Updated: Nov 22, 2018
Professional growth is essential to the success of an entrepreneur. Regardless of their age or background, no entrepreneur succeeds alone. It is this belief that inspires the i.Invest Competition to recruit judges and mentors with various experiences to help us shine a light on business development, innovation and creativity. It is also this belief that made working with New Orleans economic development professional, Alejandra Guzman, and others like her, the best choice when building our dynamic line-up of mentors.
1) Tell us about your current job, why you do what you do and how it prepares you to mentor youth and youth entrepreneurs?
I serve as VP of Performance Management & Strategy for the New Orleans Business Alliance, (NOLABA), a public-private partnership with the City of New Orleans and the business community focused on promoting economic development. Through my NOLABA role and additional civic engagements, I work hard to design and execute programs that achieve equitable and inclusive economic growth for all New Orleanians by working to attract new businesses, grow our local workforce and small business ecosystem, and most importantly, to connect people to opportunities.
My vision for New Orleans is one of an inclusive and sustainable city that provides all of the tools for its people - regardless of their background - to succeed. I am honored to be able to share these experiences with youth entrepreneurs.
2) If you were a youth entrepreneur, tell us about the very first business you started and why?
At 11, I started selling candy door-to-door and during school recesses. At that time, I discovered that I could buy candy by the bulk, or even make some myself, and have a slightly lower price than some corner stores. I started having so much success that soon I had competitors! Another young girl decided that she could also make and sell candy. This was one of my earliest business lessons in life.
3) What three things should all young entrepreneurs be prepared for before they create a business?
#1: Follow a process and have patience.
More often than not, it takes a long time to convert prospects into customers. There should be a thoughtful and well-planned out process to be able to have successful conversion rates. This is true both in the business and non-profit sector.
#2: The importance of connections.
Building a network can make a big difference to your business. Luckily, there are multiple organizations throughout the nation that facilitate these connections. Even if the benefit of knowing someone is not evident at first, connecting with people and building relationships is always beneficial in the long term.
#3: Having cash flow does not mean your business is profitable.
It is important to pay attention to your cost structure. Some new businesses discover that they cannot sustain their operations despite having a flow of cash. Taking a close look at what it takes your business to operate can help you make other decisions that will support the sustainability of your business.
4) Tell us about your biggest business failure and success.