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Laval Entrepreneur Mentor Program

Laval EMP Visits Visalia!

By: Maci Steinhauer

The Laval Entrepreneur Mentor Program students had the opportunity to visit the entrepreneurial community of Visalia. The trip was led by fourth generation Visalian and businessman Stanley Simpson. It was a day of fun and learning. Shortly after boarding the bus at the Lyles Center, Mr. Simpson gave a valuable piece of advice: “If you can’t have fun, stay home”.

The first stop was KRC Safety, which specializes in highway operations. They offer many services including traffic control, construction signs, custom street signs, temporary chain link fences, roadway markers, message boards, equipment trucking, and much more. Owner Gary Castro spoke to the students about the company’s history and it's path to success that required a lot of hard work. Mr. Castro provided students with great insight on owning a business and living the life of an entrepreneur, “You never quit learning”.

The second stop for Laval EMP was Wells Fargo. Here the students learned about commercial lending. Scott Iverson provided an excellent overview on the process of lending and the qualities making Wells Fargo a unique and special bank. Rich Nieman, the Managing Director, spoke about interest rates and other economic factors affecting lending. Students received a greater understanding on the various sources of capital available.

The students then headed to Buckman-Mitchell where lunch was served and prepared by Max’s Fine Cookies. Over lunch, several successful businesspeople from Visalia spoke. Bill Davis, the Director of Career Technical Education at Visalia Unified School District, discussed worked-based learning partnerships. The partnerships help enrich student learning through mentorships, tours, job shadowing, and internships.

Tom Seidler, a former Major League Baseball player and part owner of the San Diego Padres, spoke about his work as a baseball franchise owner. He discussed exciting changes ahead for the Padres and products they have developed to enhance the fan’s experience. Mr. Seidler mentioned how being surrounded by what he loves makes life enjoyable. Jim Wohlford, who retired from baseball after fifteen seasons, provided words of wisdom to the students. Mr Wohlford proudly stated, “follow your passion and go for it” and “the luckier you get, the harder you work." Due to being only five feet and 100 pounds in high school, no one thought he would make it, but with hard work and passion, Jim ended up playing fifteen seasons in the major leagues.  Another special thanks to Jeff Brueggemann, Joe Charboneau, and Susan Matthews for sharing their stories and life experiences.

Basil Perch, a native of Visalia, gave the students a heartfelt speech on the importance of family and business. “Don’t forget your heritage; it’s the foundation you’ve built your life on”. His family came to America with nothing but the clothes on their backs after fleeing the Armenian Genocide. He stated family is the foundation of life and we as human beings need a solid foundation. “There are three things in business you need to have: honesty, integrity, and loyalty”. He went on to explain without those three things you have nothing.

AGR Partners, a private equity firm, was next on the list of stops. Justin Birch and Jake Sill discussed the AGR Partners’ purpose and the large investments they have made in the agricultural sector. The students were given insight on various investment opportunities and were told to be attentive to where the market is going. The goal of these firms is to always have a return on their investments and the same concept is applied to any business. The students were given a Predictive Index test showing the students that everyone’s different personality traits are important for the success of a business.

The last stop of the day was Max’s Fine Cookies and we were in for a treat! Max Lupercio told the story of his journey and how he ended up opening Max’s Fine Cookies. The students were given samples of his delicious cookies and brownies as well as a tour of the facility. Mr. Lupercio believes the three things making his bakery successful is customer service, quality, and community involvement. Treating your customers like they are number one is how you build loyalty and ensure they come back. Community involvement is also an important role for any business as it can be a great marketing tool. Whether it’s donating or sponsoring, always give back to the community; it is what keeps your business alive. 

Thank you Stanley Simpson! You along with the Visalia community were gracious and entertaining hosts!