Belmont Professor of Entrepreneurship Jose Gonzalez was recently inducted into the Nashville Entrepreneur Center’s (EC) Hall of Fame. Created to recognize entrepreneurs in the Nashville area that support the community in unique ways, Gonzalez was honored, along with his business partner Renata Soto, for his work with Conexion Americas, a local nonprofit he co-founded.
Created in 2002 to address the challenges and opportunities for Latino families in Middle Tennessee, Conexion Americas assists individuals and families with navigating life in Nashville including buying homes, creating businesses, improving language skills, working within the education system and bettering their lives, among others. In 2012, the organization founded Casa Azafran, ‘a home for all’ where collective nonprofits service Nashville’s refugee and immigrant populations.
Because Gonzalez has a full-time position at Belmont, his day to day interactions with Conexion are more limited than when the organization was created. In addition to working closely with Soto, Conexion’s executive director, Gonzalez said his efforts are mainly devoted to strategic planning and financial oversight. As an entrepreneur and professor of entrepreneurship, Gonzalez also teaches throughout the year to aspiring Latino entrepreneurs at Conexion.
Though Gonzalez said he is honored to accept the EC’s induction, the real credit lies beyond his work with Conexion. “It certainly is a humbling honor for Conexion Americas to be recognized as an example in entrepreneurial success,” he said. “This recognition should be shared with the hundreds of volunteers, board members and supporters that believed in us at the beginning and continue to support us through today.”
Though passionate about entrepreneurship, Gonzalez said his heart is equally devoted to his passion for international education as he leads students each year on multiple trips, which include a dose of entrepreneurship, across the globe. Fittingly, he was unable to attend the EC’s induction ceremony on Thursday, April 19 because of a study abroad trip to Argentina where cross-cultural teams are developing business concepts to pitch in a competition.
For the classroom, Gonzalez said his time and experience with Conexion has immensely contributed to his teaching. “The fact that entrepreneurship is part of our mindset at Conexion allows me to bring examples and current stories to my class,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve been taking my classes there for a few years and students really enjoy seeing the model and often end up interning, volunteering or connecting with entrepreneurs that operate out of CA.”
When thinking back about where his love for entrepreneurship was fueled, Gonzalez points to his time as a Belmont student. “My entrepreneurial journey was ignited while I was a student at Belmont. The concepts, ideas and experiences I was exposed to triggered something in me that desired the development of an entrepreneurial mindset,” Gonzalez said. “Conexion Americas would not have happened without my Belmont education. I’m honored and glad I get to bring those experiences back to Belmont today in my role as professor.”