Q: How did you gain an international interest?
A: When I was four years old, my family moved to Latin America, where we lived for the next nine years. I had that early exposure to living internationally, but upon returning from my mission in Bolivia, it took me a while to decide what I wanted to study. I ultimately decided to major in international studies. After making the decision, my first priority was to land an international internship. I found my first internship through the Kennedy Center, working in Peru with the Employment Services program. It was the first year of the program, since the Perpetual Education Fund had just been announced, so there was a lot of excitement about it. My wife and I went together, which was an incredible adventure for us. We had just gotten married, so it was like an extended honeymoon, only not so glamorous. We lived in a low-rent, second-floor apartment belonging to a wonderful LDS family in Lima. We had a lot of fun together, and I learned a lot about myself during that period. During the internship, I realized I did not want to become a lawyer and discovered I enjoyed business. I threw away all of my LSAT books in Peru and committed myself to do something in business.
Q: How did you gain business experience?
A: After returning from Peru, I began looking for my next internship. I wanted to do something international, but I wanted it to be business related. I started showing up at internship offices around campus, pouring through binders, and I found this startup in Salt Lake City—Del Sol—with retail stores throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska, and Hawaii. They had these little niche retail stores targeting the cruise ship industry. I met with the company, and my wife and I were offered an internship together, working in the Cayman Islands, where we spent eight months running a store with twelve to fifteen employees and managing inventory for this little $2–3 million store. It was a great first experience. We had a kayak on the beach, we went diving all the time, but at the same time, I was developing real skills in business and learning about myself and what I was good at.
When I finished the internship, Del Sol (their corporate office is in Salt Lake) offered me a job and said, “We want you to come work for us at the corporate office. We want you to help us open additional stores around the world.” I said, “I have a semester left of school though.” And they said, “No, we need you to start working right now.” I said “okay” and started working and extended my last semester over two semesters at BYU as I was traveling back and forth. I ended up having a great experience with their company and graduated about a year later. One of my assignments was to make sure stores opened up on time, but there was a lot of inefficiency. When one of our fixture suppliers was late, it would delay the opening of the store. I thought if I could consolidate the fixture manufacturing into one factory, maybe we could get better pricing, and we would have more consistency on our store openings. I found this company in California—flew out a visited them, and they said, “We can make all of these fixtures for you. In fact, this one fixture that you use twenty to thirty of for each store, we might want to consider making that in China.” For me, it was like a light flipping on. “You can make stuff in China?” This was in 2004. Now of course, everything is made in China.