Allied Universal® CEO Steve Jones Hosts Young Entrepreneurs, Delivers Keynote at Annual Entrepreneurship Awards

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Allied Universal® Global Chairman and CEO Steve Jones, Orange County School of the Arts students and Arts and Enterprise Conservatory Director Allison Bushman.

Allied Universal® Global Chairman and CEO Steve Jones, Orange County School of the Arts students and Arts and Enterprise Conservatory Director Allison Bushman.


When Allied Universal® Global Chairman and CEO Steve Jones was asked to deliver the keynote address at the Orange County Business Journal’s (OCBJ) 2023 Excellence in Entrepreneurship Awards Program, he knew who he wanted to see in the audience: the next generation of entrepreneurs.

That’s how a group of students from the Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) found themselves front row in a room of 300 business leaders – instead of in class – on a Thursday afternoon.

Six students from OCSA’s Arts and Enterprise Conservatory mixed and mingled at the event’s VIP reception; held court with marketing, DE&I, IT and HR executives; and asked networking questions like “What were you doing when you were 15 years old, like I am now?”

“The entrepreneurial spirit is something that’s there at a young age, so it’s important that we get young people excited about entrepreneurship,” Jones said. “I was very impressed by the OCSA students who were our special guests. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re on the stage accepting an OCBJ Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award one day.”

OCSA’s Arts & Enterprise Conservatory is a multidisciplinary program that provides students with the exposure and insight to become artists and entrepreneurs. In addition to foundational courses in theatre, art, dance and music, students have the opportunity to take specialized courses to learn about entrepreneurship, management, business and more.

“I was so impressed with the maturity, poise and professionalism of the students. We’re always looking to recruit talented people to join our Allied Universal team. I gave each student my business card to ensure we can stay in touch,” said Don Tefft, global chief human resources officer at Allied Universal. “Mentorship and demonstrating caring leadership are key focus areas as we work to be an Employer of Choice. I’m looking forward to hearing from the students and other opportunities to support youth in the communities we serve.”

The students and all guests listened to Jones’s keynote speech detailing his journey as an entrepreneur – starting with a shoeshine business at age seven; learning from failure; defending your dreams; and the value entrepreneurs bring to Orange County.

“To all of today’s award winners, you did it. You endured entrepreneurial challenges, and you are incredibly special. You have the grit, purpose and the ability to think big. You had an idea. You took a chance. You worked hard to get here. You should be proud yourself,” Jones said at the conclusion of his keynote speech. “Orange County should be proud of you. You’ve created jobs. You’ve helped feed families. You’ve helped put kids through college. You’ve helped pay mortgages. You contribute greatly to the vibrancy of Orange County.”

OCBJ’s Excellence in Entrepreneurship Awards Program is designed to recognize individuals who exemplify the American entrepreneurial spirit, – individuals who, by their creativity and determination, have established and nurtured successful business ventures.