Not long ago I was heading out of the ARC after a workout and came across Kevin Gelfand hosing off the area around Shake Smart, the business he and Martin Reiman started a year and a half ago when both of them were SDSU business students.  They’re both recently graduated and their story is featured in this month’s enewsletter.

So here’s Kevin, president of a company that already has 26 employees, doing a job that he easily could have asked another staff member to do.  But he and Martin don’t operate that way. 

These guys do or have done every task that running their business requires and they do it willingly.  It’s just one of the reasons theirs is the first student-run permanent business in San Diego State history.

In getting to know Kevin and Martin I’ve been impressed.  They are industrious, creative, well trained, patient, confident, humble, innovative and willing to commit.  Plus, they aren’t afraid to do grunt work.

That they are experiencing some success speaks well for them.  That the Powers That Be on campus were willing to take a chance on them speaks well for the university.  It says we’re doing something right here.

In this time of dire economic projections and state budget cuts that have everyone on campus wondering where the next axe will fall, two thoughtful, hard-working students in the College of Business were able to secure enough support from mentors among the faculty, staff, alumni and administration of this university to pursue an idea and make it work.  To me, there’s something extraordinarily reassuring in that about SDSU, about our students and about our future.

Not content to follow established norms, Kevin and Martin took what they were learning at the time they were learning it and applied it to their venture.  In the process, they’ve managed to shake up a lot of widely held notions: that young people these days will have trouble succeeding, that the current economy stifles opportunity, that shrinking state funding saps the will of educators.

What they have shown us is that SDSU is turning out graduates more than willing and capable of leading San Diego, California and the rest of the country out of these toughest of economic times.  What their work ethic and their accomplishments demonstrate to all of us is that, as it always has, leadership really does start here.