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*Q&A: Startup Grind Irvine’s Executive Director

Jessica Acosta Jaquez, director, Startup Grind Irvine

OC Startups Now will periodically run Q&A’s with interesting entrepreneurs and key players in the OC startup/innovation ecosystem, in their own words. This Q&A features Jessica Acosta Jacquez, the director of Startup Grind Irvine since late last year. The local chapter has more than 2,900 members.

Startup Grind, powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, is an event series designed to help educate, inspire, and connect local entrepreneurs. Each month a speaker shares their story, discussing what worked, what didn’t and what they’ll do differently next time. It provides an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to build relationships, learn from local entrepreneurs and maximize their chance of success.

Her day job is director of marketing and business development for INDECON Builders, general contractors in Tustin, where she implements the company’s growth strategies through branding, marketing, and business development.

OCSN: When did you first get interested in entrepreneurship?

Jacquez: Growing up in a blue-collar family, my parents would work long, hard hours. On Sunday nights, at our weekly family dinner around the table, my father would tell my brother and I to go to school and get an education, so we wouldn’t have to work outside in 100-plus degree heat. He’d hold out his hands – bruised, cut and rough from years of hard labor.

My brother and I always had small jobs we did for cash around the neighborhood – mowing and cleaning yards, selling recyclables, and selling candy at school; these small jobs were my first experiences in entrepreneurship.

I liked the idea that how hard I worked and how much effort I put in changed the outcome of the cash in my pocket. But this didn’t happen for my parents’ jobs. No matter how hard or long they worked, we stayed the same (financially).

This is all from the perspective of a kid, but I knew then I didn’t want to work for someone else for the rest of my life.

OCSN: Why did you elect to take over the OC Startup Grind chapter?

Jaquez: I took over the Startup Grind OC/Irvine chapter last Fall. It was dormant for about a year when I was asked by a friend and former co-worker – James McKinney, the director for Startup Grind Santa Clarita – if I was interested in taking over the chapter.

At that time, I hadn’t heard of Startup Grind, but soon learned how awesome the organization is. I didn’t want to start the chapter around the holidays so I opted to have our first event in February of this year and we’ve had a Fireside Chat every month since.

The reason why I decided to go all in was because I wanted to help build the entrepreneur community here in OC. We are so disjointed.

We have a great base of entrepreneurs in tech, bio-tech and other industries but there wasn’t someone bringing everyone together. I felt like I had to go to LA to find the community I was looking for. I’m hoping to foster a strong community here and have our businesses grow. We have a lot to offer in OC!

OCSN: What is the purpose of Startup Grind Irvine?

Jaquez: Startup Grind is a global startup community designed to educate, inspire, and connect entrepreneurs. On a local chapter level, we focus on the “grind.”

Our Fireside Chat speakers know I’ll be asking probing questions and want candid answers. We don’t want the magazine story, we want to hear your grind, your grit, the hard decisions or bad decisions you made and how you kept going. I want people who are in attendance to have tangible information that they can take back with them and use in their own startup or business.

As the director, I am passionate about helping our community thrive. My team of co-directors and I want to be your go-to person(s) if you need help, an introduction, or whatever. We want to be there for you.

If I don’t have the answer, I’ll find someone who does. I know how critical it is to have relationships with people from all sorts of industry backgrounds. We are all people juggling multiple things, and it’s easier to focus on what matters when you have friends to help you along the way.

OCSN: How is Startup Grind Irvine different from the other myriad organizations in OC trying to connect entrepreneurs?

Jaquez: I think we are different because we are focusing on the grind and all that encompasses in terms of starting a new venture. Besides the Fireside Chats, we’ll be hosting industry experts this Fall to discuss IP law, research credits that startups can qualify for, how to utilize AI, etc., — all in addition to our upcoming Summer and Winter Parties. We can’t be all work and no play! 😎

OCSN: How often do you have events?

Jaquez: Our events are once a month. Typically they’re on the third Wednesday of every month. Cost is $15 for the “planners,” $20 for the “procrastinators,” and $25 at the door. Admission includes food and drinks.

If anyone is interested in becoming a speaker at a future Fireside Chat, please feel free to reach out, as we are always looking for great speakers.

We are also in talks to host a pitch competition later this year or next year. Our hope is to be able to award a small prize to the winner and allow participants to receive valuable feedback on their pitch. Like I tell my kids, practice, plus constructive feedback, makes perfect.

About The Author

Deirdre Newman is a long-time journalist, who's covered OC startups for a few years.

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