to find a job after deciding he wanted to work in the restaurant industry.
It wasn’t the initial rejection that frustrated him so much as all the wasted effort he put into the job search. He would print up résumés, put on a suit, and wait for interviews only to be told he was unqualified, overqualified, or otherwise “just not the right fit” for the jobs he hoped to land.
Moreover, hiring processes throughout the industry seemed less streamlined and more antiquated than in other business sectors. In talking with servers, bartenders, chefs and others, there was rarely any mention of professional profiles submitted online or requested by employers.
“The more people I talked to, the less LinkedIn came up,” Barbo said. “It was like, ‘Yeah, I don't really use it,’ or ‘I don't know what it is.’”
“I’ve got something here”
Barbo searched for a professional network for the service and hospitality industry, but came up empty-handed.
“I found the job sites, but at the end of the day, that was it,” he recalled.
What would drive value for someone who wanted a 30-year career in the restaurant business or the hospitality industry, he wondered. How could they log into a platform every day the same way an entrepreneur would use LinkedIn or Facebook? It seemed like an obvious need.
“So I thought, maybe I've got something here," said Barbo.
What the former SDSU Associated Students (A.S.) president had was an idea to create a sort of LinkedIn specifically for restaurant-industry workers. Two years ago, he built out a beta in San Diego and together with fellow Aztec alumni Matt Cecil
(’13) and Erroll Asuncion
(’99) re-launched a newly rebuilt company called Industry
, a professional network exclusively for service and hospitality workers.
Industry helps employers like bars, restaurants and event managers find workers with the specific qualifications they need. Conversely, it matches job seekers possessing specific skills or training to positions for which they are qualified.
In addition to highlighting a job seeker’s experience and education, an Industry profile might display his or her food and drinks through photos and videos. “Even that first-time job seeker or hotel worker can record a video résumé and really highlight their personality to help them stand out,” Barbo explained.
Aztecs hiring Aztecs
For the past seven months the company has been growing its business throughout major cities in the West. Landing clients like MGM Resorts International and the Walt Disney Company while also helping with casting for the next two seasons of Fox network’s “Hell’s Kitchen” featuring celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay
has helped Industry secure a $2.3-million round of venture capital, Barbo said.
Industry’s staff is certain to grow and one of the places Barbo looks to find talent is SDSU. Nine of the company’s 15 current employees are Aztec alumni.
The CEO said he knew many of his staff personally from his student days where he saw how they performed in campus leadership roles. But beyond the skills and education required by Industry, Barbo believes SDSU alumni possess the necessary “culture fit” for his expanding company.
“San Diego State gives students such an amazing culture opportunity because you are immersed in a crazy-diverse campus,” Barbo said. “When you think of how many students come to San Diego State from all over the world, different backgrounds, different religions, and you just kind of open up your mind to the world and what potential you can have.
“When we were interviewing specifically the Aztecs, you could kind of feel that energy emerge in the interview process. We knew that the culture was already there and that it was a winning decision to hire those individuals."
A worldwide vision
The potential for Industry to grow is huge. The company is targeting at least 17 million workers in the United States alone.
“But our vision isn't just to build this out nationally because there's over 200 million people around the world who make working in a restaurant, bar, or hotel their career for 20 or 30 years,” Barbo said. “We want them to feel proud and recognized for the work they're doing and for having chosen this career path."
Barbo has done his research. Industry also provides some financial motivation for employers who will use it regularly.
“What many businesses don't understand is the cost to recruit, hire, and train an employee is about $2,000 right now. The average time it takes to hire that person is 28 days.
“So if you spend a month trying to find the right person and then a week after you hire them they’re the wrong person and you have to let them go or they leave on their own, you have to start the whole process all over again," Barbo said. “We can cut back on the turnover and help businesses make better hires the first time.”
Energy and passion
Two recent Industry hires include former A.S. president Jonathan Cole
(’15) and Kellen McAvoy
('13), the company’s digital marketing manager who joined the team from a larger agency. McAvoy said she enjoys the company’s collegial environment.
“The energy and passion of every team member here is really contagious,” McAvoy said. “Everyone loves what they do, they love why they do it and I think that's really important in the workplace."
McAvoy returns to SDSU’s School of Journalism and Media Studies each semester as a guest speaker in associate professor Rebecca Coates Nee
’s digital marketing class. Among the goals she has set in her new position is to help establish an internship program at Industry to help provide students with a “real world” experience before graduating.
It’s a goal Barbo fully supports.
"We want to give Aztecs the opportunity to come and learn from the leaders who are currently working with us in the company,” he said. “As we continue to expand and grow our own team, those interns can eventually become employees, so if we can bring more Aztecs aboard, that's a win-win for us."
Next generation of entrepreneurs
Barbo cites his own leadership experience at SDSU with the success he enjoys today.
“Being A.S. president made me a better leader and gave me the confidence that maybe I could pursue being an entrepreneur instead of going to work for someone,” he said. “I don't think I would be where I am today if not for those leadership opportunities and the mentors I surrounded myself with every single day.”
Barbo has a great deal of confidence in Industry and optimism for the company’s future. He feels the same about SDSU.
“I think San Diego State, specifically, is going to be responsible for the next great generation of entrepreneurs coming out of California, truly. We're going to compete head-on with the best."
With every intent of succeeding.
Two months. That’s how long it took