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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.