If you asked me two months ago, “What do you want to be someday,” I probably would have said, “I don’t know.” I might be a CEO, a photographer, a lawyer…in fact, I might even be a professional chef. The list was endless and my ideas were scattered. But, after attending the annual Enterprise Leadership Conference (ELC), sponsored by the Rotary Clubs of Campbell, Santa Clara, Saratoga, and Sunnyvale, I got a glimpse into the business world, and quite possibly into my future.
We were told by conference chairs Miles Barber and Steve Rainbolt that the conference would be three days packed with opportunity, challenges, boredom, excitement, fear and success. And yes, this statement did hold true. For three days I found myself immersed in a network of business.
The conference started with a speech from San Francisco 49ers CEO, Jed York, who helped us get the big picture about business. Though I have to admit that football has never been one of my immediate interests, York was able to incorporate many of his lessons into every day experiences.
His speech proved to be truly inspirational, as he explained how his great-grandparents immigrated to the United States from Italy and his gradfather, Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr., attended the University of Notre Dame, opened the Ohio-based Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation, and helped create the shopping mall industry in the US despite growing up fatherless (DeBartolo’s father, and York’s great-grandfather, died prior to DeBartolo’s birth). The story of York’s grandfather’s accomplishments showed us how innovation and perserverance can help people succeed regardless of their situation.
The conference gave me the opportunity to learn about business ethics, marketing, finance, human resources, and leadership. The most valuable experience was having the opportunity to work as a group of entrepreneurs and present a business proposal to a panel of mock venture capitalists. Students were split into groups of six and given guidance on how to pitch their product. We had advisers who helped with logistics, but the rest was completely up to us.
After dithering over what product to make, my group finally settled on what we called the SpeakEasy, a language translating device with noise reduction features. By the end of the conference, we were able to create a business presentation to culminate our efforts. I served as my company’s CEO and facilitated the team, another member illustrated the value proposition by opening the presentation in Hebrew, while another was able to come up with techniques for the human resource department.
Everyone in our group contributed something that reflected them as individuals, ensuring our presentation was eclectic and comprehensive.
The most valuable insight from the conference was how quickly we were able to build our business relationships and how effectively we bonded throughout the conference. We were given all the right ingredients – business professionals, enthusiastic teammates, invigorating workshops, and supportive advisers. Over the course of three days, we created a recipe with just the right mix to build a business and perhaps, the path towards my future.