The Business Journal asked several of its 40 Under 40 honorees about their experiences working in the Valley, what advice they could offer to a younger generation and who helped them get to where they are today. What are the benefits and drawbacks of doing business in the greater Valley Area? Tina Choi Owner TChoi & Associates Age 35 It’s got a fabulously dedicated residential base, there are vested homeowners who have been there for generations and are concerned about their communities. Areas don’t become great because of simple government leadership, the community has to become involved. The only drawback I would say is that the Valley is, in a way, so self-sustaining with so many self-generating opportunities. It may be because of the protection the landscape offers with the hills between the rest of the city, but people in the Valley often don’t see any reason to head south on the 405 or east on the 101. Victoria Bourdas Director of Finance Fleming Entertainment Centers Age 31 The main benefit for me is that if you get involved with your local chamber of commerce or other groups, it’s very easy to build a tight-knit community. If you’re not involved, the Valley can be such a spread-out entity that you just don’t get the opportunity to know many people. Marc Bishara Partner Venbrook Insurance and Risk Services Age 38 You’ve got an upper middle market clientele, there are quite a few middle market privately held businesses that are headquartered here in the great San Fernando Valley. That’s an advantage as far as I’m concerned because that’s my market. A disadvantage is that you’ve got an area that is too vast, it’s too spread out. I team up with other advisors and I might have an attorney in Century City and an accountant working downtown. Khaim Morton Field Deputy Councilman Alex Padilla’s Office Age 32 One of the benefits of doing business in the Valley is that there’s still space for businesses to grow and be able to find a niche market that will support whatever it is that you’re selling or producing. A detriment to doing business in the Valley is that sometimes you get the feeling that people on the other side of the hill don’t know we’re up here. It’s like there’s an invisible wall once you cross Mulholland Drive. Paul De La Cerda Major Grants and Gifts Officer Providence Holy Cross Foundation Age 30 The benefits certainly are the demographics that exist here, the cultural heritage that exists here makes it unlike any place on earth. It’s an amazing place to come and network and to promote businesses and cultures from around the world. You can tap into so many different markets while you’re doing business here. The lack of space would be an obvious reason to be a little discouraged. Although we are doing our best to manage it, I feel we have quite a bit of work ahead of us, and we have to deal with traffic as well. The key is to do the best we can to solve the traffic problem that exists here in the Valley. Yolanda Fuentes Commissioner for Public Works City of Los Angeles Age 30 We have such unique talent here in the Valley, but we’re so small compared to areas with bigger manufacturers. We have the Economic Alliance and VICA and other organizations doing such a great job trying to bring small, medium and big companies together and we are starting to flourish. You look around and realize we have MiniMed here in the Valley, we have Boeing and we also have small restaurants that have been here for 50 years. One difficulty is that we’re obviously not the west side of the city where you have more of a walking crowd, we don’t have as many outdoor malls, and it would be nice to get more visitors to our attractions. We do have Universal City Walk, but I would encourage development in Pacoima, Sylmar and Mission Hills. What advice do you have for young businesspeople or students who are trying to get ahead in the Valley? Tina Choi: Obviously you need to take stock of your strengths and your weaknesses, that’s very important and it requires a lot of emotional and intellectual maturity. After you’ve seen what your strengths and weaknesses are, it’s very important to become active and join as many groups as possible. You’ll learn from talking to people who get involved and who are successful and if you have the desire to pursue any of these industries or career paths and commit yourself, you can utilize these contacts you’ve met in Valley organizations to help you build a path to success and a business plan. Gisho Tatsutani Director of Imaging Services Providence St. Joseph Medical Center Age 35 Certainly continue with your education. Having a bachelor’s degree certainly helps. I’ve been working at Providence for a long time, and continuing education is always critical, you never want to stop learning. Do your best from day one on any job. When I was a student I got the outstanding intern award while I was working at my second clinical site in the x-ray program. This is a tight-knit community, and people always remember names. Victoria Bourdas: I would definitely say to find a mentor, someone that you could potentially job shadow. It’s a big deal to start getting organized, whether it be in high school or in college, with some different organizations out there. In high school I was always working or hanging out with my family and friends, but when I got to college I started to get involved in my sorority. It was the very best thing that happened to me, because it forced me to get out and get more involved with the marketing association, the accounting organization and start building more contacts. Khaim Morton: For young people I think one thing that definitely applies is to look around at the people that you’re hanging around with and realize what influence they’re having on you. Make sure you surround yourself with positive people that are doing things to help you move forward. A young person has got to actively seek that stuff out. Paul De La Cerda: Find a trusted mentor who has the values, experience and success that you’re looking to achieve. Get out in the community and get involved. Really helping other people in your community will make you and other people recognize your potential. The third thing you should do is become more politically aware. A lot of young people don’t have any idea when it comes to the legislative process. I think that those of us in the Valley really need to take a handle on our business future. We need to pay more attention to what’s going on in the political arena, not just reading about it but really getting involved in issues. Our voter turnout is terrible. Marc Bishara: Get involved with senior level advisors, network heavily with other advisors, whether they are accountants, attorneys or bankers and determine what their needs are and how you can help assist them. You want access to their knowledge base and to leverage that knowledge. I call that client capital, you develop more relationships, meet with other senior advisors in your area and leverage your clients. Who is your greatest mentor? Yolanda Fuentes: Councilman Cardenas has been extremely supportive of me in my professional life and personally. Richard Gigger (band instructor in school) is one of those rare people I admire for his professionalism he was a retired band master in the Army and as a father and teacher. He helped to mold me into the person I am today. My parents mostly, my father worked in the Northeast Valley for 35 years, he worked at the General Motors plant in the Valley, and I remember taking lunch to him in the picket line when GM was going through its negotiations. Marc Bishara: I have various mentors, but on a personal level no doubt it was my father was a big mentor for me in terms of business acumen. He spent 40-plus years in the business and taught me to always do what’s right for the client. Any one of the masterful management type people are big mentors, like Jack Welch. Paul De La Cerda: I’ll be straight from the heart and say that it’s my mother and father. My father has been supportive of any decision I make as far as my professional life goes. When I go to him to talk about opportunities, he gives me honest input as to whether he thinks it’s a good move for my family and they help me make those tough decisions. Victoria Bourdas: It’s very hard to narrow it down, I’ve kind of grown up at Skateland, and I’m always sort of living behind my sister, I’m kind of her mirror image. Two brothers are my bosses, they complement one another very well and I would have to say they are a big influence, but I would have to say my biggest role model is my sister, she’s just a shining star, and gives wonderful advice. What are the challenges presented as a twenty-something dealing with a middle aged business community? Jenny Ketchepaw Branch Manager, Santa Clarita Telesis Community Credit Union Age 25 For the most part I’m readily accepted. I think one of my qualities is I have a lot of integrity. I think people see that. I really care about what I do and it’s evident when you meet me. And it immediately puts people at ease that I know what I do and take pride in it. I have more concern with my age, but it wasn’t being reinforced by other people. I was talking to one of our assistant vice presidents and he said I didn’t even realize how old you were until you mentioned it. I was putting so much emphasis on it myself that I didn’t take time to realize people weren’t even looking at that. They were looking at the work I did, and that spoke for itself. The biggest challenge I found (as a personal business officer) is almost getting your foot in the door. Once you’re in the door you can speak for yourself. It’s the initial breaking down perceptions of maybe she’s young or not experienced. That’s the biggest challenge. Younger people are really eager for change. We embrace it and figure out how we can own it a little bit. Sometimes people that have a lot of experience, they rely on their experience to shape their future whereas I think the younger generation is relying on their hearts. If I buy off on something I do it extremely well. I look at it for potential not so much for what happened in the past. On the flip side, working with a lot of people older than myself I learned a lot too. Sometimes it’s good to rely on experience but I think where the two meet is where projects really get done. Cynthia Ibarra Marketing Manager Valley Economic Development Corp. Age 26 At the beginning, you do walk into a room with people who are twice your age and they look at you like you’re still the intern. But as I get to know people and they get to know me they start to think, “Okay, she knows what she’s doing. My age still comes up for the most part, but I think for the most part people look past it.
A Younger View of Doing Business in the Valley