Jerry was approached by investors to start a new company.

He took the offer and the company failed within a year, so Jerry went into business for himself. With no education or business training, but street smart, Jerry grew his business to $14 million in revenue within the first four years. Twenty years later, Jerry still operates that business, along with many others. He has owned multiple gas stations, car washes, convenience stores, a real estate development company, has developed 100s of lots that were sold to national builders, built houses, and also owns and personally manages over 130,000 square-feet of commercial real estate in multiple locations in Portland, Oregon. He has a management company, as well as a driver management company. He has purchased four of his competitors over the years, as well as bought and sold multiple other businesses.

Jerry’s newest passion are the daily videos he publishes on YouTube and Facebook. With a lifetime of experience and stories, combined with owning companies that have generated over $330 million in revenue over the last twenty years, Jerry sees this as a way to give back. In the videos, Jerry shares strategies, real life experiences, and advice on how to live a successful life. The goal is to inspire people to reach beyond what they think they are capable of by showing them how to break through barriers, both mentally and physically. He sells nothing and charges nothing, but tries to show what it takes to be a successful business owner, both the good and the bad. Straightforward and direct, Jerry’s story is the epitome of the American Dream.

Jerry has been married for twenty years and is the father of three children. An avid outdoorsman, Jerry hunts all over the world whenever he can.

Tell me about your early career.
I come from a very poor background, and was number seven (out of nine kids). So, when you grow up in poverty, with that many siblings, you do everything you can to get out of the house and work whatever jobs you can find. I started working at eleven years old as a dishwasher at a local restaurant, graduated to IHOP, then McDonald’s, and every job in-between. The key was that I constantly left one job for a better-paying one, until I eventually landed at a courier company, where I was managing the dispatch operations within six months. That’s how I got into the transportation industry.

How did the concept for Senvoy come about?
I was approached to start a new company by an investor. He knew of me because I had worked with many dispatchers in the area, and had helped build the largest company of its kind in Oregon. I remember, clearly, sitting in my office and he sent me a pro forma, and I had no idea what I was looking at. I led this very busy company for years, but only operationally. I knew that side of the business, cold, but had never seen the numbers.

And that is when I had an epiphany. I was twenty-eight years old and had been managing employees much older than I was, for years. I was the hotshot, operationally, but I had no idea what I was looking at. I had never heard of a P&L or a balance sheet, and I certainly did not know how to read them. So, I was sitting there and it hit me. I thought to myself, “I had better shut up and listen, or I am going to be doing this for the rest of my life.” Right then, I started buying every book on business, I ditched a bunch of my friends, I started hanging out with people who were smarter than me, and I took the investor up on the job offer.

How was the first year in business?
We did $3 million the first year, but the investor did not have the money to finance the cash flow. I was learning on the fly and was not experienced enough to figure out what was happening. I sold like crazy, but I wasn’t making any money. I learned that it is easy to sell, but very difficult to make money. One year to the day, the investor fired me.

Not one to back down, and armed with a bit of experience, I made plans to start my own company. However, I had no money, so I used what I did have: an excellent reputation as a straight shooter. So, I used that as currency, and I went to my five largest clients and told them what had happened and asked if they would prepay me for the first year. I was five for five. This is why I tell people all the time that the only answer to a question not asked is no. I have never been afraid to ask.

What was your marketing strategy?
Me. I had all the contacts, so I went to all of them and made sales. Most of the work came from the company that had fired me. I was a bull in a china shop, and I never hesitated for a minute to ask customers for their business.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
So, I started my own company with my customer’s money, and I did $3 million, $6 million, $10 million, and $14 million, during the first four years. It was at this point when we had to learn to make money, because I was bleeding at $14 million. So, I cut it down to $8 million, got our hands around it, and here we are, twenty years later.

How do you define success?
Learning. I come to work every day, knowing that we can go out of business because of the decisions I am about to make. So, I try to learn something from every situation. I am successful because of my adaptability, introspection, and lack of emotion. If someone can learn all three things, they are successful.

What is the key to success?
Easy. Hustle and outwork everyone, every time. There are a lot of hardworking people digging ditches, so you have to hustle for the business as hard as you work for it. I work fifteen hours a day, and have for twenty years. But I will outwork every competitor, no questions asked. I am also patient and think long-term. I also didn’t quit when it got hard. And finally, no emotion. I do not get up or down throughout the day. I enjoy the wins, and hate the losses, but that is for just the quickest of moments and then I move on. You can’t get too high on yourself or else you are heading for a fall.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Independence. The understanding that no one was going to help me and I was on my own. I was sixteen years old or so, and had gotten in a fight at a local mall with four guys. They put it to me pretty good, breaking my nose and leaving me under a bus stop bench. It took me two buses and a one-and-a-half mile walk to get home. About a third of the walk home, I was holding my nose and I remembered I had little to go home to, because we had nothing, and then I had the first of many hard lessons. I learned that no one at home was going to help me anyway, and if I wanted to survive, I had to do it on my own. To this day, I can still remember the feeling I had when I came to that realization. It guides me to this day.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Don’t be afraid of change. You have to burn the ships and move on.” “Run, don’t walk, to a problem. Seek it out, pound it into submission, and dare it to happen again.” “The answer to every question never asked is always no.”

What are some of your favorite books?
Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
The Great Bridge by David McCullough

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
Easy. In 2004, my partner who had helped me start and grow the company, and who also kept the books, decided that the company was going out of business because we were struggling. So, he quit collecting money, quit paying the bills, and took a job with my largest competitor at the time. Two days after suddenly quitting, I received a call from his boss, the owner, telling me that he understood the company was in trouble and offered me pennies on the dollar for it. I hung up, went to the office, told my management group what had happened, and all of us dedicated ourselves to fixing the company. Why? Because fuck him, that why. We weren’t going to lose, so I worked twenty-hour days, we pushed our collections and negotiated our payables, and we brought the company back from the edge within six months.

That was 2004. Jump forward to 2013, and I participated in the bankruptcy auction for that company. Sucks to be him.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I refuse to lose. I know that is a cliche, but some of us live it every day. I climbed out of the gutter, with no education, stealing food to eat as a kid, have seen four murders and three suicides by age twenty-one, worked twenty small-time jobs, all to get where I am. Adversity? It’s easier than stealing food and fixing a broken nose. I hate to lose and I never lose perspective.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Three things:

1) Know your numbers, know your numbers, and lastly, know your numbers. Pay attention only to the bottom line. Sales are easy, but making a profitable sale is hard. So, don’t get all excited when that top line grows, get excited when the bottom one does.

2) Outwork everyone. There is no work/life balance for entrepreneurs. You have to work harder than your competition. There are no shortcuts around this. If you are not willing to sacrifice and put in the time, don’t do it. Nothing will come to you. You have to hustle.

3) Money follows, it does not lead. Don’t let it. Do the right thing, take care of your people, and operate with integrity.

Kevin Gelfand – Co-Founder & President, Shake Smart

Kevin Gelfand is co-founder and president of Shake Smart. During his junior year at San Diego State University, Kevin and his business partner, Martin Reiman, came up with the idea for Shake Smart, which started as a way to just learn how to start a business. Six years later, the company has 130 employees, eight locations stretching from California to Texas, and large expansion plans for 2018.

Kevin enjoys living an active and healthy lifestyle and thrives off competition, problem solving, and innovating. He is married to his wife, Jazmine, who has supported him with Shake Smart since the inception. Throughout his time as president of Shake Smart, he has received valuable mentoring throughout the community, and is determined to pay it forward to aspiring, career-driven individuals. He serves as a mentor to the Lavin Entrepreneur Program at SDSU, and spends significant time mentoring some of his leadership team to further enhance their skills as leaders and young professionals.

Tell me about your early career.
Well, I am not too deep into my career, as I started Shake Smart when I was a junior at San Diego State University. Prior to that, I was a waiter since I was fifteen years old. Before I started Shake Smart, I did have a few business ideas that never came to fruition, which I think all lead me to Shake Smart. I wanted to start a hybrid taxi service company, which failed because I didn’t have the capital required to start it (and I’m glad because Uber would’ve crushed me). Then I wanted to start an alcohol delivery service so people wouldn’t drink and drive. I quickly learned that you can’t start an alcohol business when you’re not of the legal age to drink. My last idea before Shake Smart was to start a discounted package deal where you get one of each major sporting event ticket from the city you are located in (i.e. Lakers, Dodgers, Chargers, and Kings) which would be a great gift for a girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, brother, or daughter. This idea failed because I couldn’t get a buy-in from the Lakers.

How did the concept for Shake Smart come about?
I was a student at San Diego State University, and an avid gym-goer. I had moved further from the campus, but still wanted to exercise at the campus facility. It’s important to get protein within 30 minutes of finishing a workout and I realized by the time I finished by workout, got to my car, drove home, and made a shake, it was outside of this 30-minute window. That was when the “Aha!” moment came, to combine the customization and convenience of the blended drink industry with the innovative benefits of the nutrition industry.

How was the first year in business?
A big learning experience! I was working 80 hours a week in the store, while also going to school full-time. My partner and I would tag each other in-and-out for class every day. We didn’t even know what we were doing, so it was tough to have staff there alone when we had nothing to train them off of. Year one was the “figure it the f*ck out year.” Every year has been a different emphasis for us.

What was your marketing strategy?
Convenience and affordability. It was important for us to be located right outside the gym so that it was convenient for people to purchase, and around the same price for them to do it themselves. If we can align those two components, why would anyone get their post-workout nutrition anywhere else? We spent almost nothing on marketing and still don’t, to date.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
After the first six months, Shake Smart quickly became one of the most popular options on campus. After the first year, it went from being a way for us to learn how to start a business, to a business we could actually grow. Our second year was dedicated to systematizing everything for growth. Our third year, we opened three locations in three months and spent a lot of time fine-tuning the system, learning from different customer types, figuring out our exact growth strategy, etc. By the start of year four, we were confident we had a fine-tuned, well-branded company that was ready for a much larger expansion.

How do you define success?
Trick word. I don’t think I am successful yet and won’t ever think I am successful. I believe the word success aligns with stagnation. We are always reaching to be successful. If you ever actually grab it, then what motivates you next?

What is the key to success?
The key to success is to always be trying to get to that point, and to always try and get to that point, you must be always enhancing. The earth moves at a rapid rate (literally and physically). Everything around us is improving and enhancing and if we don’t do the same, we will get left behind. Never settling, that is the key to success.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Hard to pinpoint one. I have learned (and am still learning this) to understand what is in my control and what is not. You can only control what you can control, so stressing about the other things will only drive you crazy. I have learned that surrounding yourself with the right people from an employee standpoint and an advisor standpoint is the only way you will truly achieve greatness. I have also learned that being a truly good and genuine person is always going to take you farther, whether that is on a business level or on a personal level, with how you look back and see how you achieved what you achieved.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Luck is when preparation and opportunity collide.” – Seneca
“Enjoy the journey.”
“Think different.” – Steve Jobs
“Here’s to the crazy ones — the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs

What are some of your favorite books?
Hands down, my favorite book is How to Win Friends and Influence People. I also love The 4-Hour Workweek, Good to Great, and Built to Last.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
For one of our newest locations, I hired a contractor who I thought was an honest person and who would do the job the right way. Out of good faith, I gave him the last installment early as he “needed it” to order final supplies. After I paid him, he bailed on the project and left me with a half-finished store that was supposed to open in seven days. I spent almost an entire week of sleepless nights trying to get it finished. I also spent $50,000 over budget because of the things the contractor did/didn’t do, and I felt I let down the campus that we had partnered with because they knew of all the issues that came up. Once I got through the fire, I realized a few things. It was a great learning experience (an expensive one) on how to better vet partners and follow standard procedure, and I felt my relationship with the university actually got stronger from it all because they saw how committed we were to staying on schedule and not letting such a terrible thing stop us from moving forward.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Accomplishment. I love the feeling of problem solving, so I think about that feeling when I am in the weeds to help drive me to get out.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Determination, think differently, and always, always enhance.

Jim Prendergast – Founder & CEO, 317 Ventures

Helping others realize their full potential – whether as an entrepreneur, a young person in the business world, a father, a husband or a friend – Jim Prendergast admits that his favorite moments are those spent coaching, guiding and inspiring others. Leading with experience, heartfelt inspiration and a desire to share his life’s most teachable moments, Jim founded 317 Ventures in January 2017, marking a new chapter in his long business career.

After founding HealthiestYou, an innovative digital health company in 2011, that he sold in June 2016 to Teladoc, the nation’s leading provider of tele-health services, in a deal exceeding $155 million, Jim is now taking his experience as a serial entrepreneur and his personal passion for improving people’s lives to a new level. By helping position young, startup companies for success, Jim started 317 Ventures to use the business lessons he learned along the way, and is channeling his penchant for personal and professional coaching to fulfill his lifelong dream of helping others fulfill theirs. The company also leverages Jim’s 20+ years of building his own businesses – in financial services, insurance, employee benefits, and healthcare – to connect
innovative health and wellness companies with investors and financial opportunities to help them grow and prosper.

Throughout his years as a budding entrepreneur, Jim built his companies by focusing on creating a positive company culture and shaping entrepreneurially-minded teams that were invested in their own success to help the company succeed. That approach, a key factor in his business success strategy, is one that he applies now to help grow his clients’ companies. Along with building a people-first workplace culture, Jim’s personal investment in the success of others has built his reputation nationally as strong and compassionate business leader.

In June 2016, Jim was named a finalist in the Consumer Technology category in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards for 2016. His company was also recognized with accolades, such as the Arizona Central “Top Company to Work for in Arizona” award and the Phoenix Business Journal “Best Places to Work” award. He also took HealthiestYou’s national ranking from #846 in the Inc. 5000 list of America’s Fastest-Growing Companies in 2015, to #397 on the Inc. 500 list in 2016, as well as to #34 on the exclusive 2016 Entrepreneur360™ list of the Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America as determined by Entrepreneur Magazine.

Jim speaks at health industry and leadership events nationwide. He has been featured on an episode of “Men’s Health Live,” the Radio Network of Men’s Health Magazine, and was a guest on the ShiftShapers’ podcast hosted by industry thought leader, David Saltzman. He previously was a speaker on a national, business success tour, as well as a regular on the “Extreme Money Makeover Tour,” and the co-host of a major market radio talk show.

When he’s not inspiring leaders or building businesses, he is busy coaching and mentoring youth, and is a board member for the National Center for Fathering, an organization that was created to respond to the social and economic impact of fatherlessness in America. Jim has been involved with Little League, and the youth organization, Ambassadors of Compassion. In addition, Jim serves on the Northridge Community Church Board in Scottsdale, Arizona. To help the church raise funds, Jim purchased Saddlecreek Coffee Company that he operates for the church. In addition to donating 100% of the proceeds to the church, his other goal with the coffee shop is to help teach entrepreneurship to the church’s youth. He also supports and works closely with Partners in Action, a 30-year-old Scottsdale, Arizona-based nonprofit organization operating orphanages and other humanitarian projects in 27 countries.

Tell me about your early career.
I started my career in finance: mortgage banking, investments, and insurance. I sold my first company in November 2006.

How did the concept for HealthiestYou come about?
I was introduced to the concept when a start-up, tele-medicine company was raising money in 2007. The more I got involved, the more I realized that the future was bright for tele-medicine, but that their model was not going to change healthcare.

How was the first year in business?
The first year was exciting, optimistic and energizing. What could possibly go wrong? 🙂 It’s after the first year when you’re hit in the face with reality. Businesses take time and lots of pivots to find the right product, pricing, messaging, and market fit.

What was your marketing strategy?
I was heavily influenced by blue ocean strategy. We looked to go where no one else was going. We essentially did the opposite of our competition. They had a low utilization, low priced (commodity) product focused on large employer groups. We built a high utilization model with a price that could sustain that utilization and focused on small- to mid-sized groups. No one could on board and administer small groups efficiently, so they were forced to focus on large blocks of business. We set our sights on the ten million small businesses and how we could make a difference for them through employee retention, reducing health care premiums, absenteeism, etc.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Year 1: $300,000
Year 2: $700,000
Year 3: $1,300,000
Year 4: $3,000,000
Year 5: $10,000,000
Year 6: $20,000,000

How do you define success?
Professionally: When a company’s core values are represented by every employee in every situation, resulting in consistency and profitability.

Personally: The choice to use your time how you want and not how others want you to. For me, it’s about truly living out my priorities of God and family, before chasing power and wealth.

What is the key to success?
Persistence, Passion, People and Pivoting. I believe everyone can be successful if they stay in the game long enough, surround themselves with good people, and are willing to listen to what the market wants and needs, and make those changes, no matter how many there are.

What are the greatest lessons you’ve ever learned?
There are two:

1) EVERYTHING happens for your own good, if you view it as a learning experience and not as a distraction or failure. Every time we had a setback, we realized it was a set up for something bigger. That mindset is critical to surviving as an entrepreneur.

2) Money doesn’t make you happy. The day I saw my bank account with all the zeroes in it, I felt nothing. Although I have a large home and can do/buy whatever I want, there is little to no joy in that. People should never sacrifice time with their loved ones for material wealth.

What are some of your favorite books?
Business: The Four Agreements, all of Patrick Lencioni’s books, Blue Ocean Strategy, Traction, and Three Feet from Gold.

Personal: Shadow Divers, Endurance, Unbroken, and Confidence Game.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
1) Many times, I could not make payroll. Having to tell your team that you will be late paying them is gut-wrenching.
2) Being told by investors that promised to send money that they changed their mind.
3) When a large payer made an offer to buy us at a time when I was dead broke. I had to turn it down, although it would’ve been good for me personally/financially. The deal didn’t make sense for my investors or employees. I was devastated, but believed something better was coming in the future. We sold two years later for 10x more.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
1) Belief – You have to KNOW that you will make it. I have a mantra, “The harder the struggle, the bigger the reward.”
2) Family/wife – I believe your spouse must be 100% behind you, at all times.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
1) It’s all about the story. Figure out your story and then find a compelling way to tell it so everyone can easily understand it.
2) It will take a lot longer than you think and cost 5x more than you think, but you can do it.
3) Everything happens for a reason.
4) Don’t lose sight of your priorities.
5) 99.9% of all your large deals will fall through. Don’t count on any of them.
6) Find the blue ocean and hit a lot of singles. The homers will come in due time.
7) Don’t quit. You’re three feet from gold.

David Ellenwood – Founder & President, Sunny Days In-Home Care

David Ellenwood is a dedicated husband and family man. He has been married to his wife, Evelyn, for over ten years. He is the proud father of two daughters, Erin and Tina, and is proud to be called father by his stepdaughter, Ashley. David also has five granddaughters through these three young ladies. He has just recently added a third great-grandchild to his growing list of family members. He and his wife started a business called Sunny Days In-Home Care in 2011, that was created to serve seniors and disabled people in their own home. It is now one of the fastest-growing businesses in the United States.

David is also a dedicated servant of the Lord. One of his lifelong dreams was to be involved in missionary work. The seed was planted many years ago, but only in the last six years has he been able to see some of those dreams come to fruition. He has traveled to Guatemala on two separate, short-term mission trips for medical and building projects. David also began traveling to the Mathare slums in Nairobi, Kenya. There he found purpose in serving the children at AIC Zion church and school. In 2015, he became executive director of the board of directors for this mission field. He and Evelyn lend major financial support to help feed, clothe, and send to school 550 children in this ministry.

Tell me about your early career.
I have done a lot of searching in my life, as far as careers and earning a living. I could go on and on about the jobs I’ve had. One thing that has always been consistent has been my entrepreneurial spirit. I owned a plumbing business in the 1990s and into the early 2000s. I have been in medical sales positions, as well.

How did the concept for Sunny Days In-Home Care come about?
I worked in marketing for a large home healthcare company for a few years before starting Sunny Days. I was let go from that company, and because I was 58 years old, I felt like my market value was diminishing. My wife was working full time as a bookkeeper and we felt like there was something else we should do. When we were evaluating all of our options, starting our own business seemed to be the obvious choice.

How was the first year in business?
My first year was exciting, scary, BUSY, and full of new experiences.

What was your marketing strategy?
I had a lot of previous contacts that I revisited. I did quite a bit of personal advertising on social media as well. I went knocking on the doors of doctors and hospitals and senior living facilities. I did all of this while also doing all of the hiring, scheduling, and even a lot of caregiving for clients until I could get the people hired to do that job.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We did around $500,000 in the first year. We doubled our business each year for the next three to four years, so year two was $1,000,000, year three was $2,000,000, and year four was approximately $4,000,000.

How do you define success?
I define success on how well we are serving the people that depend on us to take care of them. I also define success on what kind of reputation we have developed as a company. Our growth is due to these parameters.

What is the key to success?
Hard work, honest, and integrity.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
That I’m not really in control. We believe that this is a God-given and God-directed business and He is in charge. I am the vehicle that needs to be open and obedient to His direction.

What are some of your favorite books?
Most books that I read are fiction. I am on the computer so much during the day that I do not have the time or energy to read like I used to. I hope to pick that up again when I cut back on my involvement in this business. I am trying to build something that is long-lasting for the future generations of my family.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
The hardest times for me are when I, or my company, am wrongly accused or treated by disgruntled individuals, whether that be an employee or a client. We treat everyone with respect and dignity, and hope they will do the same in return. That does not always happen.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
My family, my responsibility to my clients, and the 300+ people that depend on me to give them a paycheck every week.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
There is no substitute for hard work. You have to build a solid foundation so that it will withstand the storms that will inevitably come your way. I worked harder than anyone else, so now I can point to that whenever someone comes to me and says it is too hard. The example that I set forth has also set the standard for all others to follow.

Jorge Villalobos – CEO & Co-Founder, Sports Marketing Monterrey

Jorge Villalobos, Sports Marketing Monterrey’s CEO and co-founder, is an international entrepreneur and a noted Latin American expert in sports & entertainment, talent management, and marketing. Sports Marketing Monterrey represents and consults over forty-seven athletes, coaches and elite teams, including Cruz Azul F.C. & Pumas UNAM, representing their rights for touring, licensing, sponsorships and media distribution. His company has helped global brands, such as Coors Light, Pepsi, MoneyGram, Splenda, and Starbucks, engage the Hispanic market through sports.

Mr. Villalobos successfully promoted the largest Hispanic professional club competition in the USA, with an impressive attendance of over 200,000 people in cities like Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Chicago, with a live broadcast in the USA and 20+ countries, via ESPN.

Sports Marketing Monterrey was recognized in 2015 for its impressive 1,031% revenue growth on the Inc. 5000, a prestigious list representing the fastest-growing private companies in the United States. The company ranked #450 in the Inc. 500 group, and was the only agency in the sports industry featured on the list.

Mr Villalobos and his company are actively involved in the community, with children as their principal focus. His commitment to battle school desertion, diabetes, and child obesity has driven him to organize free soccer clinics with professional athletes, youth soccer tournaments, as well as hiring international players and athletes as speakers to motivate and improve leadership skills.

Sports Marketing Monterrey also provides thousands of free tickets to an important number of schools and nonprofit organizations across the country, including the Dallas Independent School District (ISD), to maintain children and parents’ engagement in school, while also providing unique sporting experiences with their idols and public figures, and developing programs of school attendance.

Jorge studied international marketing at the University of Monterrey in Mexico and began his professional career, in 2001, in the consulting industry with Villalobos&Asoc, Ad2GO (a digital outdoor advertising agency), and JV Entertainment Group (producing and promoting concerts and live shows with “A-list” acts, such as Kiss, Motley Crue, Black Eyed Peas, etc.)

Tell me about your early career.
I graduated from the University of Monterrey with an international marketing degree. Ten months prior to graduating, I started my own advertising agency, which was a one-man shop, with no office. The main idea was to provide consulting and marketing/advertising services to small clients and accelerate their growth. Five years later (in 2002), I added the media side to the agency and developed outdoor media on plasma displays in the subway, shopping centers, and in other high-traffic areas. We added the entertainment side to expand and drive my clients to new adventures, by promoting live events (mainly, music concerts). Football (soccer), and sports in general, are my passion, so I’ve had the opportunity to meet great players and I ultimately decided to also start a sports marketing department, leading to what Sports Marketing Monterrey is today. We started representing the commercial rights of our clients, providing “full shop” representation by fixing their contracts, moving them between teams, and finding new business opportunities.

How did the concept for Sports Marketing Monterrey come about?
There was a strong need for professional advisement in the sports marketing world, particularly in Mexico and for soccer teams. Observing what the industry leaders were doing with the World Cup, Olympics, and other leagues like the NFL, inspired me to not just represent the talent, but the institutions and the teams as well.

How was the first year in business?
Our first year was amazing. We were profitable and received a lot of attention. It was a fun year. However, our second year was a difficult one. Our clients had very high expectations, and there was also a huge overhead increase in an abnormal and aggressive way. Looking back, I would’ve gone a different a route, and would’ve chosen to build a good foundation to keep the growth steady, instead. So there were a few bumps, but a couple of years later, we created a healthy, fully operational agency.

What was your marketing strategy?
Hustle. That was it. It was getting things done, signing clients, offering the best service, making 200 phone calls a day, making great pitches, and delivering great results. That is what a sixteen-year-old overnight success looks like when it’s going in the right direction.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Fast, not just in revenue, but also in building relationships and getting the word out, with no advertising at all. I believe we’ve had over 1,000% growth in the first three to four years.

How do you define success?
It’s different for everyone, but money is always involved in the equation on how people measure your success, which is the easier way to do it, but I believe success is just a lifestyle. Success, to me, is a balance with your family, your profession/career, yourself, and the way you positively impact on others.

What is the key to success?
Hustle. It’s not just having one thing. I think it’s a recipe that works different for everybody, but you have to believe in yourself and use your ingredients (love, determination, perseverance, and passion). Then start using the right tools, such as be focus and flexibility, and surround yourself with the right people. And like someone once told me, “You have to take the stairs. There is no elevator to success.”

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
I have hundreds, with all of them having something in common, because I’ve learned the hard way by making mistakes and, sometimes, making bad decisions. So it’s okay to fall, or fail, but you have to get up, learn, and keep going until you make it happen.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
When you think you’ve failed. When you ask yourself that question if you should continue with the endeavor. It’s hard when you get to that one minute in your life when you doubt yourself about being able to achieve your goal. And I have to say that having or working with unethical people is also hard to digest.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
My family and love for what I do. I really enjoy it and believe that I will be a game changer when the time comes, so I have to be ready.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Be brave, treat others as you want to be treated, and never lose focus on what your goals and objectives are. The community, the country, and the world need good people, so no matter what you decide to do with a new company, product, service or technology, do it with your heart and be kind.