Hoya Highlight: Peter Gasca (MBA'03)

Peter Gasca (MBA'03)

Founder and CEO, Wild Creations/Yumbev

Describe your current position and what led you to your job.

I am the CEO of Wild Creations, a company I founded almost eight years ago, and an associate professor of business at Coastal Carolina University. However, my primary focus right now is as the founder of Yumbev, a unique brewery franchise business model I am launching with the help of a South Carolina business incubator, Startup.SC. How I arrived at this place in my career is really just chance and circumstance. I've been given the opportunity on a few occasions to try new things, and I have simply taken advantage of those opportunities.

Describe the transition from working a full-time job and launching Wild Creations, to becoming a full-time entrepreneur.  

For the most part, the transition from working in a comfortable corporate consulting job to starting my own business (Wild Creations) happened over a couple of years. When the consulting project I was working on in Central Asia ended, I decided to pursue my entrepreneurial aspirations rather than rush out to find another job. At the time, the conditions seemed right, so I took what savings I had and moved to South Carolina to meet up with my business partner. Originally, my goal was to raise an investment fund that would invest in small, undervalued companies in South Carolina. Little did I know that I would eventually run a company that sold toys and live frogs.

What has been the most rewarding moment in your career?

We started Wild Creations in 2006, a year before the "Great Recession" crippled the global business markets. I am most proud of the fact that Wild Creations not only survived this period but was also recognized as one of the fastest growing companies in the United States when we emerged. It wasn't easy, but it did prove to me just how much hard work and perseverance can help you endure anything.

What was the most useful advice you have received?

I had the opportunity to hear Warren Buffett speak at an MSB event while pursing my MBA. During his speech to the business school, he compared being an entrepreneur to kissing a girl, saying that no amount of school or studying about it was going to properly prepare us for what it would really be like. If we wanted to kiss a girl, or start a business, the best way to understand the experience and succeed at it was to get out there and do it. He also astutely pointed out that, in both cases, trying and failing was half the fun!

Describe the most challenging moment in your professional development.

The first two years after founding Wild Creations were the most difficult, but they helped me to grow personally and professionally. In addition to having all of my savings invested in the company, I also had borrowed money from my father, who mortgaged his house to help. When the credit market crashed and the economy seemed doomed, I started doubting my decision to start the company at all. As someone who generally did not stress about much, I fell into somewhat of a depression, as the company struggled mightily and I fell behind in my dad's mortgage payments. This same fear and doubt, however, is what also kept me going, as I did not want to fail or, worse yet, be known as someone who failed. When everything settled, I learned how to better manage the stress and the anxiety, which I personally feel is the biggest obstacle to overcome as an entrepreneur.

What would you recommend to someone interested in working in your field?

If someone was interested in becoming an entrepreneur, I always provide the same advice I received from Warren Buffett ten years ago: just give it a try. I also warn about the amount of time, energy and personal sacrifice that goes into entrepreneurship, which is why so many quit. With the proper expectations, however, I think anyone can succeed.

What education or skills prepared you the most for your career?

Early in my career, I decided I wanted to make an impact in whatever organization I was involved in. I constantly asked for more responsibility, and I made sure that I took responsibility when I could. I learned early that management appreciates and rewards problem solvers more than problem identifiers. For this reason, I was promoted often and managed to work my way up into many leadership positions—just for showing the initiative. As an entrepreneur and business owner, you are at the top of the organization, so there is nobody to blame for problems or failures. This level of responsibility is best learned over time, refining it as a habit, so it is best to start as early as you can.

What resources have aided in your professional development?

Without a doubt, we live in an extraordinary time right now. With the internet available at our fingertips, we have access to news, books, publications, blogs and online courses—an almost infinite amount of information. I have become addicted to podcasts, and I read a number of professional blogs and websites every week. I read constantly to keep up on news and trends. As I tell my students, if you are not reading and keeping up with the information in your target industry, someone else is. More than likely, that person is ambitious and hungry for the same job and career you want.

Describe any upcoming projects you look forward to in your business.

I am most excited about my own new startup initiative, Yumbev, a unique craft beer brewing business model that I hope to launch in South Carolina. I am also finishing a book (www.OneMillionFrogs.com) about my seven years with Wild Creations. My co-founder and I successfully funded the project on Kickstarter last year, and we hope to have it self-published in the next few months.

How did your time at Georgetown University influence you and your career path?

Without a doubt, my decision to attend Georgetown was the single most influential decision of my professional and personal life. The two years I spent in Washington, D.C., opened more doors and created more opportunities than I had ever had available to me. I am completely certain that without that experience, I would never have had the opportunity to live and work overseas, learn a second language and eventually find the courage to start my own business. Georgetown provided me with the knowledge, opportunity, network and, most important, courage to pursue all of those things.