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Jesse Torres

Episode 099

Bypassing Fear into 10 Careers

Jesse Torres is principal and founder of ArroyoWest LLC, a minority-owned management consulting firm specializing in economic and workforce development. ArroyoWest clients include major economic development agencies, community colleges, chambers of commerce, corporations, and other organizations, and the project have range from helping to stand up COVID-19 relief programs for small businesses to helping to devise strategy for the implementation of regional workforce initiatives. Jesse is also the co-founder and president of Small Business Front Inc., a community building and media startup focused on small business, and he is the creator and co-host of the entrepreneurship podcast “Hack My Business.”

Before starting ArroyoWest and Small Business Front, Jesse served as Small Business Advocate for the State of California and Deputy Director of Small Business and Innovation for Governor Brown’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz). During his three-year tenure at GO-Biz, Jesse was successful in securing more than $108 million in state general funds to provide match and capacity building grants for the federal small business technical assistance providers operating in California that were subsequently made permanent in 2022.

Jesse also administered a portfolio of high-profile programs including the state’s Innovation Hub (iHub) Network, the state’s defense supplier diversification and cyber resiliency program, CASCADE, the California Cybersecurity IT Health Advisory Board, and the California Cyber Innovation Challenge. He also led small business recovery efforts for GO-Biz following major disasters including the 2017 Northern California firestorm and Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.

Prior to joining GO-Biz in 2015, Jesse served as Regional Director for the Los Angeles Small Business Development Center Network, and he is also former Director of Alumni Affairs for the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University.

Jesse is Board Chair for Union Station Homeless Services, Board Chair for California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity, and is a Commissioner for the City of Los Angeles Small Business Commission. Jesse received his MBA from Pepperdine University and Bachelor of Arts, Psychology from UCLA.

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Jesse Torres Quotes

  • “It’s hard not to feel yourself just become embedded in the fabric of the community, especially where I live in South Pasadena. It’s just a walkable city; it’s just a strong community vibe.”
  • “We’re really blessed to have so much riches around [the community] here in the San Gabriel Valley.”
  • “I remember thinking in my head, nobody here knows who I am. They don’t know anything about me. I can decide to be anybody I want to be. So, why not be the guy that goes and asks this girl out?”
  • “I think [why I loved writing] was the ability to story tell. Even if you are doing an interview with somebody, capturing what is unique about them or what they are trying to achieve – or even structuring a documentary.”
  • “For any young person, I’ve had about ten different careers in my life. My path has never been linear, and I’ve taken something from every one of those jobs that I’ve had.”
  • “The best thing you can do if you think you want to go into a career is take an internship and explore it, research it, and understand it. So you fully understand if this is the world you want to go into.”
  • Jesse is the principal of ArroyoWest, a minority-owned management consulting firm.
  • Jesse lives in South Pasadena and has lived in the SGV for about ten years.
  • He is a proud history buff of Los Angeles.
  • Jesse attended UCLA and was the first in his family to attend college. Then he earned his MBA from Pepperdine University.
  • Jesse has worked many jobs but feels they have all been steps on his path to learning and landing in a better place.


What is Jesse’s connection to the San Gabriel Valley?

Jesse grew up in San Fernando Valley, but his wife grew up in South Pasadena, so when they got married, they moved to San Gabriel.

It is truly because of his wife that he is such a fan of SGV.

He also grew up in the area where the film, Karate Kid, was filmed. However, he doesn’t remember the filming of it completely.


Does Jesse consider himself a part of the SGV community now?

Jesse does. He finds it hard not to feel yourself become embedded into the fabric of the community. He loves that it is a walkable city with a strong community that is easy to fall into.

He feels this is especially true where he lives now in South Pasadena, but he felt this strong pull into the community in San Gabriel as well.

The mix of diversity is such a blessing for members of the San Gabriel Valley. He’s lived in the SGV for ten years.

South Pasadena is different than Pasadena, right?

It is a different vibe. With so many resources nearby, he feels like it is a bit like its own ecosystem.

He recommends exploring the Southern part of South Pasadena and especially Cawston Ostrich Ranch. It’s tied to the older history of Los Angeles, which Jesse Torres finds fascinating.

You’ll even find many historical placards in the area.

What was it like growing up in Reseda, CA, before moving to the SGV?

He enjoyed growing up in Reseda in the San Fernando Valley.

For Jesse, it was Southern California in the 80s. That is how he will always remember it. It was the mall culture; Frank Zappa was huge, with lots of swimming pools and hopping neighbors’ walls.

It is the imagery you think of from the movies. Things changed quickly in the 90s when Jesse Torres was in high school.

He remembers his neighborhood demographics changing, going from Jewish, then Latino and then Philippine. He loved it; he was able to interact with people from so many different cultures.

It was a strong diversification movement. However, he also noticed a shift into more poverty.

Where did Jesse’s journey go after high school?

Jesse Torres attended UCLA as an undergraduate. He was the first in his family to go to college.

He didn’t really understand what the college experience was going to be like, his family had no experience, and he was relying on his friends.

Jesse actually met his wife on his very first day of school. He convinced himself, a natural introvert, to approach this girl and ask her out. Even though she had a boyfriend at the time, they eventually started dating and got married.

He finds it ironic that he originally was so shy but is now considered a master networker.

Where did Jesse’s journey go from here?

ER was a big influence on Jesse; he and his friends wanted to be a doctor like George Clooney.

However, after taking organic chemistry, he realized this was not his path. He was a psychology major and was a bit concerned about what he was going to do.

He had extra credits to take to graduate, and he took English, which is where Jesse discovered his passion for writing.

Jesse became an intern editor at the UCLA Alumni Magazine. His first job was working at the LA Weekly, an alternative newspaper in Los Angeles.

He got a job working at the USC School of Medicine but brought in all of his UCLA paraphernalia. His boss actually threw all of his items away, but they were retrieved by a different employee from the trash.

What is it that Jesse Torres does now?

Jesse Torres has his own firm, ArroyoWest LLC, which is a consulting firm for economic and workforce development.

Essentially, Jesse and his team help agencies and programs create worker development or a small business community. They kind of view themselves as problem solvers.

It is often process-based and created specifically on what an agency’s main issue might be.

ArroyoWest LLC was started in 2019, right before the COVID-19 pandemic.

How did Jesse find his passion?

He wanted to write still, even if it wasn’t for a newspaper or magazine. So, being part of a startup was very helpful for him. Each of his many jobs has helped shape his skill set, including fundraising opportunities, leadership, and communication skills.

Jesse Torres is a big fan of learning and admits to using ArroyoWest LLC as an opportunity to continually learn with freedom.

Does Jesse have a fear of failure?

Jesse acknowledges at certain times, he must provide a unique or original idea to push things along, and this is when he finds himself experiencing the most anxiety.

A crucial skill, in Jesse Torres’ mind, is being able to gracefully accept criticism and suggestions. Being open to criticism and feedback is powerful.

Jesse does his best to stay calm, too. Artistic and creative people often carry a lot of emotions. Jesse, on the other hand, has found that he often can remove emotion from the work, which makes taking criticism and thoughts easier.

The COVID-19 Pandemic also showed Jesse and the United States that those that did not cave into fear were the ones that succeeded and grew.

Picture of Jesse Torres

Jesse Torres

The Rose Bowl – which is fantastic for runners, as it is exactly 3 miles around.

Arroyo Seco – A local nature preserve

Cos & Pi – A restaurant near Jesse’s home that he loves and also has a connection with through the pandemic