NFL Hall of Famer talks business success


Former football player and keynote speaker Ronnie Lott speaks during the 8th annual Central Valley Venture Forum at the Save Mart Center. Photo Roe Borunda

Former NFL player and entrepreneur Ronnie Lott shared advice for success at the eighth annual Central Valley Venture Forum Tuesday. Lott delivered his keynote speech about business, success and what he learned from his Hall of Fame career.

“In football, it’s easy to fall and get back up,” the former San Francisco 49ers defensive back said. “It’s hard to do that in life. We’re all going to fail, but we have to get back up and get up quickly.”

Hundreds of local businessmen and investors attended the all-day conference to hear from Lott and several other guest speakers.

Held at the Save Mart Center, the event was organized by Fresno State’s Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Central Valley Fund, which provides private capital to small and mid-sized businesses.

“What I hope to encourage people is that we need more entrepreneurs,” Lott said. “We need more people to think about doing something great… This country is about people believing they can start a business and affect people.”

Lott owns several automobile dealerships, manages private-equity investments and serves on numerous nonprofit boards. But Lott said he doesn’t measure his success by what he owns or how much money he makes.

“Success to me is having a purpose, understanding that purpose and serving others,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have success.”

Lott said he hopes he can encourage young people, like Fresno State students, to strive for success and pursue entrepreneurship.

“I love that we have a university like Fresno State that’s talking about this—that’s getting kids to understand that you can start a business, you can own your own business. That’s getting kids to understand that you can do whatever you want to do,” Lott said. “You don’t have to wait. To me, that’s what this is all about.”

Betsy Hays, mass communication journalism professor at Fresno State and public relations chair for the conference, said that students can benefit tremendously from the event.

“We have about a billion dollars of investment capital in this room today,” she said at the conference. “That’s not something students get exposure to every day.”

Houa Vang, a third year business student, agreed that attending the conference is an opportunity.

“It’s networking,” she said. “Events like this help students build relationships and understand business.”

Vang said her favorite part of the conference was listening to the female business leaders in the Central Valley speak about what it means to be a successful woman in the business world.

“I can relate to them because I’m a woman in business,” Vang said. “They spoke about how women should dress in the professional world and what it means to network. That’s useful information.”

Hispanic business growth, building capital structure and the economic climate of the Central Valley were also discussed at the conference.

Hays said that these dialogues prove that there is a strong corporate presence in the area.

“It really lets people know that entrepreneurship is thriving in the Valley,” she said. “That this is a place where you can start, grow and thrive your business. You don’t have to go elsewhere.”

Hays added that she hopes in years to come, the conference will continue to thrive.

“This is our eighth event and each year keeps getting better and better,” she said. “We’re slowly getting the word out both regionally and nationally that this is a place for wonderful entrepreneurs.”

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