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20 Questions with Rene Garza

Oct. 1, 2014

Name: Rene Garza
Position/Institution: President & COO Paulson Garza Enterprises LLC
Number of years in your position: 3
Alma Mater(s): Texas A&M University

1) Why did you become involved in ICLA?
I was recommended to join ICLA since I heard the networking opportunities were amazing. After my first Winter Symposium, I walked away with many new friends and an abundance of knowledge. I look forward to getting more involved with ICLA and continue seeing the growth and success of this organization.

2) What is your favorite part about being a member of ICLA?
The part I enjoy most is that everyone is treated like family. I've never felt left out and everyone wants to help each other become successful at their universities and as an industry.

3) What is the biggest challenge to working in a university environment? Every university is unique and it makes designing graphics/products a bit difficult. However, I like to see that challenge as an opportunity to create a product that is unique to the fans of each individual university.

4) What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment to date? The growth of our business from nothing into what it is today. My business partner and I started our business in our college dorm room and within 3 years, we've moved 4 different times, have national sales representation, are licensed with the top 65 major universities, and have hired 4 additional employees.

5) What is the most important skill you have developed in your career? Adaptability; I never used to like change, and now I expect it. The industry is constantly changing. Schools are constantly changing as well as the purchasing powering of fans and consumers.

6) Who has been the most influential person in your career?
Not specifically one person, but members of ICLA have been very influential. All of the members I have had encounters with have been a great asset to the growth of our business.

7) What is one item you cannot live without?
My phone. I'm constantly on it checking emails and keeping up with the day-to-day business transactions. It's a little sad how glued to the hip I am to that thing.

8) Who would you chose to switch places with for a day?
Licensing directors. I'd enjoy nothing more than to be in their shoes for a day and experience the life of a collegiate licensing director.

9) What is your favorite sporting event that you have ever attended?
Football. I love the atmosphere, the fans, the tailgating, and the excitement of competition. Like Christmas, it's the most wonderful time of the year.

10) Why/when did you decide to pursue a career in collegiate licensing?
My senior year of college, my roommate/now business partner, and I, were looking to give a nice collegiate product as a graduation gift. After days of searching, we found nothing unique enough. It was then that we started talking about creating and selling a product for graduates so that they can take a piece of college with them after gradation. I was taking an entrepreneurship class that required a business plan as our final project, so we spent all semester working through all the details and the rest is history.

11) In your mind, who in this industry can serve as a good role model?
I feel that all members are great role models at their universities or business. Each one of the members possesses great qualities that make the organization what it is, as well as their licensing department/business.

12) How has your involvement with ICLA influenced your career?
Being a member of ICLA has been one of the highlights of my career. I've had the pleasure of meeting and creating friendships with amazing people who have a great impact in the industry. My knowledge in collegiate licensing grows daily with the resources that we are given as members. One thing that keeps me going is knowing that our products help support scholarships at each university we work with.

13) What educational or business experiences best prepared you for a career in licensing?
My background in supply chain / business has best prepared me. I've been able to negotiate contracts with various suppliers who understand the industry and the potential growth. We've also been very fortunate to be operating a debt free business.

14) What challenges do you face when working with students or vendors?
The biggest challenge with both students and vendors is making sure we put enough thought into our graphics/products and price points. Also, for vendors to pay their bills on time .

15) Would you please explain a professional success and how you implemented it?
Branding our motto, "Keep Tradition." The brand fits our mission and products. When they see an iconic building or phrase in our prints, they instantly talking about the memory they had and/or the tradition behind location / phrase. It's a great feeling to see customers/fan connect emotionally with our unique products.

16) In your opinion, where is collegiate licensing headed in the future?
International branding will start becoming big within the next 5 years. Fans are literally all over the world these days.

17) What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? What advice would you give to someone looking to enter the field of collegiate licensing?
The best advice I've been given is "There are no quick wins in business - it takes years to become an overnight success." The advice I would give someone is never settle and endure the storms.

18) What was your biggest professional failure/mistake and how did you learned from it?
The biggest mistake was not having a good supply chain in place within our company. There have been 4 or 5 times where we've been down on production due to lack of materials.

19) What percentage of your work-week is spent in your office? How do you maintain balance between your professional and personal life?
Currently I spend about 95% of my work week in the office. The other 5% is traveling to market shows. It's hard work to keep a work-life balance, but I try and not do any work on the weekends.

20) What are you most looking forward to at the next ICLA Convention or Winter Symposium?
I'm looking forward to learning about the newest topics in our industry as well as being able to see old friends and have the opportunity to network with new members.