Consulting Center aids students, small businesses
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
When Eduardo Borquez helps Grand Canyon University students and alumni develop a plan for their business start-up idea or goes out into the community to help a mom-and-pop build a brand, he brings more than just his knowledge of the subject.
He brings a heart for servant leadership. He brings a Christian’s passion for helping people. He brings the perspective of someone who grew up without electricity or running water in a small Mexican village and didn’t speak English when he came to the United States at age 15.
But, mainly, the manager of GCU’s new Small Business Consulting Center just brings it, period.
“It took the right person who can walk up and build trust with a conversation,” said Dr. Randy Gibb, dean of the Colangelo College of Business. “He just took it and ran with it.”
Gibb had the idea for the Consulting Center — essentially, GCU’s own entrepreneurial incubator — when he came on board two years ago. The idea synergized into an opportunity that not only helps people both on and off campus develop businesses, it gives students valuable experience by having them serve as consultants for neighborhood start-ups.
But it needed a leader, someone personable, dynamic, bilingual and eager to reach out in every direction to take the synergy of the campus culture out into the community. Enter Borquez, who had been an adjunct instructor at GCU, runs his own business-consulting company and was eager to do more.
“I knew this was where I wanted to build a career,” he said. “It’s a great place to be, here at GCU. Not only do I believe in who we are as an entity and where we’re going, but, more important, I believe in what we do. I’m truly an ambassador no matter where I go.”
Students now have a place to go if they feel the entrepreneurial itch but don’t quite know how to scratch it. But Borquez also spends much of his time going door-to-door to let neighborhood businesspeople know they can turn to GCU for help. Sometimes it takes several visits to get their attention, but “by the third or fourth time, they usually listen to what we have to offer,” he said.
Free seminars available
What GCU is offering is a series of free, on-campus seminars that cover everything from developing a roadmap via the business model canvas to identifying their minimum viable product (MVP) to writing a business plan to launch their business. The first one, in Spanish, was last week, and the first English sessions are from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. the next two Wednesdays and Thursdays, June 15-16 and June 22-23.
Future seminars for Spanish speakers are on Tuesdays through June 28, and more seminars in both languages are planned for the fall. Anyone interested in either session should contact Borquez at 602-639-7925 or Eduardo.email@example.com.
Through his immersion into the community, Borquez has learned that the hunger for entrepreneurship in west Phoenix is strong — “10 on a scale of 1 to 10,” he said. Many of them just need a hand.
“It just fits in with the whole ecosystem that we’ve developed here at GCU. The Small Business Consulting Center — it makes sense that we do that here. It’s a differentiator.”
Dr. Randy Gibb, Colangelo College of Business dean
“When you have an entity such as GCU, because we have a strong brand, they will listen,” said Borquez, who estimated that three-quarters of the participants at the first seminar had never set foot on a college campus. “It’s all word-of-mouth, grass-roots marketing. Some of the comments they shared with me were, ‘It’s great to see we have help.’”
He also heard about the 30 percent drop in crime that GCU has helped achieve with its Neighborhood Safety Initiative in the Canyon Corridor, and the Consulting Center fits right in with that plan. GCU President Brian Mueller frequently talks about the link between a strong business culture and a thriving community.
“It just fits in with the whole ecosystem that we’ve developed here at GCU,” Gibb said. “The Small Business Consulting Center — it makes sense that we do that here. It’s a differentiator.”
The Consulting Center is yet another example of the entrepreneurial spirit and “Conscious Capitalism” ideals that have become the trademark of CCOB under Gibb, who now has what he calls his “Four Musketeers” — Tim Kelley, assistant professor for entrepreneurship and economics, and three other faculty members, Borquez, Jon Ruybalid and Paul Waterman.
Borquez said the Consulting Center will be 80 percent for students and 20 percent for the community, and the students’ involvement will be two-pronged: They can develop their own entrepreneurial ideas but also get valuable experience working with local businesses. Already, 31 students have taken advantage of the program.
“Here’s an opportunity to plug in our students, and instead of creating that same marketing plan for a fictitious company, let’s work with that local business,” Borquez said. “That’s real-world experience. That’s huge.
“We have many bilingual students in multiple languages. We can serve our community collectively, and not only are we increasing the local entrepreneur’s intellectual capital, we’re closing the gap on the economic problems within our community, we’re supporting our president’s vision to revitalize this area, and our students are getting that experience.”
Tough conditions growing up
When he thinks about his own life experiences, Borquez reflects on the remarkable difference in his life from what he knew as a child.
“I grew up with not much, but I was taught to value what you have,” he said. “There was no running water, no electricity. There were days that we didn’t have anything to eat. But I was a happy kid because I didn’t have anything else to compare it to.”
“I grew up with not much, but I was taught to value what you have. There was no running water, no electricity. There were days that we didn’t have anything to eat. But I was a happy kid because I didn’t have anything else to compare it to.”
Eduardo Borquez, Small Business Consulting Center manager
His family moved to Tijuana when he was 13, and he was stunned to see cars and televisions everywhere. In his village, “there would be one black-and-white TV in the community that the rich people had – we called them the rich people because they had a TV — and they’d plug it in to the battery of their car, so we could only watch for 30 minutes.”
“That was actually the first time I saw running water and went to a bathroom inside,” he said. “I remember getting a little teary because it was so emotional for me to see water coming down from the shower. I remember taking my first shower and just crying and saying, ‘God is really good.’”
Two years later, his mother got a U.S. work visa and the family was off to San Diego. Borquez was even more blown away. “If I thought Tijuana was ‘wow,’ it was like that wow factor on steroids,” he said. His fondest memory of his first days in the U.S.? His first Happy Meal at McDonald’s.
But not everything was happy. He was bullied at school because of the language barrier and relied on his mother’s advice — “When things get hard, just keep pushing through until things get better” — to keep moving forward. Four years later, he had mastered English and was on his way to degrees from Arizona Western College in Yuma, Western International University in Tempe, GCU, and Walden University in Minneapolis, where he is working on a doctorate.
All that is well and good, but Borquez is most thankful for his wife, Monserrath, and their three children — sons Alex, 19, and Zahir, 4, and daughter Mia, 6 months. He said he doesn’t look at assets or achievements, he looks at God’s influence on his life.
“I can say that everything I’ve lived was part of God’s plan because I feel in my heart that His purpose in my life is to truly help impact other people’s lives no matter where they are and no matter what type of income, what type of education or languages or beliefs or values they have,” he said.
“My story is so universal because it talks about never giving up. It talks about being tenacious. It talks about how it’s OK to go through hard times because later you can recycle it and tell people your story so they don’t have to go through it.”
In that sense, the Consulting Center does more than just teach business skills — it teaches life skills, too. And when people tap into that knowledge, they’ll know how to bring it, too.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.