Alumnus Credits Lessons from St. John’s for Career Success

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Greg Aguirre ’03TCB began his journey to entrepreneurial success in the classrooms of St. John’s University. Actually, in the classroom of one professor in particular, he said.

“Anthony Gabb, Ph.D., was my industrial economics professor, and he made me see things more openly and from all perspectives,” Mr. Aguirre recalled. “To this day, that is still a philosophy that I use. Even if people hate capitalism—and that’s the essence of my business—I want to know why they hate capitalism.”

From The Peter J. Tobin College of Business to the Executive Directorship of the small business division of the US Chamber of Commerce, and now as one of Entrepreneur.com’s  “Top 10 Finance Entrepreneurs to Watch” in 2022, Mr. Aguirre, 44, has never forgotten the lessons he learned from Dr. Gabb, who retired from the University in 2019: Be open-minded, see things broadly, and always be willing to have a conversation.

Bold enough to establish a commercial lending company during one of the nation’s greatest financial crises, Mr. Aguirre understands why some would-be small-business executives see entrepreneurship as a gamble.

But to those who believe it’s not worth the risk, he says entrepreneurship is the best route to financial independence. Just look at the success he has enjoyed with U.S. Capital Source Corp., which Mr. Aguirre founded in the middle of the 2007–09 financial crisis and in the aftermath of a series of hurricanes in South Florida, where he now lives.    

“People ask me why I would start a commercial lending company during a recession and in a credit crunch,” Mr. Aguirre said. “Well, the number-one issue for entrepreneurs is always access to capital. I thought, why not put together something from that network of lenders that I have to help local small businesses rebuild?”

Mr. Aguirre built a network of commercial lenders while serving as a key executive at the US Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business advocacy organization. Hired in October 2005, within seven months he was running the small business division, helping Main Street businesses grow across the nation.

Mr. Aguirre left the organization in 2007 to work on the presidential campaign of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and subsequent local races in Miami. Once those races concluded, he established U.S. Capital Source Corp.

The company provides financing to entrepreneurs eager to build a business or to established business owners looking to expand. Consistent with the Vincentian heritage of St. John’s, the company is a believer in community service and social responsibility. In 2012, Mr. Aguirre established ACT for Small Business, a public-private partnership under the umbrella of U.S. Capital Source that helped to streamline the financing process for small and underrepresented companies impacted by disasters.   

“A lot of people in South Florida had to rebuild their businesses, but maybe they didn’t have perfect credit,” Mr. Aguirre recalled. “And after the credit crunch, standards were stricter. I had that strong network of banks and just wanted to let people know the programs that were available to them.”

Mr. Aguirre is affectionately known around his office as “the guy from Queens.” He grew up in Jackson Heights, NY, as the son of Colombian immigrants whose work ethic served as a template for Mr. Aguirre’s own entrepreneurial ambitions.

After getting married at 19, he enrolled at St. John’s and majored in Marketing. He proudly calls himself a “South Florida Johnnie” who later earned master’s degrees from The George Washington University and Nova Southeastern University. “The core values I learned at St. John’s—character, honor, care for others—are the very foundation of the free world,” he said.

More than two decades supporting small businesses has given Mr. Aguirre a unique perspective on entrepreneurship. His advice to the next generation of St. John’s small-business leaders:  Heed the lessons you learned at the University—and it does help to have a short memory.

“If you do things the way you’re supposed to, with honor, it will pay off,” Mr. Aguirre advised. “And don’t worry about the mistakes you make. Forget them. You learn from your failures, not your successes.”