John Hetzel ’99 was looking for business contacts and tips on marketing that would help him get the word out about his year-old wealth management business, Cadence Financial Advisors, LLP.

Cynthia Muñoz was looking for ways to grow her small San Antonio-based PR and concert promotion firm.

Dale Newton was looking for new ideas to ramp up sales of his handcrafted executive rocking horses.

These entrepreneurs and hundreds of others found what they were looking for at Envision08, the first annual conference for entrepreneurs hosted by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, part of Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School. The conference, held April 23-25 at the Marriott Rivercenter in downtown San Antonio, Texas, was devoted to connecting, encouraging, and promoting entrepreneurs and those in related fields. More than 425 participants from a wide variety of businesses were drawn to the inaugural event.

Kawasaki speaking
Guy Kawasaki, managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, was one of the keynote speakers at Envision08.

The conference boasted headliners such as Steven Covey (author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People), as well as life-coach and best-selling author Marcus Buckingham. Other keynote speakers included Flip Flippen, Peter Schutz, and Guy Kawasaki, each bringing his own advice for achieving personal and career success. Entrepreneurs sharing their real-life experiences led breakout sessions on a variety of topics, from multinational marketing to finding investors.

“There was really something for everybody,” said Carol Davis, commenting on the broad range of topics. Davis, owner of Blisswood Bed and Breakfast at Lehmann Legacy Ranch in Cat Spring, Texas, says she attended the conference because she was invited to present about ecotourism; she wasn’t expecting to be so impacted by the event herself. “It was one of the best things I’ve ever attended,” she said, noting several new business-enhancing ideas and contacts as well as new clients she collected at the conference.

Muñoz, who has owned and operated Muñoz Public Relations, LLC for 16 years was similarly impressed. She was drawn to the conference by the keynote speakers, as they were all names she was familiar with, however, “It was more than I expected,” she said, commenting on the quality of the programs. “I was able to make a lot of new contacts,” some of whom were well established owners of large companies. “That inspired me, to be around others that are highly successful. It made me want to grow my business even more,” she said.

One such successful businessperson in attendance was Lowry Mays, founder of Clear Channel Communications as well as benefactor and namesake of the Mays Business School. Mays, who lives in the San Antonio area, made a special appearance on the last day of the conference. He was honored with the a Lifetime Achievement Award from the CNVE for his amazing entrepreneurial success as well as his dedication to philanthropic giving and community service.

Convention attendees talking
The event provided a number of networking opportunities for entrepreneurs and associates in related fields.

Many in entrepreneurial-related fields also attended the event, such as Hubert Zajicek, director of NTEC, Inc, a non-profit business accelerator for medical technologies in Frisco, Texas. As someone who works with entrepreneurs everyday to develop successful businesses, Zajicek says that Envision08 was very valuable. “The speakers delivered passion,” he said, noting that it was good to be reminded by successful people of what one person can achieve with the right focus. “That’s at the core of entrepreneurship,” he said.

Vikki Dearing was at Envision08 with a unique purpose: as the director of business solutions for the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Dearing was gathering information for a similar conference in her own state. “We need entrepreneurs to be aware of the opportunities out there for them, and to give them the chance to network with other entrepreneurs and service providers,” she said. Dearing’s ambition is to use the information she collected to draw new businesses to rural areas in Oklahoma.

The networking aspect was the most valuable part of the conference, say many attendees, including Ruben Villarreal, an independent distributor of Nikken wellness products. He describes the event as having an aura of positive energy as entrepreneurs compared business ideas and built on each other’s enthusiasm. “We were encouraged to network, which made it more comfortable to meet people. The conference was designed for that,” he said. One of Villarreal’s goals in attending the conference was to find a potential business partner, and he says that he might just have met that person through the networking event. Additionally, he says he met several potential customers and feels that the conference has opened up other doors of opportunity for his business.

To enhance the networking, Envision08 attendees spent one evening of the conference at a more relaxed setting: Knibbe Ranch in Spring Branch, Texas, about 40 miles north of San Antonio. Participants enjoyed a steak dinner at the rustic, hill country setting. A live band encouraged entrepreneurs to make connections while two-stepping around the dance floor.

After the conference was over, Blisswood owner Carol Davis says she has only one concern: “My question is, how are you going to top this one next year?” Plans are already underway for Envision09.

For more information about the conference or to see video coverage of the event, visit the website http://envision08.com.