Power of Possibility

ARAMARK executive, industry experts share entrepreneurial lessons with students

Believe in the power of possibility. “Possibility for success, possibility to impact others, possibility to create jobs and contribute to your communities – the possibility of successful business ownership is real for you,” Christina Estrada told students in a keynote address at the sixth annual Hospitality and Entrepreneurship Summit held recently on the University of Delaware campus in Newark.

For Estrada, global chief diversity officer for ARAMARK, possibility is rooted in an entrepreneurial spirit that sparks creative thinking into diversification.

“As an aspiring entrepreneur you need creative thinking after the big idea,” said Estrada. “You need to understand your industry and know what your customers need that is unique, as well as what they want consistently and that is reliable. As an aspiring entrepreneur, you need to believe in the power of possibility.”

The summit, which is organized by UD’s Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management (HRIM), serves as an orientation about business opportunities in the culinary arts, hospitality and tourism industries to underserved young adults in high schools and universities from up and down the East coast.

Pictured at the recent Hospitality and Entrepreneurship Summit are (from left) Lozelle DeLuz, president and CEO of DeLuz Management Consulting and summit co-chair; Francis Kwansa, interim chair of UD's Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management and summit co-chair, and Christina Estrada, global chief diversity officer, ARAMARK, who encouraged students to consider the power of possibility. Photo by Duane Perry.

Estrada offered three recommendations for students to develop a powerful and creative ability. First, she suggested they look for familiar patterns in unrelated subjects.

“Creative and powerful thinkers get results by combing what might feel like dissimilar areas yet something very similar brings them together,” said Estrada. “Consider how what Steve Jobs started in his garage with a simpler personal computer grew to the company that makes our iPhone and iPads.”

Second, Estrada advised students to “think the unthinkable” and shared an example from ARAMARK to illustrate her point.

“We all recognize the need to be environmentally aware and reduce the amount of chemicals we put into the environment,” said Estrada. “ARAMARK, with its partners Orbio Technologies and Activelon Cleaning Solutions, found a way to go further from government-approved organic natural cleaners to something even greener: water.”

According to Estrada, the technology applies a low-level electrical charge to tap water, transforming it into electrically activated water that breaks apart and lifts dirt from hard surfaces.

“It’s very safe for our customers and our employees,” said Estrada. “Pretty unthinkable, right?”

Finally, Estrada recommended that the students be their “authentic selves.”

“Successful entrepreneurs and frankly anyone experiencing success in their work will probably tell you they’re doing what they’re passionate about,” said Estrada. “What do you love? Where is your passion? What gets you excited? Be clear about it and go for it with all that you have to give.”

In closing, Estrada challenged the students to ask questions, be curious and explore the idea of business ownership.

“Soak up what you’ll be hearing from the various business owners at this summit and I guarantee you there will be wonderful nuggets of information and experience to learn from,” she said.

Pictured at the recent Hospitality and Entrepreneurship Summit are (from left) Francis Kwansa, interim chair of UD's Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management; Michael Roberts, chairman and CEO of The Roberts Companies; Lozelle DeLuz, president and CEO of DeLuz Management Consulting; and Andrew Ingraham, president and CEO of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers, Inc. Photo by Doug Baker.

Clinton Tymes, state director of the Delaware Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC), then led the first session, “Business Ownership 101,” where he educated students about the role of the SBTDC, spoke about the profile of an entrepreneur and explained the various forms of business organizations.

Following Tymes, Lozelle DeLuz, president and CEO of DeLuz Management Consulting, moderated a panel on “Minority Business Owners’ Success Stories.”

Experts including Paul Altero, UD alumnus and owner of Bubbakoo’s Burritos and Otis’ Milkshakes and Smoothies; Bobby Pancake, franchisee and operator of Buffalo Wild Wings; Tanya Holliday, owner and operator of McDonald’s/Tanway Enterprises; and Craig Welburn, Jr., owner and operator of McDonald’s/Welburn Management, gave students insight into possibilities for the future.

Later that afternoon, students advanced to “Business Ownership 201,” led by John Williams, Jr., founder of John Williams, P.A., a private law practice in Wilmington, Del.

Francis Kwansa, interim chair for HRIM, then led a panel on the “Nuts and Bolts of Ownership,” featuring Williams; Jacinta Terry, assistant vice president at PNC Bank; Stanley Terry, financial services representative with Independence Wealth Strategies/MetLife Delmar; and Natalie Hall, economic development specialist at U.S. Small Business Administration.

The first day of the summit closed with business plan presentations by the students, followed by a dinner featuring a keynote address by seasoned entrepreneur Michael Roberts, chairman and CEO of The Roberts Companies.

Sunday concluded the summit, with additional student presentations, and a “Next Steps” session by Andy Ingraham, president and CEO of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers, Inc.

Tymes also hosted a final panel, “How to Become a Franchisee,” which featured industry experts Michael Fruin, president and COO of High Hotels, Ltd.; Kenneth Youngblood, owner and operator of McDonald’s/KLS Management; and Steve Wheat, franchisee and operator of Buffalo Wild Wings.

Kwansa and DeLuz, who is also former owner of three Wilmington-area McDonald’s franchises with her late husband, Anthony, co-chaired the summit.

The summit was also made possible by the co-sponsorship of ARAMARK, the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Hospitality Management Consortium and the McDonald’s Corporation.

“This year’s summit had a record attendance of participants. The addition of high school students has been a very important component of the event. It introduces the students to the UD campus while giving them a chance to interact with college students during this day and half event,” Kwansa said, adding, “The students also have a chance to meet and dialogue with notable industry personalities like Ms. Estrada, Mr. Roberts and Mr. Ingraham. UD has become identified with hospitality entrepreneurship.”

Roberts added, “The hospitality field is unique in that it is global in its application. I met students from not only the U.S. but from Bolivia, Ghana and the Caribbean. Naming it a summit was very appropriate. The lessons taught and the business pitch competition were illuminating. This is an exceptionally innovative program that should be introduced nationwide. Dr. Kwansa and his team should be applauded for a job well done.”

– Article by Kathryn Meier

*Source: University of Delaware

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