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In honor of our upcoming women’s panel, I sat down last week with Jayla Siciliano, a graduate student at USD starting her own beverage venture called Bon Affair. She is creating a sparkling wine that has beneficial anti-oxidants infused in the beverage. Jayla was recently a finalist in the San Diego State Venture Challenge business plan competition – a first for USD!

We talked a little bit before I started the questioning, and I could tell right away that she has a lot of passion and excitement about her product. I knew immediately she was an entrepreneur, and she has what it takes to be successful.

Interview:

*Have you always known you were an Entrepreneur? What has inspired you?

Yes, my dad has his own business and I knew I always wanted to work for myself. When I was in High School I had a project of designing my own clothing line. And in College I was making soft biscotti’s, I really wanted to do it. After school I was making custom hand bags in Santa Barbara, I also helped create the business plan for a non-profit during this time. Entrepreneurship has been a part of me, and I have never been satisfied in a regular job. I thrive on learning new things and love a challenge. The creativity process is endless.

*Your idea — how long have you had it and when did it start picking up the pace?

The work place I was in we drank a lot socially, and so I was always drinking white wine and soda water. I wondered why I couldn’t buy anything like this. So I quit my job and I started doing lots of research, and the past four months it has really picked up. I can see that it is actually becoming something and now it is no longer just an idea.

*Do you have any suggestions for giving a good pitch?

  Memorizing and getting tons of feedback ahead of time. Being yourself and putting energy in it. But most importantly getting feedback from a non-biased source.

*Difficulties of putting the business plan together? How do you over come these challenges?

Not being from the industry, and having to figure it out. (My) Wheels are constantly spinning; I joined a group of consultants that work with beverage start up companies and that helped a lot. 

           Passion! (The) Biggest thing is to be passionate, there are too many obstacles not to be passionate about your product. There are a lot of challenges that if you’re not determined it will be too hard. You need to have courage and a long-term vision.

*What is the hardest obstacle you have encountered thus far?

    Hardest… Logistically putting it together. Getting all the pieces in a row, the Bottles, taste testing, everything. Coming from a different industry. Finding a mentor and knowing you really need one. Connections, it took awhile to meet someone in the industry to help me along.

*What is the funniest challenge, moment, or something embarrassing that has happened in the process?

   My product, it’s sacrilegious. It is alcohol and I am trying to make it somewhat good for you, so you don’t have the guilt afterwards. All along the way it has been interesting, because they look at me like I have two heads and don’t take me seriously. But you do what ever it takes, you know, like tasting wine at 8 in the morning. I would ask myself  “What am I doing? This is kind of random”. But again if I didn’t have the passion, it would have been much harder to stick with it. <!–[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]–> *Advice to young entrepreneurs who are just getting started…

Be resourceful, find a mentor, multiple ones! Surround yourself around successful, positive and motivating people. Be passionate and don’t quit!

Jayla had such great things to say and she is truly an amazing role model for young entrepreneurs like myself. I told her while it is always great talking to people who have already made it in the biz, to hear and understand what it is like for someone going through the process is also helpful!

Jayla will be at the Women’s Event at 6 pm Tuesday the 13th of April in the School of Law, Warren Hall Room 131.

For more information on Bon Affair go to http://www.bonaffair.com

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