Entrepreneurs come for business lecture series

Victoria Grattan, Features Editor

Approximately 300 seats were filled in the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center last Thursday as students, professors and community members attended the “U” Too Can Change the World event, part of the Business and Enterprise Global Impact Series, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Pitt-Johnstown’s Business and Enterprise Division’s launch.

Business and Enterprise Division Chairman Ray Wrabley began by reflecting upon the division’s accomplishments during its first year, including new degree proposals, an advisory board for the division and an entrepreneurship minor idea.

University President Jem Spectar then gave his remarks before introducing guest speaker Tom Shen, CEO of Malauzai Software Inc.

Shen spoke on his experience of coming to the United States from his homeland, Taiwan, when he was 14 years old, to attend a Tennessee boarding school. Later on during his educational career, Shen said, he dropped out of five prestigious universities, picked up on computer programming skills and began his first company, Software Dynamics, when 25.

He then led the audience through a presentation, “Some Unfinished Thoughts on Entrepreneurship,” where he elaborated on the significance of passion and anchoring it onto a belief system as well as humility, and executing these three in a business environment.

Additionally, Shen spoke of other qualities he found important in a business environment.

“What I learned in my journey of business is that integrity is not enough. If you don’t have discipline, you can’t carry it out.

“A great idea doesn’t go to market without execution,” Shen said.

Spectar then introduced the evening’s keynote speaker, Soraya Darabi, co-founder of Zady, a clothing brand that she said is environmentally friendly and committed to quality.

Darabi said that Zady could be described as the Whole Foods of fashion.

Darabi talked about her experiences working for Sony Corp., The Washington Post and The New York Times before leaving to start working with a startup company in Brooklyn, New York.

Darabi said the startup company, Drop.io, a file-sharing service, provided a drastically different environment than she had been familiar with at The New York Times.

She explained how they had frequent meetings where there were no wrong ideas and a good idea was quick to be implemented.

“(After working there, I decided) I only want to work with people who get an idea (on) Monday and can push it out on the media by Friday,” Darabi said.

“Learn from very smart people’s former mistakes…(have) confidence and (find) the right team, (people who) have complimentary skill sets that don’t overlap with your own,” Darabi said as part of her concluding remarks.

Junior Jason Wallace said he attended the event to honor his professors and the entire business department for giving Pitt-Johnstown students numerous opportunities with the new business division.

Wallace said that he is not currently taking any classes in which bonus points were offered as an incentive to attend; he went strictly for his personal interest.

“My main reason for going was (to hear) successful entrepreneurs talk about their journeys and their tips to college students trying to start a business.

“I believe that Tom Shen had great insights on how to be balanced as an entrepreneur; being passionate, honest and a humble person, as well as being smart and grounded in what you are trying to accomplish,” Wallace said.

Wallace said that he is currently taking advantage of the entrepreneurship program at Pitt-Johnstown by attending a Tuesday night seminar with marketing professor Skip Glenn and said he is also on his way to launching his own startup company.

“I would like Pitt-Johnstown to continue to promote entrepreneurship and creating things (that) can make a difference in the real world.

“The speakers that I saw tonight were great examples of how, if you have a passion and a vision for an idea, all it takes is the audacity to go after it, and you could very well accomplish big things,” Wallace said.