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Laval Entrepreneur Mentor Program

Laval EMP Kickoff


"The EMP is the crown jewel of the Fresno State business program."
 --Riley Walter

By Aaron Cook


Fresno State’s Laval Entrepreneur Mentor Program (EMP) began its fall 2015 semester this week. EMP is excited to announce 15 new members this semester, which brings our grand total to 21 students.


As usual, the first day was electrifying. It’s clear everyone is enthusiastic about entrepreneurship and how it can change our lives. After shaking hands and learning new names, we all sat down for the lunch provided by Dr. Stearns, a delicious grilled chicken and pesto sandwich with homemade chips and fruit from Peeve’s Public House and Local Market. Dr. Stearns set the bar high for the lunch each EMP member must provide during the semester. Following lunch, Dr. Stearns summarized the exciting semester planned for the EMP class, which includes trips to the south and west Valley, City Hall to meet Mayor Ashley Swearengin and the opportunity for 10 EMP students to be selected for a fully paid trip to the CEO National Conference in Kansas City, MO.


Next we heard from guest speakers, Riley Walter, Claude Laval, Garrett Jones and Chris Fide. Guest speakers are one of the highlights of the program. It was a great honor to have both Claude Laval and Riley Walter speak to the class, as both men co-founded the program 10 years ago and continue to be involved.


Riley Walter, a partner and lawyer at Walter & Wilhelm Law Group, spoke first about the importance of building long-term relationships with our mentors, rather than just using them to build a business. Walter also stressed the importance of listening to the history of our mentors, including their mistakes. He told us to take the initiative when communicating with our mentors and the best way to get things done is to “start early and work late.”


Claude Laval detailed how EMP will prepare us for the business world as much, if not more, than other business classes. In partnerships, Laval mentioned, “people do not progress at the same speed” which can cause issues in business. He pointed out that in today’s world, if you build a better mouse trap, people will not beat a path to your door. You have to market your product to get it noticed.


Garrett Jones is an EMP mentor and president of Laval Underground Surveys. Jones stressed the importance of taking advantage of the opportunities in EMP, stating “what you get here, you can’t get anywhere else in the world.” Jones compared being an entrepreneur with being a mechanic - an entrepreneur is like the mechanic who can fix an entire car, as opposed to regular business students, who are like the mechanic who can only fix a carburetor.


Chris Fide, adjunct Fresno City College business professor and financial advisor with Principal Financial Group, is currently an EMP mentor. Fide discussed the importance of a good environment when working on a professional project.


After these words of wisdom from our guest speakers, it’s safe to say EMP is off to a great start and we have many things to look forward to this semester.