Photo from Pixabay

No sector in the U.S. economy has been hit as hard by the COVID downturn as entertainment and hospitality, which has been largely on ice since the virus first emerged a year ago.

But Jennifer Chandler, chair and associate professor of management at Cal State Fullerton’s College of Business and Economics, sees a positive long-term future the industry.

“The industry’s trajectory has changed, but its future remains bright,” says Chandler, noting flexibility, use of technology and customer mindset as reasons to anticipate a renaissance. Read More

Katrina Smith has been hard at work helping businesses in Orange County and the Inland Empire make it through these tough times. While the pandemic has taken a toll on the economy, she and her team have made the necessary adjustments to best support them through the process.

Smith is the associate regional director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and her work at the center has been a high point in her career. “The ability to serve with such truly amazing people and directly affect individuals’ and families’ lives by supporting their entrepreneurial dreams is beyond explanation.”

This December, Smith was been recognized by the Greater Irvine Chamber as an outstanding 40-Under-40 business professional in Orange County. The award honors professionals younger than 40 employed in Orange County with excellent leadership skills, integrity and initiative.

The Orange County Inland Empire SBDC Network is supported by both federal, state, and local funding and has more than 100 consultants who provide guidance to small businesses and entrepreneurs to successfully start and grow their organizations. This year, the center reinvented the strategies they use to help businesses survive and recover during the pandemic. Smith oversees and manages the center’s operations, compliance and financial programs and assists in outreach and community engagement with economic development organizations in the region.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, SBDC has helped almost every business in the network to thrive in these difficult circumstances. “When we receive emails or notices from businesses about how we have helped them during this time, it makes the extremely long and strenuous hours absolutely worth it,” says Smith.

She credits several people who have supported her throughout her career. “I think the most influential [professionally] have been my previous boss, Denise Bell, who retired from Sponsored Programs at CSUF Auxiliary Services Corporation, and my current boss, Mike Daniel, regional director of the Orange County Inland Empire SBDC,” says Smith. “Both have exuded passion, a work ethic and leadership qualities that are beyond exemplary. On a personal level, I would definitely recognize my grandfather, mom and sister who have modeled and instilled qualities that I believe have allowed me to prosper in my career so far.”

The recognition came as a surprise to Smith. “It was definitely a shock and very unexpected to be recognized,” says Smith. “I’m truly honored and grateful, and I share this recognition with the amazing team within the entire network.”

CSUF Mihaylo College Associate Professor of Economics Mira Farka speaking at the Economic Forecast at the Hotel Irvine on Oct. 25, 2018.

Photo by Matt Gush

Amidst rising COVID-19 numbers, strong vaccine hopes and a nation seeking to move past a contentious presidential election, Mira Farka, Cal State Fullerton associate professor of economics and co-director of the Woods Center for Economic Analysis and Forecasting, provided an update on the economic outlook on Dec. 10 at a virtual event presented by the North Orange County Chamber of Commerce.

Despite a strong upturn in the economy as the nation reopened in early May, the recovery has stagnated since mid-summer with a new wave of infections, and as the cases escalate in the fall/early winter there is a risk of another backslide. This has resulted in a paring down of economic growth projections presented in October. The pace of job formation, once the most robust on record, has slowed down dramatically, from 4.8 million in June to 250,000 in November.

Still, better times are likely ahead, with Farka anticipating a better-than-consensus outlook for the second half of 2021 and beyond, with GDP returning to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021 and full employment by the end of 2022. Sky-high savings rates, down from a pandemic high of 34% but still at a historic high of 13.8%, are likely to help consumers. Read More

David Hamidjaja

Delvin Hamidjaja

Despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, CSUF marketing senior Delvin Hamidjaja ’21 completed a career-changing internship and capstone project at Kellogg’s in 2020.

While safety protocols have altered how students conduct their internships, Hamidjaja’s path was paved through the support of Career Services at the College of Business and Economics, the Center for Internships and Community Engagement (CICE) and university Risk Management, who ensured that despite university policy only allowing virtual internships, Hamidjaja would have this opportunity, which included shadowing sales representatives in the field, safely and effectively.

“CICE and Risk Management work very closely with employers to make sure that all internships are safe for our students. In this unusual case, it was a concerted and collaborative effort between all parties to take the approval process step by step up the chain of command, working with Kellogg on safe practices, and ultimately ensuring that Devlin was able to complete and get credit for his internship,” says Kate Guerrero, career services director, of the unique arrangement.

Hamidjaja’s journey to a Kellogg’s internship began with the Sales Leadership Center, where he connected with a Kellogg’s representative at one of the center’s many networking events and landed the internship.

Initially planning to work at Kellogg headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan, a hybrid remote work and sales shadowing format was developed during the pandemic. A capstone project, which helps interns flex their marketing skills, involved leading a team to design and develop Cheez-It Popified, a new product concept, based on observation of changes in consumer shopping habits due to COVID-19.

“His recommendations were so compelling that Devlin actually presented his capstone project one-on-one to our senior vice president of sales,” says Ted Nelson, Kellogg’s senior manager of retail strategy. “As far as I’m aware, it was the first time an intern has presented person-to-person to a VP.”

Looking ahead, Hamidjaja is planning to use his Kellogg’s experience to help pursue a master’s degree and be a business leader himself.

Read more about Hamidjaja’s experience, and CSUF’s commitment to ensuring that safe and effective internship opportunities are available to students despite the pandemic, in this CSUF News article.

face mask hanging on a christmas tree

Photo from Pixabay

As we approach the 2020 holiday season, we look forward to connecting with family and friends we haven’t seen in this pandemic year, and enjoying some time off and a return to some of the traditions we’re used to. At the same time, we know it will be a December like none other, with a focus on social distancing and, for many, feelings of loss amidst the pandemic and related economic hard times.

Kris Hooks, a representative of Empathia, an employee assistance program, shared tips for making the best of the 2020 holidays in a Dec. 8 webinar open to the Cal State Fullerton community.

If you aren’t feeling joyous this holiday season, Hooks emphasizes that you’re not alone. “Holiday blues are real. They are different this year. They are industrial strength,” she says. “Even those who weren’t previously prone to anxiety or depression before COVID could have it now.”

Know the Challenges for the Holidays This Year

The holiday season can be a stressful time even in good years, but Hooks notes a particular set of stressors in 2020, foremost being minimizing the risk of COVID-19 in any family gatherings, concern for the physical and emotional well-being of others, social isolation, and a lack of quality time available with family and friends. And there’s always family conflict and financial issues, which can arise in any year, but may be more acute this time. Read More

a work from home setup including laptop, cell phone and notepadEight months ago, it was supposed to be a temporary measure: work from home while the coronavirus pandemic raged on. But months later, as normality proves elusive, more and more employees are being offered a perk that would have been unthinkable just one year ago – permanent work-from-home opportunities.

Working at home allows more and more employees to leave central cities and move to far-flung suburbs, or even smaller metro areas hundreds or thousands of miles away. And it’s creating a sea change in time-honored company cultures, in which workers no longer see their colleagues and bosses face-to-face (except for Zoom).

But should an employee working for a San Francisco Bay Area company make the same wage when they move to lower-cost Nevada or Arizona?

It’s a challenge that tech companies, which are leading the way in the work-from-home revolution, are grappling with. Facebook, Twitter, VMware, Stripe and ChowNow are among the firms considering salary adjustments, depending on where their workers choose to live in a remote work format.

Tech companies are often bellwethers for other industries, so permanent work from home – and the related salary questions – could well be a part of your future.

Will work from home make high-end industries more geographically open? Will it be fair to workers who might be paid less than if they worked in glitzy downtowns?

Read more in this article in the Los Angeles Times.

Stu Atkins CSUF marketing lecturer

Stu Atkins

Black Friday, the annual shopping holiday that kicks off the Christmas spending season, has been changing in recent years with a greater online focus. But for months, retailers have been anticipating an experience unlike any other for 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic keeps the traditional droves of shoppers away from stores, and the stay-at-home economy brings different purchasing habits.

“Black Friday is not over for good, but this year is going to be weird, longer and different,” says Stu Atkins, founder of Orange-based digital marketing agency, Atkins Marketing Solutions and a marketing lecturer at Cal State Fullerton. “This shopping environment is unprecedented. These challenges don’t happen every year or every decade. We’re in a once-every-100-years pandemic, and you’re inserting that pandemic environment in a digital, online and brick-and-mortar retail environment.”

At a time in which retail was already in flux, Atkins sees the pandemic-marred holiday shopping season as a mix of tragedy and interesting innovation – and uncharted territory for the industry.

“Both brick-and-mortar and online retailers have had to scramble and adjust and reconfigure Black Friday,” he says. Read More

Student Harry Amouzou in his study area in Lomé, Togo

CSUF student Harry Amouzou in his study in Togo

In March 2020, as the coronavirus forced lockdowns across the Western world, Cal State Fullerton students returned home to a life of online learning and working. For most, that meant a drive across Southern California. But for finance junior Harry Amouzou ’22, it meant a journey back to his native Lomé, Togo, in West Africa, where he is continuing his CSUF College of Business and Economics coursework remotely.

Like most Titans, Amouzou hopes to return to campus to complete his degree and graduate. But for now, he is making the most of his 7,500-mile telecommute and enjoying spending time with his family, which includes his cousin Praise Dekpoh ’19 (economics), who was the business college’s commencement speaker in 2019.

Amouzou met us on Zoom to share his unique intercontinental study-from-home experience. Read More

Mohammad Reza Habibi

Mohammad Reza Habibi

This may be the most traumatic year in modern U.S. history, with the pandemic, social unrest and a divisive election. But difficult times usually have some silver lining, and that’s what Cal State Fullerton Associate Professor Mohammad Reza Habibi has looked for in previous recessions. Past examples, he says, may provide encouragement for today’s generation facing the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Based on my research on the past recessions, many major innovations come shortly after recessions,” says Habibi. “For example, after the recession of 2008, ‘sharing economy’ emerged. Businesses such as Airbnb, Uber, and other sharing platforms are now thriving. The number of new businesses launched in 2009, the toughest year of the recent economic recession, rose to 550,000. Entrepreneurship endeavors rose as well from which many currently well-known brands such as Uber, Airbnb, LendingClub, Turo, and so on were born.”

Going further back, Habibi notes that the Panic of 1873, which resulted in an economic depression in North America for several years, was accompanied by a wave of innovation, including the light bulb, telephones, electric power systems and phonographs, as well as improvements in urban transit.

Habibi is hopeful that businesses that have thrived during the coronavirus pandemic – such as online giants Amazon and Netflix – will continue to be resilient in the future. On the other hand, the entertainment and tourism sector, restaurants, and brick-and-mortar retail have been hit hard.

“Remote working has become a norm, and online shopping has penetrated even more,” says Habibi. “Many companies are talking about the ‘workplace of the future,’ which means an environment in which workers have all the tools to be productive without the need to be physically present. We are seeing many trends, but which one will catch on, we have to wait and see.”

Because of his focus on resiliency in the business world, Habibi is featured in Cal State Fullerton’s Spotlight on Success highlighting innovative and impactful faculty.

Read more in this CSUF News article.

CSUF campus walkwayBeginnings are the way everything starts in the world, whether it’s with school, a relationship, a new job or anything in between. Being a beginner is different for everyone. When doing something for the first time, there may be feelings of hesitation and fear of failing at the task, leading to not starting it at all. So, what are some ways to ease yourself into starting the process? Puttylike mentions a few tips on how to be a beginner:

Focus on Doing a Little Often

Small steps every day are easier than trying to complete a project nonstop for hours. You can dedicate more time to learning about each step, which will result in a better understanding of the task in the long run. Working slowly also relieves the pressure of deadlines and allows for a discovery-based experience versus just crossing it off the to-do list. The consistency of working in increments will build a good habit allowing for effective retainment of the task.

Be Gentle With Yourself

Trying something new is inevitably going to come with frustration due to a lack of knowledge. You have to remind yourself that you are still going through the process and doing your best to get it done. The expertise and skill will eventually be learned if you keep at it; so, being good to yourself during the rough patches is very important. Self-care doesn’t pause when you take on a new challenge.

Keep a Journal

Depending on what the task relates to, you may want to keep a record of the good and the bad days during your journey. If it is starting a new business, you can reflect on your mistakes and document the wins as they come. Even with a new skill you can say what worked the best and what didn’t to potentially teach someone else. This will also give you motivation to keep at your skill, as you will be writing it down consistently and have a record of your progress.

Share the Experience

Support is a major factor in succeeding in life. Seek advice or help from those around you while you navigate this new experience; chances are, they may have some valuable insight you may have not known about. At the same time, taking photos and posting about it may inspire you to keep going on the days that are difficult and those around you hype up your progress.

Celebrate the Small Wins

Did you finally figure out part of that skill that you were struggling with? A small celebration would be a great way to motivate you to continue. These small steps will add up eventually to the final result, so celebrating successes large and small is important. Get some close friends together, unwind with your achievement and get ready to keep at it with the next step.

Reminding yourself that everyone starts off somewhere is a great way to take that first step. Believe in yourself and your capabilities to learn something new. You never know until you try.