Tag Archives: school

Entrepreneur Interview- Timothy Gaspar

There are so many entrepreneurs in the world and a handful of them started their businesses when they were attending college or high school.  While some become a big time success such as Facebook creator Mark Zuckerburg there are those small businesses that make a difference in their own communities.  The question is how did they do it?  How were they able to open up and sustain a business while attending school?

To answer these questions, I set out to talk to those entrepreneurs that were able to make their dream of owning a business a reality while pursuing an education.  My first interview is with Timothy Gaspar of Gaspar Insurance Services, Inc., in Woodland Hills.

Q: Tell me a bit about yourself.

A: I live in Woodland Hills, am married and I have a 1 year old son. I’m 30, went to El Camino for High School and CSUN for College, I graduated with a degree in Finance. I owned a small business when I graduated high school so I didn’t originally to go College, but when I met my wife when I was 21 she made me go or she said she wouldn’t marry me. Plus, by that point I had a few good “lumps” from business so I knew I better have a solid foundation.

Q: Tell me about your business.

A: I own an insurance agency. We provide personal insurance policies to individuals and families including earthquake, homeowners, auto, umbrella etc. We also provide insurance for businesses including general liability, workers compensation, professional liability, etc. I currently have 20 people and 2 offices.

Q: Why did you decide to open up your business?

A: I love running a business, it’s my passion. Some part of me enjoys the fact that it’s incredibly challenging every single day (including weekends).

Q: How did you balance your education and your business ventures?

A: I went to school at night via the PACE program. I like being busy, it motivates me. When I’m not busy I noticed I get incredibly lazy. You just find ways to get everything done

Q: What steps did you need to take to open up you business?

A: I did as much planning and work as I could before I left my old firm. I didn’t pull the trigger on stepping out on my own until all my ducks were in a row. Once you take that leap there is no going back so you don’t want to find out you forgot to submit some form to the state that is going to delay you another week.

Q: How did you get your business funded?

A: A big fat loan to start because I had to buy my book of clients from my old agency. But generally I’m not a fan of using debt to expand, I think it usually leads to trouble. I think when expanding your business you should rely on current cash flow, as old school as that seems.

Q: Was your family supportive of your decision to open up your business right out of high school?

A: Not really, but that’s only because they worried. They would have preferred I went directly into college full-time, that just wasn’t me at the time. My spouse however was very supportive when I left my old insurance firm 5 years ago.

Q: What is the biggest obstacle you faced being a student and a business owner?

A: Just managing time. You just take it day by day, you string enough days together you a get a week, then a month, then you’re out of school.

Q: What are the biggest lessons you learned being a student and an entrepreneur?

A: Don’t borrow money if it’s not absolutely necessary. Treat your people exceedingly well, better than the next guy (that includes paying more).

Q: How is your business doing since graduating from college?

A: We have worked really really hard to keep expanding and thankfully we are doing that.

Q: Did you have an mentors to help you start your business? If so, did he/she offer valuable advice?

A: Yes. My Stepdad taught me the value of emotional intelligence in how you treat people, my Dad is just a hustler, pure and simple. I just wanted to work as hard as he did.

Q: Did your education make it easier for you to start your business?

A: Yes, indirectly. Some of my clients and current relationships are people I met in school.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to a college student who wants to open their own business?

A: Start small but dream big.

A special thanks to Timothy Gaspar for allowing me to interview him.  🙂

Are you an entrepreneur who started your own business in school? Let me know. I would love to write about your success story.

College Students – What to Do After a Family Member’s Passing

The hardest thing a college student will every go through is the death of a family member, especially immediate family members.  Once you hear the news, you ask yourself what do I do now? Do I drop out of school, take a semester off? Or do I stick it out and hope I pass my classes?  These are not the types of questions you want to think about during a time as difficult as a family member’s passing, but it’s important that you do.

I can tell you from experience that it is possible to get through it and continue with your education.  You shouldn’t give up, but instead use your education as a way to keep your mind off of what’s going on in your life.  When my mother passed during my second year of college, I did consider dropping out, but realized that overall it would be a bad idea.  So, I set out to catch up with my schooling after I had taken three weeks off.  For those college students that don’t know how to continue the semester after a family member has passed, I have included some helpful tips.  Just don’t give up and keep on going!

  1. Talk to the Right College Officials:  The best thing for you to do is talk to a college official that specifically works for the well-being of the students.  When I needed to take three weeks off of school to go through my mother’s belongings, I went to the student development center at Woodbury University.  This staff member helped me out by contacting my professors and gave me the paperwork I needed to fill out.
  2. Fill Out the Necessary Paperwork: If you feel you need to take some time off there is paperwork that you must fill out.  The process is different for every school so be sure to find out what is required from your school.  As for me, I had to make a request for a leave of absence and provide the appropriate paperwork to prove my mother’s passing, which meant I had to bring in my mother’s death certificate.  This may seem wrong, but is quite necessary for both you and the school.  It protects the school and enables them to help you during this difficult period.
  3. Talk to Your Professors: While the staff member you spoke with will contact your professors, you should still take the time to contact them yourself.  Tell them about the circumstances and ask if they can provide you with class materials that will be covered during your time off.  This will show them that you are still thinking about your education, but need some time to deal with family matters.
  4. Get Help: There may come a point when you need to ask for help to catch up with any work you missed.  I decided to use the Academic Peer Mentor program, at Woodbury University, to help me catch up and manage my time after I had returned to school.   Take advantage of programs that your school may offer to help students with their school work.
  5. Talk to Someone: Another thing that my school offered was counseling.  Honestly, I am the type of person that hates taking to people I don’t know about my issues.  But I decided that going to counseling, on campus, might help me cope with the loss of my mother and focus on my school work at the same time.  It actually did help!  I was able to talk to someone who would listen to  me about whatever.  You don’t necessarily have to talk to a counselor, but talking to someone about how your feeling will help the grieving process.

Words of Inspiration

I want this blog to be a place where college students can get information on entrepreneurship, college life, and the challenges that face students everyday.  So, to start off my blog I want to share with you some words of inspiration that may help with all your endeavors; not just your entrepreneurial ones.  To do this I want to tell you a little bit about my life:

I come from a low-income family in the Antelope Valley, CA.  This meant that throughout school I never had what the “cool” kids had.  You know, the most trendy clothing, best hairstyles, tans, cars, gadgets, and essentially the popularity.  But what I did have, was family and a drive to achieve my goals.

I have an extremely large family, but the people I see most often are my three siblings, my father, and step-parents.  As the oldest of four, I have taken on many responsibilities, especially with the youngest.  One of my sisters is three years younger, brother is five years younger, and the youngest is fifteen years younger.  I know that’s crazy right!  Even though I had a lot of responsibilities and didn’t get to experience those “teenage” years, I would never take back the things I have done for my siblings because I have and always will want the best for them.

I have always been a book nerd and excelled in school, which was always part of my plan.  However, from people who didn’t know me everything in my life may have seemed fine, but they are mistaken.  At times, it was really hard for me to focus on what I wanted to do because I was so busy worrying about other things going on in my life.  When my youngest sister was born, I ended up having to take on a motherly role.  I was more of a mother to her than my actual mother was; I fed her in the middle of the night, watched her almost everyday after school, and gave her baths.  This type of obstacle would be hard for anyone to deal with and I am sure I am not the only one who has gone through it, but I want people to know that they can reach their goals even when it seems like they can’t.

I always have this wall up that gives people this perception that things come easy to me.  While sometimes this is true, others time it is not.  In my young life (I am 22 writing this) I have gone through things that made me question if I could actually achieve the goals I have set for myself.  So many events have happened in my life that I almost caused me stop pursuing my goals, but I never gave up.  I always felt that the path I was taking would help me reach any goal I set for myself regardless of the obstacles that most often presented themselves.  I always found a way to get through anything in order to achieve my goals. 

The hardest obstacle I ever faced was the death of my mother, which just happened to be during a time I was working towards one of the most important goals I set for myself.  My college degree.  I was 19 years old and starting off my sophomore year at Woodbury University when I heard the news of my mother’s passing.  The relationship with my mother was very unhealthy at this point and to this day it upsets me knowing we never fixed it.  I never called her, never wanted to talk to her, I was ashamed to be around her or introduce her to people, I hated everything she did, I hated her addiction to prescription drugs, I hated her smoking, I hated that I didn’t get to be like normal teenagers, and I just hated the thought of having to be in the same room as her for long periods of time.  But now that she isn’t here I would give anything to have her back!  I always hope that she knew I still loved her even if I never showed it.

As the oldest, I had to take on the responsibilities that came with the death of a family member.  I had to sign a lot of paperwork, pick out the urn, put the music together for her funeral, and clean, organize, and deal with everything inside her home.  I literally had to take three weeks off of school to get everything out of my mother’s house, which I did alone almost the entire time.  It had to be done though and if I didn’t do it, it would not have gotten done.  Missing that much schooling meant I was way behind in all of my classes.  Anyone who knows me could tell you that this was a devastating thing for me to go through along with my mother’s death.  I get upset if I get a B and I was actually failing some of my classes, so you can imagine how upset I was.  At this point I was considering dropping out of school all together and I kept dwelling on the fact that my baby sister was never going to know her mother.  Everything was very overwhelming for me and I thought my life was coming to a halt.

But through it all I found out that reaching my goals is something my mother always wanted for me.  I realized that she wanted so much for me; more than she could have ever given me.  Achieving my goals was something I always pride myself in accomplishing and I was not going to jeopardize the biggest goal I set for myself.  So, instead of dropping out of school, I decided I was going to get help and work even harder to catch up.  I knew that I had to get some help to catch up in school and I was able to do just that.  My mother’s words also helped me get through that difficult time in my life.  Going through her things I found this letter that helped me through that semester of school and even to this day, I have it framed in my room so I can read it whenever I need to:

Dear Danielle,

I just wanted you to know how special you are to me.  God blessed me when he gave you to me.  You are a special girl and you should know that.  Please always remember that.  Even when mom has problems she thinks of you.  You can always make my day sunnier and bright.  You are so smart and kind.  Keep being you.  You are so important in my life.  Without you my life would not be complete.  I love you so much.  Thank you for being you, the wonderful person you are. I love you.


I ended up graduating on time, kept my scholarships, and showed myself that I can do anything, even when something tragic happens in my life.  I ultimately want to show people that they can do anything with hard work and determination no matter what life brings them.  It’s just about never giving up on your dreams! That’s what I hope everyone can do for themselves because only you can determine your future.

So, I hope my story inspires you to keep working towards your goals no matter what life brings you! 🙂  My hope is that this blog will give you some valuable advice about entrepreneurship, college, and life!

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