Spotlighting The Robert Hisaoka Speaker Series

By April 30, 2019 No Comments
Undergraduate student, Sadia Alao writes about the Robert G. Hisaoka Speaker Series: Founders Panel

Robert G. Hisaoka is a 1979 Smith Alumni and successful auto dealer, investor, and philanthropist who continuously supports and contributes to the advancement of current Smith students.

Through an amazing donation to the Smith School of Business, the Robert G. Hisaoka Speaker Series was born; a 3-year series where business leaders and startup founders come and speak to students about their journey.

I had the delightful experience of attending one of these Speaker Series. The Founders Panel consisted of female entrepreneur Kristin McClellan: founder of SnappyScreen, Jeff Grass: founder of Hungry Market Place, and our very own Smith Alumni, Paul Capriolo ‘06: founder of Social Growth Technologies, which delivers online advertising and virtual currency monetization through social gaming and e-commerce environments.

The Founders Panel was a very impactful event for me in better understanding my journey as an entrepreneur As a woman launching my own business and learning about the prevalence of gender discrimination in startups and venture practices, multiple topics discussed at the panel resonated with me.

Kristin spoke about excelling as a female entrepreneur in a male-dominated landscape. She noted the best advice in navigating through these female biases is to be as knowledgeable about every aspect of the business as possible. She spoke about how her male counterparts would try and talk circles around her with fancy business buzzwords and jargon, but they were totally and unexpectedly caught off guard when she knew exactly what they meant and could hold her own in meetings. I love how Kristin, in a room full of men, rallied her power, but it also made me realize a sad truth. Women will always have to work twice as hard to be in half the position as men.

Paul Capriolo 06’ gave great advice, as well. He noted how when starting a business you have to block out all that negative noise and just follow your passion so that you can then infect people with it. I can’t wait until that little voice in my head saying I’m not good enough will start cheering me on.


All in all, I feel the most fruitful guidance was from Jeff. He expressed that entrepreneurs need to EVOLVE. He noted how his business failed many times because they didn’t evolve with current needs and trends; “we hired employees for the needs of today, but forgot to hire employees for the needs of tomorrow.”

The Speaker Series is a much-needed event in better understanding how to navigate the tricky waters of founding a business in a world filled with a million no’s. It puts a fire in my heart and I hope it does for you, too!