Strengthening Skill Sets with Genelle Taylor Kumpe

July 29, 2020

Genelle Taylor Kumpe has devoted her career to empowering others, advocating for women and children and improving her community in every possible way. Genelle most recently has taken on the role of COO of the Fresno Business Council and Executive Director of its manufacturing initiative, the San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance. She transitioned to Fresno City College and served as an adjunct faculty member at Fresno City College teaching 21st Century Workplace Skills after spending three years as the Executive Director of the Marjaree Mason Center, Fresno County’s resource for shelter and services for victims of domestic violence.

Kumpe’s dedicated and innovative work in this role earned state-wide recognition, receiving the Breakthrough Leader Award from the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. Prior to joining the Marjaree Mason Center, Kumpe served as the Associate Director of the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship for 10 of the 15 years of her tenure at California State University, Fresno. She led more than a dozen programs that promoted innovation and entrepreneurship nationally and internationally, and have been replicated in other regions. Kumpe received her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from California State University, Fresno and is a certified entrepreneurship teacher via the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.

In addition to being an Advisor for the Executive Director and Board of Made For Them, a social enterprise combatting human trafficking, Kumpe is a current member in the La Feliz Guild and a founding member of the La Visionaria Guild, both of which are non-profit organizations whose mission is to engage in creative and innovate ways to raise funds, advocate for children, and promote goodwill for Valley Children’s Hospital. Being inspired by her father who lost his battle with cancer in 2011, Genelle participated in the Central California Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man/Woman of the Year Campaign and was named 2018 Woman of the Year for her record-breaking fundraising effort.

John Shegerian: This edition of The Impact! Podcast is brought to you by the Marketing Masters. The Marketing Masters is a boutique marketing agency offering website development and digital marketing services to small and medium businesses across America. For more information on how they can help you grow your business online, please visit themarketingmasters.com.

John: Welcome to another edition of The Impact Podcast, I’m John Shegerian and today, I’m so excited to have a friend of mine, an old friend of mine, even though she’s much younger than me. I’ve got Genelle Taylor Kumpe with me today. Genelle, we’ve been friends twenty-one years, I met you when you were what? Fourteen? Fifteen? I don’t even know anymore. What was going on?

Genelle Taylor Kumpe: Maybe thirteen, maybe, you know, I was a baby. No, I was a baby, that’s for sure but just starting out in my career. But thanks so much for having me, John. I really appreciate it.

John: It’s an honor. You’ve been, oh, there are so many things that we’re going to talk about today. But, A, we met twenty-one years ago through our common friend, Tim Stearns.

Genelle: Oh, yeah, love him.

John: ‘The’ Dr. Tim Stearns, right?

Genelle: Dr. Stearns.

John: Dr. Stearns and ironically, we were talking off-air earlier, he showed us and asked us to come to his neighborhood and Genelle, you and I literally lived two houses away from each other and we live in Tim’s neighborhood.

Genelle: Exactly. I mean, how influential can a person be, right?

John: Not much more. Except, choosing our spouses. I mean, he’s just amazing. So, you know, you’re a very, very important and influential leader here in the San Joaquin Valley besides being a mom and a wife and having two beautiful children who are teenagers who again, I see around the neighborhood all the time. You are the Executive Director of the San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance. And the COO of the Fresno Business Council and I want to go into those two organizations, all the important work you do there and the work that they do in the valley here. But before we do that, I would just love you to share with our listeners a little bit of your personal journey – where you were born and raised and how you evolved as a young lady and now as one of the leading women professionals here in the Central Valley of California.

Genelle: Great. Thanks. Thanks so much for allowing me to go through that. It’s been quite a journey and I really really enjoyed it and would never guess that I end up where I am currently but it all makes sense looking back. I was born and raised in another Valley here in California, the Salinas Valley, and went to school there. After High School, I knew while it was during High School, I knew that I wanted to go and study business and just always had a passion for that. So I ended up coming here to Fresno and studying at the Craig School of Business was super involved on campus with student leadership. I worked there, you know, I was there for all my classes and everything in the School of Business and just really got to know all of the professors and everyone and that’s how I came to know Dr. Tim Stearns and shortly after college, I started working with a community organization that offered a program that trained and taught people how to start their own businesses so I loved that. And it was a collaborative project with Fresno State and I transitioned over and started working back at my Alma Mater with Dr. Stearns. He hired me there and during my tenure, I was an integral part with Tim Stearns on creating the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship that it resides on campus.

John: That’s such an important place. For our listeners who have no exposure to it, it is literally the Genesis of Entrepreneurship here in the Central Valley now. All thanks to Dr. Stearns and you and your hard work. It’s such a great, great, great place.

Genelle: It is. And it was formulated back when people didn’t even know what the word entrepreneurship was.

John: True.

Genelle: Let alone how to spell it. So, it was really hard in developing that and those programs that were led there were teaching people from kindergarten to adulthood about the importance of innovation and creativity and that was the right tools that they can be in control of their own destiny. And so my favorite part of even working there was working with young people and being able to physically see the light switch flip in a student who went from even having super low self-esteem to discovering their passion and believing in themselves and that they can do anything they set their mind to. So, while at Fresno State, I definitely was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, I got partnered in three different business endeavors myself and it ran the gamut from a Chinese restaurant and after school program for elementary schools and then bringing an ever so popular now, blowout services to the Fresno Market. And I was always just busy and really really thrive in that environment.

So, I was living my best life being intrigued by starting new things. I took part in starting a different kind of rotary club for young professionals. And that’s where I met my husband of fifteen years now almost, Matt Kumpe and now we have our two beautiful children so just really love that. During my whole journey, you know, I lost my dad to cancer in 2011 and my belief is that we have one life and we never want to know what tomorrow’s going to bring so that became a really really stark reality after losing my dad. So, I just have this drive to create change in the community. During that time, I really delve deeper and saw another opportunity to serve, and after fourteen years at Fresno State, I left behind that secure job and had a really kind of a higher calling to become the Executive Director for Marjaree Mason Center, which is the Fresno County dedicated shelter and support services for those who are affected by domestic violence here. So that’s in Fresno County.

John: That’s a great place, too. What a great place.

Genelle: It is a wonderful place and it sees too many people and too many families that are affected by domestic abuse, unfortunately. So I worked there for three years and just really enjoyed being able to serve the community. So that really opened my eyes to things and changed my life forever. I mean, you cannot turn back once you are made aware of the trauma that people endure in their lives. But the ability to make a dramatic difference in a person’s life is so real but you have to be able to meet people where they are and not blame them for not knowing. But definitely teach them skills, give them tools to be able to have choices for a better life. After Marjaree Mason Center, I kind of took a step back and wanted to slow down a bit because that’s a 24-hour/seven-day-a-week job and it just took a lot, you know. I went on to teach at Fresno City College for a little while and taught soft skills and employability skills.

John: That’s great.

Genelle: Yeah, I mean it was great and it’s something that employers always say that is needed in employees and in the workforce. So, after working part-time, sitting still is not my strong suit, so I always presented yet with such a wonderful opportunity that I can’t pass up and that’s my current role here with the Business Council as COO and leading their manufacturing initiative, The San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance. And I am just so blessed to be here, yeah.

John: And for our listeners out there to find the Fresno Business Council, you could go to www.fresnobc.org and the San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance, go to www.sjvma.org, which one came first? The Business Council? Did you work with the Business Council before the SJVMA?

Genelle: Yeah. So the funny thing is when I was at Fresno State and working with the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, we worked a ton with the Fresno Business Council, of course, and so I’m finding myself in full-circle around the table with the same people that I worked with twenty-five years ago. But we all have so much more wisdom but more and better skills and so The Business Council did come first and then the Manufacturing Alliance about in 2014 was founded by The Business Council and incubated underneath them. So the Business Council did come first.

John: So, tell our listeners, what is the San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance for those who have not been exposed to it yet.

Genelle: Right. The Manufacturing Alliance is an organization of The Valleys Manufacturing leaders that they just really wanted to advance their industry. And one of the main focuses is to create a world-class workforce at the local level. So, we aim to really strengthen regional manufacturing and we take part in designing curriculum and training programs for students and individuals that are looking to upskill or re-skill. We provide jobs to interns for hands-on experience because that is so important for people and especially students with no experience. We really take pride in educating the public on the benefits of manufacturing careers. We also address legislative issues and we bringing together businesses and industry innovators for an annual event, which is a valley-made manufacturing summit.

John: And, Genelle, was the valley considered for you from Bakersfield all the way to Modesto. Is that your Valley that you’re working with?

Genelle: Yeah. So the San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance has our eight-county footprint, but, of course, we’re concentrated in Fresno and just the surrounding areas first because we want to develop a really strong presence here, get it right, and then be able to work outwards. So, most manufacturers that we work with reside in Fresno County or just right outside.

John: Approximately how many members have you built up over the years?

Genelle: So we have a membership of over a thousand members and it is really incredible. That includes not only manufacturing companies but the entire ecosystem of manufacturing. So that includes even government, nonprofits, the industry suppliers to manufacturing and education. So, there’s more than just manufacturers that are involved in the alliance and it takes all of them to make it a successful alliance.

John: That is so interesting. And so with regards to this tragic crisis that we’re all living through, we’re all faced with as just friends, Genelle, as human beings here in the Central Valley and as people who are very deeply involved in the business community, when you listen to the news, they say that the manufacturing sector is being greatly affected by COVID-19, the supply chain and other things. Can you share some lessons that you’ve already learned during these last 75 or 80 days or so with how manufacturing has been affected and how you think we’re going to overcome as a manufacturing sector the COVID-19 tragedy that we’re all living through?

Genelle: Yeah, it definitely is a tragedy and it’s so uncertain and it gets frustrating sometimes that we’re all just having to take it day by day because sometimes the news is changing day by day and when you hear about manufacturing, you bet it’s important. We have heard a ton about manufacturing, we’ve heard President Trump talk about it. In California, we’ve heard Governor Newsom and they all know the importance of the industry, that manufacturing industry provides good and opportunity jobs and it’s the industry that is going to bring back the middle class. And to see these businesses having to be shut down and people all over the place losing their jobs, it’s a tragedy for sure. But if you think about manufacturing from the moment we get out of bed in the morning to the moment we reach higher in the evening, we depend and rely on nearly everything that is manufactured.

The alarm that wakes us up in the morning, the bed we sleep in, the pillow we lay our head-on, the coffee we drink, the car we drive, the phones we’re talking on right now, everything – the food we eat even. We rely on manufactures because they’re the makers. They are incredible and this pandemic has shown such a spotlight on the industry. Just what I have seen, you would be amazed at how many companies have really pivoted during this pandemic to provide the PPE, personal protective equipment for the Health Care industry. We have several here in the Fresno region that are re-tooling from where they used to provide printing programs and posters and everything and now they’re making face shield, they’ve completely pivoted. They had to lay off their employees because they no longer had events and programs for and all the signage and everything but they scrambled and figured it out that, “Hey, we could be providing these face shields for the healthcare industry and I can employ my people, I could bring them back.” So we see things like that.

We have a charter school here in town that’s been created as strictly Career, Technical Education School with two tracks and one of them is manufacturing and while schools and campuses have been closed down, the teachers came to campus. They were working with their students on the campus and using the equipment to make these face shields for our local hospitals and more recently, they have even purchase extra equipment and the students are running the machines to make PPE from their own home.

John: Wow.

Genelle: Yeah, it’s incredible and the one thing that I have to say that I’ve seen from our members and the business owners, they genuinely care about their employees. They want to see them working and earning a paycheck to support their families. They’ve gone through extreme measures to make sure they’re operating under all the guidelines of our state and local officials and to really keep everyone safe and healthy and not spread the virus. But, I mean, there are so many things that they have to implement and you have to think that manufacturing floors and production lines, they’ve got equipment that’s basically stationary. So to move any of that, that’d be nearly impossible, but they have to figure out new ways of doing things so that their workers are far apart or there’s plexiglass in between them so that they’re protected. They just have to go through so much and I know a lot of businesses do, and business owners, they’re all suffering through this and it’s really really unfortunate and just can’t wait until things kind of smooth out and we figure out how this economy is going to reopen.

John: We want to all get to the other side, right? That’s just the whole goal now.

Genelle: Yeah, absolutely.

John: So what you’re saying if I’m hearing you right, you’re saying what you’ve seen in your membership and the folks that you come in contact with since you have such great visibility into the business community in the positions that you sit in is you you’ve seen a resilience of your membership, huh, to adapt?

Genelle: Absolutely. They adapt, they pivot, they retool, it is incredible how agile they are and the changes that they make at a drop of a bucket. It’s crazy. It’s really great to see.

John: For our listeners out there that are intrigued now what they’re learning and listening to you what they’re learning about the San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance and they want to join, how does that work? How does that courtship work of education, what could benefit the company and vice versa in terms of a mutually beneficial relationship?

Genelle: Yeah. So, if anyone wanted to become a member, it is a free membership and they don’t have to pay anything out. It’s upfront, you just go onto our website like you said, sjvma.org and they can join right there and it’s just such a great network. You know, I usually have a conversation with manufacturers or the business bit that is interested and they’re going a tour of their plant and facilities or just come visit them and see what they’re doing and really we bring together the manufacturers so that they have a shorter learning curve, they can learn from each other, they learn what is in their region and who they can connect with, they learn best practices. If they have training that they want to try something, they want to train their employees on, we could bring them resources for that. We just kind of get to know them and really figure out what their needs are, where they could benefit, what’s really keeping them up at night, and how we can help them. And that’s what the alliance is really all about and then just tell them about opportunities, where they can give back especially in the realm of education because that’s really priming their workforce, their pipeline of workforce. So the more they can contribute back to education and the training programs that are available, the curriculum that’s available, and those programs, the better they’re going to have to choose for those employees or potential employees in the future.

John: For our listeners out there who’ve just joined, I’m so excited today to have, Genelle Taylor Kumpe with us. She’s a longtime friend of mine but she’s also in very important positions in the San Joaquin Valley here in California. She’s the COO of the Fresno Business Council, she’s also the Executive Director of the San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance, which has over a thousand members. Genelle, with the visibility and relationships that you’ve built over your entire career, you really become the leader in many ways of the women’s empowerment movement whether you like it or not, you’re really leading that lean-in generation here in the Central Valley, talk a little bit about what it’s like being a woman leader in times were and in a community that is very in many ways conservative still and also in some ways male-oriented still? How is that, as you’ve broken through so many barriers or glass ceilings or whatever you want to call it, how has that been in terms of your journey and how is it today?

Genelle: Yeah, so, of course, being a young woman, a young professional woman at the beginning of your career, I definitely have to prove myself. But I think if you just stay at the course and do your work and prove that you’re capable, that you’re caring, and that you give a hundred percent, your work speaks for itself. Yeah, I used to think, oh gosh, I have to wear extra high heels so I’m taller than the men in the room. I’m a tall person anyway at 5’9″ but putting on three, four, five-inch heels makes a little bit better, but nowadays, I think I’ve seen quite a shift in our community and in the workforce itself, but we’ve got some wonderful, wonderful men that I work around and I work with and some of them even say that they don’t work on any projects unless they’re WIC projects, W-I-C. And I’m like, “WIC, I have nothing to do with WIC, you know, thinking what is this?” And he says, women-in-charge. So, you know, there’s a lot of strong women in this community and in this world, I think we’re seeing a lot of women leaders come to the forefront and they’re being a lot more respected now and there’s a lot of things than barriers that us, as women have had to bust through but I think if you just show that you can prove that you can do the job just as good or better than the men that are surrounding you, then, you know, I think it just takes us working together, you need both. It’s been great for me but I have been fortunate enough to work around very caring and responsible citizens and stewards in our community. So they value the opinion and the work of women. Yeah.

John: That’s awesome. And for our listeners out there that want to connect with Genelle or learn more about what she’s doing with the great organizations that she’s with, you could go to www.fresnobc.org or www.sjvma.org. Genelle, you’re working on a webinar series with the alliance right now, can you share a little bit with our listeners what’s in the pipeline? What does that webinar series is going to be about and why is that important to the important work that you’re already doing?

Genelle: Yeah, so we’ve had to pivot too and start putting some lessons online and really be a resource for our members and the business community. So, some of the webinars that we’ve done had to do with some of the cares act information and resources that are out there and just really kind of guiding people through that, business owners through that and what they can take advantage of, how it works. And beyond that, what we’re working on is putting together a sales series because right now, I think a lot of businesses are looking in every nook and cranny of how they could create more revenue and how they can strengthen their salesforce and get beyond this whole pandemic. So, how are we going to sell differently in this world today? Because it’s not going to be the same. We’re not going to be just popping in people’s place of work and it doesn’t work that way any longer. Some of the other things that we’re working on, putting together as far as webinars go, is also cybersecurity and doing a whole series on that because with things being put online even more so than they were in the past. You have to make sure that you’re going to be secure. So looking at doing some of that and then, COVID-19 and tax resources and R&D tax credits, those types of things. What can businesses take advantage of currently and how can we navigate through what we’re going through with this pandemic?

John: That makes so much sense. When do you think they’ll be available for your members and others that want to avail themselves of it?

Genelle: The accounting webinar will be on May 27th at 10 a.m. and about Pacific time and then the other series starts in June, the second week of June and those will be going on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:00 a.m. So we’ll have that up on our website and how to register and everything will be right on there very soon.

John: Wonderful. And will you be hosting these webinars? You’ll have various of your members on these webinars with you?

Genelle: Yeah. So we’re going to have our partners that will be on there with us. We are hosting it as the lead organization. We have sponsors and other organizations that are doing that. Our tax webinar as with our partner, Moss Adams and they’re just really smart when it comes to all the ins and outs and things that you can use as a business owner. And then with the cybersecurity, of course, we’ve got experts on there doing that as well as at their sales theories. We’ll bring experts in and we do that even with our membership meetings and everything. We like to bring in people that are experts in the subject matter and help us navigate through that.

John: That’s just wonderful. You know, Genelle, over the last 21 years, you’ve been exposed to a lot of commerce and business and enterprise here in the valley and you are one of the creators of the Lyles Center, which is literally still Ground Zero for Innovation and Entrepreneurship here in the Central Valley and we’re so lucky that you and Tim and all your hard work created that. You’ve seen a lot and met a lot of people and been involved with a lot of different programs, looking back now and although you’re very young still, what are some of the programs that you’re most proud of, that you’ve been involved with?

Genelle: I think when it comes to the Lyles Center and Entrepreneurship and really some of the programs that came out of there, I think these youth programs, and that’s what I’m really passionate about is prevention and intervention and youth and that’s a huge passion of mine. So I think, being able, you know when I saw like the high school programs and even elementary school programs to teach kids about going after their passion, discovering their passion, and creating a business out of that, being able to really look inside themselves and know that they’re worthy, that they have something to contribute to our society, become a productive member of society, these kinds of entrepreneurship programs that we brought to the schools and to be used, that’s what’s really important. They make people feel like, “Oh, I am important. You do see me. I can contribute.” And they’re not just invisible wallflowers or don’t think that they’re not good enough to do these things and build confidence in youth and that’s just so important for our society and I am most proud of that and just looking at that but you know going on through with the Business Council and the Manufacturing Alliance, I just think the work that we do is incredible. Really having people change their mindset and look beyond their single dot and their silo but just how can you contribute back to your community? And what is the legacy that you want to leave? Think of yourself as a citizen first, not as a boss or business owner, but how you can contribute to make the community a better place and how you’re going to leave this society better off than where you found it, I just love and just am so passionate about the work that I’m doing currently.

John: Speaking of working with young people, a lot of our listeners are up-and-coming or aspiring entrepreneurs and they want to not only make a paycheck but they want to make an impact and they’ve learned that a lot from the Lyles Center and what you and Tim worked on for a long time and they’ve just learned it in their readings and what’s going on in the world where their generation want to really make the world a better place. What advice do you have for up-and-coming entrepreneurs who want to make the world a better place, want to make an impact, but start a business and be their own boss?

Genelle: So I would definitely say, do your research and that is something that all people need to do if they want to go into their own business and make an impact or have some kind of transformational change. Definitely, if it’s something that you truly love and want to do, volunteer in something about that’s like it if there are other organizations that are like that, volunteer for them. See what’s out there, see how others are doing it. What works? What doesn’t work? Is it going to support your lifestyle or get you to the lifestyle that you want? This is about doing your research and talking to people and seeing how things are done. But, number one, I’d say that people need to go after something that they are passionate about. Something that doesn’t feel like it’s a job, something that’s fun for them, and I always say, when it stops being fun, that’s your cue to exit because life is too short. So definitely go after your passion.

John: Life is too short. And, Genelle, I just want to say thank you for coming on today. And for those who want to find Genelle or learn more about her great organizations, they can go to www.sjvma.org or www.fresnobc.org to find her new webinar series, to learn more about her great work, to join these great organizations, that’s how you do it. You just go to those websites. Genelle, you are welcome back on Impact! anytime you want, to talk about business, to talk about what’s going on here in the central part of California with regards to manufacturing. You have just been a wonderful friend for twenty-one years. You are a tremendous leader in our community. You’ve made a huge impact already. You’re going to continue to make huge impacts in the future and thank you for joining us today.

Genelle: Thank you so much, John, for having me. It’s been such a pleasure on Impact! and I look forward to coming back again. So thank you for the open invitation.