2018 Rose Parade entry salutes difference-makers
Wells Fargo will celebrate a small business owner, a military veteran, and a team member during the 2018 Rose Parade on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, California.
Twelve years ago, Bianca Vobecky started her construction and trucking company from one room in her house with her part-time accountant sister as her only employee.
Today, Vobecky Enterprises, headquartered in Glendora, California, has 11 employees and offices in Oakland, California, Oahu, Hawaii, and an East Coast office on the horizon.
Wells Fargo is celebrating Vobecky, along with Iraq War veteran Simon Kim and BankWork$® graduate Gonzalo Aguilar, as honored guests in the 2018 Rose Parade, taking place Jan. 1 in Pasadena, California.
Vobecky and Aguilar will ride side-by-side in Wells Fargo stagecoaches along the 5.5-mile parade route, while Kim will follow in a third stagecoach. For the first time, six horses will pull the stagecoaches, rather than the four-horse hitch typically used during parades.
‘Surround yourself with positive people’
Named “Minority Small Business Champion of the Year” in 2016 by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Vobecky credits much of her business success to advice she received from Bryan Moeller, Wells Fargo’s small business manager for Los Angeles.
Moeller met with Vobecky and explained the importance of reallocating money to pay down short-term debt so she’d better qualify for the larger loans and lines of credit needed to grow her business. Within a few months of following that guidance, her improved balance sheet enabled her to secure the financing she needed.
“I didn’t really know the difference between how to manage the long-term debt versus short-term debt, and that education from Bryan was crucial to helping me move my business forward,” Vobecky said.
Today, Vobecky is dedicated to giving back and making a difference in her local small business community. She mentors aspiring and new small business owners on a variety of topics, including how to leverage resources to build their businesses and how to network with potential customers.
“My advice for other small business owners,” she continued, “is to learn as much as you can, and don’t work as much in your business as much as on your business. To help foster growth, surround yourself with positive people who have your best interests at heart, be positive yourself, and never give up.”
‘You’ve changed my whole life’
For former U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Simon Kim, who received the Purple Heart during his combat tour in Iraq as a lead gunner, the news that he’d ride in the Rose Parade was his second surprise this year.
The first came Oct. 28, when Wells Fargo and the Military Warriors Support Foundation presented Kim with a mortgage-free home in Moreno Valley, California. Kim thought he was on his way to meet with the foundation about housing, but instead he found himself on a Wells Fargo stagecoach, riding to the house he’ll move into later this month.
“Other than the birth of my son, this tops everything,” he said. “You’ve changed my whole life, and given me a new life for my son.”
Wells Fargo has donated more than 350 homes, valued at more than $55 million, to veterans in all 50 states since 2012. The donations are part of Wells Fargo’s ongoing pledge to veterans, which includes employing 20,000 veterans by 2020 and providing homes, career-transition assistance, and financial education to veterans and their families.
“Like many Americans, our heroes have a desire to own a home, but with the battle injuries they have, there can be obstacles to making that a reality,” says Lt. Gen. Leroy Sisco, founder and CEO of the Military Warriors Support Foundation. “These homes help to fill a significant need for veteran housing, and presenting them with Wells Fargo lets the veterans know that people care.”
‘I knew I needed to start somewhere’
Eight years ago, Gonzalo Aguilar worked in a fast-food restaurant and had no idea he was on his way to a career in financial services with Wells Fargo.
“I graduated from an inner city school with not a lot of opportunity, but I knew I needed to start somewhere,” Aguilar said.
The starting point turned out to be BankWork$, a free training program supported by Wells Fargo, Bank of America, U.S. Bank, and the Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation that helps adults in underserved communities prepare for careers in the financial services industry.
Today, Aguilar — who has been promoted four times since joining Wells Fargo as a teller in 2009 — is the service manager for a bank branch in downtown Los Angeles.
“I will never forget the amazing opportunity I got through Wells Fargo that changed the life of this inner-city kid,” Aguilar said. “The biggest impact it’s made in my life is how I believe in myself.”
So far, Aguilar and about 1,700 other graduates of BankWork$ programs at nine locations across the country have landed jobs with financial services companies.
“It’s really exciting to know I’ll be a part of the Rose Parade but what makes me the most proud is that I’m not just sharing my success, but all of my teammates,” he said.
‘Making a Difference’
The 129th Rose Parade is expected to attract roughly 46 million TV viewers in the U.S. and 28 million in other countries. It also marks Wells Fargo’s 11th anniversary as one of the parade’s corporate sponsors. The company will present the closing show as well as Equestfest, an event held several days before the parade that features hundreds of horses and riders displaying their riding skills in an arena showcase.
“Wells Fargo has a long history of supporting the Rose Parade, and we’re proud to present the closing show again this year,” said Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan. “Bianca, Simon, and Gonzalo personify the 2018 Tournament of Roses theme of ‘Making a Difference.’ Their stories highlight our commitment to improving the lives of our team members, veterans, and small business owners.”
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