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Entrepreneurial Transition
Alonzo Williams, Eller Executive MBA ’07
Vice President of Operations, Family Life Communications

By Liz Warren-Pederson

Alonzo Williams earned his undergraduate degree in political science at the UA and began his career working in the nonprofit sector. “The common mistake often made in the nonprofit sector is that there is a lack of focus on making a profit,” he said. “Many organizations are often too focused on the mission. But if there is no profit margin, there can be no mission. It was this experience along with the desire to take my executive skills to the next level that sparked me to further my education at Eller.”

Alonzo Williams and Planet Smoothie staff

Alonzo Williams, Eller MBA ’07, with staff of the Planet Smoothie frozen yogurt franchise he opened with his family recently in northwest Tucson.

Williams entered the inaugural class of the Eller Executive MBA in Scottsdale. In the time since completing the program, he has been busy. “I served as board chairman for two nationally known nonprofits and I experienced a significant increase in responsibilities and executive oversight as the chief operations officer and vice president of business operations for Family Life Communications,” he said. That role encompasses legal, human resources, MIS, facilities, engineering, FCC compliance, business operations, and strategic planning.

“I have also been involved in a technology venture as a member of the executive leadership team,” he said. The company is a Microsoft Bizspark startup venture, in which he serves as the chief operating officer. “It is a company dedicated to creating the next disruptive innovation in the mobile media social service,” he said.

Finally, in partnership with his wife, Williams opened a Planet Smoothie franchise, a frozen yogurt and smoothie bar in North Tucson. “We offer only the finest of all-natural and healthy ingredients and grab-n-go products,” he said.

Williams credits his then 11-year-old son with the idea to open Planet Smoothie. “My wife was looking for a new business concept for us to get involved in,” he said. “As a family, we were smoothie consumers, but we were increasingly becoming disappointed in the poor quality of ingredients often used in smoothie bars around town. So we decided as a family to dive in to it and open Planet Smoothie.”

Meanwhile, he continued to work with Family Life Communications. He said balancing the new venture with his existing career was challenging at first. “During the early stages of concept design, construction buildout, and setting up the business licenses and permits, I was the most engaged,” he said. “Today, my wife serves as the CEO and interim manager, I’m the COO, and both of our children are involved at various levels.” They also employ a staff of eight high school and college-age youth.

“Without the Eller MBA experience I can honestly say that I would not have taken on the entrepreneurial opportunity of opening a frozen yogurt and smoothie bar, nor serve on the executive team of a Microsoft Bizspark startup,” he said. “My Eller Executive MBA experience has forever changed the way I think and conduct business.”

In addition to the educational experience and the relationships he developed within his cohort, Williams said that “the program has provided me a level of preparation and experience in business administrative oversight that will carry me a lifetime.”

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