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Teaching Self-Employment

Joe Pielago
is the co-founder of JJKR Enterprise Inc.  It is a family run business used to manage long term holdings and early start-ups.  In 2009, Joe received the Future Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the NASE and used that scholarship to attend the University of San Francisco.  In May of 2013 Joe graduated with a Degree in Entrepreneurship & Innovation.  Since graduation, Joe has participated in three start-ups and is about to launch his fourth next year.

What inspired you to enter the field you are in?

The excitement of starting with an idea and taking it to an operating organization is a thrill to me and I enjoy working with others to show them how to capitalize on their passions.  I have had an amazing roller coaster of experiences that have given me valuable lessons in what to do and what not to do in starting a business.  I want to share this knowledge with anyone who seeks it.

When and why did you start your business?

JJKR was started in 2007 as a way to continue the growth of VOILA clothing, a clothing company I started while in high school.  This is what led to the 2009 scholarship that got me through my undergraduate studies.  While getting my degree I found it too difficult to work on China’s hours for garment production and I put the company on the shelf.  For a few years the company was used to do some profitable financial and real estate transactions under Rick Pielago’s guidance.  Fast-forward to 2015 and the institution still stands, with great credit, and a few holdings to grow from.  With the diverse experiences of the management team, there is a track record to use in guiding others in turning their ideas into profit.

What challenges have you faced in your business?

JJKR has been a rather simple process but is still in early stages of a new operating structure, which can provide some challenges down the line in terms of staffing and financing depending upon projects.  I have witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly that can contribute to an organization’s success or failure.  I want to help others avoid crucial and simple mistakes that can be detrimental to the organizations long term health. 

How do you market your business?

Networking has been crucial for the company.  So far we have been concentrated in Los Angeles, which is filled with amazing ideas and people.  Most people I talk to have someone they want me to connect us with about their business and I see if there is anything I can do to help.  No need to market yet as a large portion of the business is long-term holdings of my past endeavors.

What's your schedule like, what's a typical day for you?

Currently I work out of the Chef’d headquarters (one of the projects I was associated with) while I am working on some other entrepreneurial endeavors.  Additionally, I am working to help one of my business partner’s real estate management firm streamline their operations and organizational efficiencies.  JJKR is incubating two concepts right now in seed stages, so stay tuned!  I am focusing on growing my knowledge base and network right now as I am still refining my craft.  If anyone wants to talk business, don’t be shy, it’s what I love to do!

Do you have any employees?

Currently my father and I work on JJKR and consult our network when opportunities are out of our knowledge wheelhouse.  Ideally the organization will grow into a small team of people who will be managing the start-up teams, assets, and equity fund.  The goal is long-term wealth preservation and growth for the Pielago family holdings.

When and why did you join NASE?

In July of 2015 I joined NASE because technically I wasn’t self-employed till that time.  Receiving the 2009 Future Entrepreneur of the Year Award from NASE was so very helpful to my growth as a businessperson that I felt it only fitting to sign up for a membership to the NASE.  I am very thankful to NASE for believing in my abilities and proud to be a member.

Which NASE member benefit is most important to you?

The scholarship was truly an amazing benefit.  The one university I wanted to go to told me if I wanted to go there I had to write a check, and my parents and I couldn’t write that check.  I was disappointed, but then this scholarship was awarded to me (in part because of the VOILA clothing company my best friend and I started) and I was very excited.  I couldn’t believe it and I had a renewed desire for a degree.  I reached out to USF after originally declining and put the scholarship towards an Entrepreneurial degree, which was mostly unheard of in 2009.  Thank you NASE for this, I was able to pursue exactly what the Future Entrepreneur of the Year Award was designed for and am currently pursuing my entrepreneurial passions. 

What’s the best thing about being self-employed?

For some reason when I have to answer to myself, I do much better.  I have really high standards, so who better to answer to?  I also enjoy sharing with others the craft of starting a business.  There seems to be this grey area between an idea and a business when there doesn’t need to be.  Experiencing a wide range of start-ups and failures, I feel it’s my job to help others turn their passion into products and profit while advising on avoiding certain situations.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received from a client?

Dei Mare has been a great partner in both ventures.  A great friend and I have been working on this project and are getting ready to launch sales. While working together one day he mentioned how happy he was that I could help him with the finances, accounting, and business development because it gave him capacity to focus on the parts of the business that he truly enjoys. It’s through these types of synergies that businesses can thrive.

What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to someone starting their own business?

Hire smarter people than you, and listen to them.  Our job as entrepreneurs is to connect the dots and put the right people in the right positions to succeed.  There are two pieces of advice from my professors that I always keep in mind.  The first, “An “A” team with a “B” idea will always trump a “B” team with an “A” idea,” and the second, “Do not be greedy, half a percent of a billion is worth more than a hundred percent of nothing.”


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