The Pragmatist

Qualcomm Account manager and USD alumns Tomas Vargas

Tomas Vargas / Account Manager / Qualcomm

An ongoing program at USD is challenging students to learn firsthand about entrepreneurship at the micro level, while giving them a chance to impact the local community.

The Access Mentorship program is a collaboration formed between the Knauss School of Business and Access Community Center, a local organization that aims to serve vulnerable populations in San Diego. As part of its suite of free services, Access offers a micro-enterprise program to help low-income San Diego residents develop business plans, obtain licenses, learn essential business skills and more. But due to its popularity, the program would often find itself stretched to capacity. The Access Mentorship program was created to fill that gap. 

In the fall of 2020, then-MBA student Tomas Vargas partnered with Maria Figueroa to help develop her taco business. Figueroa’s Street Tacos operated out of her home as a catering service without a formal storefront, and her major goal for the semester was to begin operating at the Poway Farmers Market.

“In our classes, we learn to take a business objective and derive all of the intermediate steps you need to accomplish it,” says Vargas ’21 (MBA). In this case, the first step to cooking in a certified kitchen meant obtaining the required health permits and insurance — and even before that, navigating the city website. Figueroa, like 80% of business owners that utilize help from Access, speaks Spanish as
her first language. 

“I translated the city’s food vendor website for her into Spanish, and created a flowchart for her to follow,” says Vargas.

Students also gain something valuable from their time mentoring. “As MBA students, our heads are often in the clouds,” explains Vargas. “When you try to help someone, it brings you to reality. This is not just theory anymore. You apply those concepts, and you see the struggles.” Daniel Telles

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