It was June, 1999 when Kevin Kragenbrink, President and Chief Executive Officer of Estrada Strategies, received a call that had a significant impact on his career.
The person on the other end was an administrator at California State University at San Bernardino who was asking if Kragenbrink would be willing to run the institution’s new Entrepreneur Center.
“It was one of the earliest centers in the country at the time,” Kragenbrink recalled. Never one to shy away from a challenge, he accepted.
For the next two years, Kragenbrink said that “we created a pretty good program.” The Entrepreneur Center pursued and won grants, hosted conferences, and even entered a partnership with Cisco to support undergraduate and graduate students.
“We were living on the front edge of entrepreneurship,” he said.
The “good life” was not without one challenge. The Center was in the business school, and the Dean wanted Kragenbrink to pursue a doctorate. “They wanted a business academician,” he says, something he did not want to do with three degrees, including one doctorate, under his belt.
Fortunately, as that door appeared to be closing, another opened at Cal State – San Bernardino. This one engaged Kragenbrink as Director of New Business for the College of Extended Learning.
“It was a great opportunity to combine my business and academic backgrounds,” he explained. “I understood the non-credit training needs of business,” based on his previous work at Cal State.
Kragenbrink spent nearly four years in the new role, developing initiatives like a regional logistics program for Home Depot and a supervisory program for Scotts, the lawn products manufacturer.
“I was learning so much about business owners,” he says.
It was also a time when Kragenbrink was pursuing his own entrepreneurial inclinations, starting several businesses. In describing his start-up history, he laughingly says, “Five were modest successes, two spectacular failures.”
Along the way, Kragenbrink says that he “learned to do better market research.” He also met Reuben Estrada, a person with whom he would form the company that he now leads.
NEXT: It’s called Estrada Strategies for a reason.