He's not French. But, business major Joe Pielago, a Los Angeles
native who founded the urban streetwear clothing company VOILA in his hometown, won up to
$24,000 to put toward his education as the NASE Future Entrepreneur for 2009.
Being named Future Entrepreneur for 2009 by the National
Association for the Self-Employed was something akin to winning the lottery or
a television game show for University
of San Francisco
freshman Joe Pielago.
A business major focusing on entrepreneurship at USF’s
School of Business and Professional Studies, Pielago has been awarded up to
$24,000 to put toward his education as part of the NASE prize.
“It was kind of like a movie,” said Pielago, a Los Angeles
native who founded the clothing company VOILA Los Angeles in January 2008. “I
didn’t really believe it until they showed up with a huge check for me.”
VOILA specializes in T-shirts and hats with a hip-hop flare
favored by skateboarders and young urbanites.
An admitted eccentric who prefers to be his own boss,
Pielago, now 18, said he has long harbored ambitions to do something bigger,
something different. Depending on the demands of school, he can work 20 hours
or more in a week for VOILA, managing his four employees, among them his
younger brother and a childhood friend.
The largest such scholarship in the country and the only one
devoted to fostering entrepreneurship in college-bound students, NASE's Future
Entrepreneur award has been a tremendous asset to Pielago achieving his
“I knew that my high school education would not provide me
with enough of a background to meet my ambitions,” Pielago said. “After
researching what colleges had to offer, I decided I needed to be a business
major with a strong emphasis on entrepreneurship.”
Among the top-25 ranked schools in the nation for “most entrepreneurial
campuses,” according to Forbes magazine
and The Princeton Review, USF
was an easy choice. “Plus, San Francisco is a big player in the street clothing
industry,” Pielago said.
Inspired by the strong work ethic from his parents – his
father, an NASE member, owns his own CPA practice and his mother was a
commercial furniture saleswoman – Pielago saw a startup clothing company as the
perfect opportunity to combine his leadership skills, his artistic style, and
his love of fashion.
“To quote Johnny Tsunami, ‘Go big or go home,’” said
Pielago, referencing the main character in the Disney Channel original movie of
the same name.
Big indeed. While many small businesses are struggling to
stay afloat Pielago’s VOILA Los Angeles is looking to expand through networking
among his USF professors and upper-classmen.
“I am trying to build a new VOILA team in the Bay Area and
need a graphic designer, marketing expert, advertising representative, and so
forth,” Pielago said.