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11/9/11 - MSU student entrepreneur finding 'elevator' to success

Jesus J. Valdez knows two things about people who can help his business--they're busy and need convincing.

A Mississippi State University MBA graduate, Valdez's interest in business and marketing developed even before he enrolled at the university as an undergraduate. Now, he works as a marketing research associate for MSU's Thad Cochran Endowment for Entrepreneurship.

For the Pascagoula native, however, actually "doing" business has proved quite different from studying in the field.

Two years ago, he partnered with the campus' then newly formed Entrepreneurship Center to hone his experience in the field. The center helps students, faculty and staff members interested in creating their own businesses.

He worked with different companies to help them prepare to enter the marketplace. For the novice entrepreneurs, the assistance included start-up planning, accounting, logistics, and other areas necessary for success.

That experience led Valdez to a partnership with Robbie Spears, a senior interdisciplinary studies major from Meridian, who created a high-end, custom-design guitar pedal company, The Juliet Collective. As chief operating officer of the company, Valdez travels to key events for the music instrument industry.

Along with helping sell units of the different guitar pedals with unique artistic designs, he recently took time to successfully showcase his sales acumen at the 2011 Elevator Pitch Competition, held by Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization, in Fort Worth, Texas.

He placed in the top six among 128 competitors. (For more, visit

The Elevator Pitch helps prepare budding entrepreneurs for the "fast pitch"--a quick information delivery persuasive enough to convince venture capitalists or other professionals to take some type of positive action. Valdez and the other participants had 90 seconds to explain their business idea.

"I can speak, maybe, 200 words a minute," said Valdez, discussing his pitch prowess. "But, if you want to add character and charisma, you can't speak as fast."

Competitors in the challenge received scores based on content and pitch delivery. Judges included venture capitalists and entrepreneurs.

Valdez said his pitch for guitar pedal products seemed like second nature, even if he practiced dozens of times in front of others and mirrors. "I wanted it to sound like the first time I said it," he added.

Gerald Nelson, who directs MSU's Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer, said successful business leaders must possess many qualities and characteristics. The ability to communicate a company's product or service in the most succinct way is among the most important skills, he said.

"If you can't boil it down to a minute or two, you may not get the sale or the right meeting," said Nelson, who works with business leaders throughout the state.

Earlier this year, Valdez and Spears received first place honors from the Mississippi Technology Alliance's business plan competition. The company also received financial and other support valued at about $10,000 from MSU's Thad Cochran Endowment for Entrepreneurship.

In addition to working with The Juliet Collective and Cochran Endowment, Valdez takes courses toward a second bachelor's degree, this time in psychology. He wants to learn as much as possible about consumer behavior and why people have particular purchasing patterns.

At some point, he plans to teach business at the university level. Until then, he continues gaining hands-on experience in the world of business development.

Melissa Moore, a professor in the department of marketing, quantitative analysis and business law, and one of Valdez's mentors, said he has shown tremendous growth since she first met him as an undergraduate in her principles of marketing course.

"He has a customer focus, marketing background and shows authenticity and is personable," Moore said. "I think that came through with this recent competition."

Robbie S. Ward | University Relations

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