On the Path to Entrepreneurship

June 9, 2014
Amanda Nagy
Robert Palacios ’14
As a Venture for America fellow, Robert Palacios ’14 will work as a business analyst for a natural foods startup in Cleveland. Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones

Robert Palacios ’14 came to Oberlin with an enterprising spirit. As a first-year student, he brought to campus the mayor of Ciudad Juárez to talk about the drug-related violence that plagued the city, and along the way made Oberlin a stop in an international art show of political posters advocating peace in that region. Palacios went on to become a member of the 2013 Business Scholars, a highly selective winter term experience that trains students for careers in business and finance.

This summer, Palacios will start on the path to entrepreneurship as a Venture for America fellow. Founded in 2012, Venture For America (VFA) recruits and trains talented graduates to work for two years at emerging start-ups and early-stage companies in lower-cost cities, including Cleveland, Detroit, and New Orleans, where there is a significant need for job creation and young talent.

Many promising early-stage businesses struggle to identify, recruit, and enlist talented college graduates, in large part because they lack the resources, brand equity, and scale to engage in on-campus recruiting. VFA provides fellows with hands-on business experience to learn how to start and grow a business.

Palacios has been hired to work as a business analyst for Good Greens, a natural foods startup based in Cleveland.

An El Paso, Texas, native, Palacios majored in politics and Latin American studies. He says he was attracted to the VFA fellowship because it provides a large peer network and an immersive training program. “You get the benefits of working for a big consulting group, but it’s not like to you go into this alone,” he says. Although fellows are placed in startups, VFA has eliminated some risk with an extensive vetting process and partnering with companies that are financially healthy.

Last summer, Palacios interned at the consulting firm Monitor Deloitte, where he was offered a full-time position after his graduation. He declined, he says, because he just wasn’t sold on the idea of working for a huge organization. “I thought for a couple years that what I wanted to do was work for a big management firm, go to business school, then start my own company. That’s a path that a lot of people say they’re going to follow.”

As a VFA fellow, Palacios can contribute his talent right out the gate.

“I think it’s really cool that VFA is committed to placing its fellows in mid-tier cities. It’s important to get graduates in cities that aren’t the traditional metropolitan centers where many Obies typically go,” such as New York and Washington, D.C. “These cities need entrepreneurs.”

Palacios says his participation in Oberlin Business Scholars helped inform his perspectives on the business world. “Everything else at Oberlin, maybe it didn’t prepare me directly for the VFA fellowship, but it made me who I am.”

And while he comes from a family of entrepreneurs—his family owns a car dealership in El Paso—he wants to learn everything it takes to build a company from the early stages to a successful organization. “Eventually, I want to be an entrepreneur and venture out on my own,” he says. “My goal is to learn the hard and soft skills to be successful.”

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