2007 Gainesville grad and podcast guest is now a ‘serial entrepreneur’ in St. Louis
Gainesville High School graduate Quentin Ortega was recently featured on a popular podcast, “Entrepreneurially thinking,” hosted by St. Louis executives and experienced entrepreneurs Christy Maxfield and Cheryl Watkins-Moore. In the 40-minute, laughter-filled interview (listen to it at EntrepreneuriallyThinking.com), Quentin says his entrepreneurial tendencies were evident by age 5, when he asked for a briefcase for his birthday. “I kept some colored paper in there,” he said, laughing.
Quentin told the podcast hosts he graduated “from a really great small school” where his business teacher (the late Patsy Hambelton), found a state grant program that helped provide funds for a student start-up business. A 2007 story in the Times described the DJ business, Equipt for Sound, that business students Taler Nash and Shane Treat launched with Quentin serving as the DJ, providing the music for school and other local dances.
Quentin also noted, in the interview, that his hometown “was also the hometown of Roy Clark’s sound guy” (Sid Pierce, who traveled and worked with country music star Roy Clark for 20 years before returning to Gainesville to teach. He now lives at Reeds Spring and works at Branson music shows). “I was willing to learn, and he taught me a lot of stuff,” Quentin said.
After his 2007 graduation, Quentin, planning to continue his business studies, enrolled in Missouri University of Science & Technology in Rolla. In an email to the Times, he explained the choice that surprised many friends.
“I often get asked what kind of engineer I wanted to be because most people assume that you only go to Rolla for school if you want to be an engineer,” Quentin said. “But I went there for business because that was the only place that I felt was teaching new business technologies in the manner that would be relevant by the time I graduated.”
On the podcast, Quentin says he looked at several colleges, “but Rolla was the only school teaching business mainly through software. Everyone else was still doing accounting with ledgers.”
At Missouri S&T, he joined the Student Union Board, which organized large concerts. “I got involved, and that was happening as I was starting some tech companies with some people,” he said.
He and other entrepreneurial-minded students developed a company they first called IDC Projects and was renamed as Lumate. “We did anything someone would pay us to build or fix: websites and apps, we designed products, even worked on some projects for nuclear power plants in New York State. We did a little of everything,” he said.
Soon the students’ little company pivoted to respond to the growing demand for applications (“apps”) for the iPhone, which had been introduced in mid-2007.
In spring 2011, Quentin graduated from Missouri S&T with a Bachelor of Science degree in business and management systems and a minor in economics. He stayed on in Rolla to continue working with the student-led startup company – and also began working on an MBA degree.
He continued working on the graduate degree when Lumate moved to St. Louis after being awarded an Arch Grant. He finished his MBA in spring 2014 and also graduated with a certificate for management for sustainable business.
As Lumate continued to grow, Quentin began working with several other technology companies to help them grow as well. He spent the next year doing freelance consulting and then worked two and a half years in what he calls a “corporate business operations job” while continuing to “mentor startup technology companies by serving as the Square One Bootcamp Technology Track leader at the CET and as Entrepreneur in Residence for ITEN, a non-profit dedicated to helping entrepreneurs in the technology space.”
Quentin was also invited to join the board of Johego, a non-profit technology organization that works to improve the process of finding services to help those in need.
As if all that isn’t enough to keep him busy, most recently Quentin has been independently working in operations consulting, negotiation consulting and “fractional management,” which entails spending a set amount of time with various companies acting as their chief operating officer or other executive during a time of transition or some other time of need for the company.
“These paths allow me to work with many different companies, both in and out of St. Louis, to help them grow and optimize what they do,” Quentin said.
Today, he describes a tech company as “any company using innovative technology to solve a problem. This could be medical devices to new apps for your phone to a backpack with a charger built into it... the range is very big.”
Quentin, described as a “serial entrepreneur” by the podcast hosts, lives in St. Louis but sometimes travels for his work. He enjoys spending time with girlfriend Allie Layos, managing editor of Saddle & Bridle Magazine. Although he’s a city dweller now, Quentin, the son of Randy and Betty Ortega and grandson of Phil Ortega and Velma Strong, credits his family and his hometown with getting him off to a good start.
“My time in Gainesville, and the people I met while growing up there have been the foundation upon which I built my career. I will never be able to fully express my gratitude to those who knew and helped me along the way,” he said. “Most importantly I wouldn't be where I am or able to do the things I do without the support of my parents and grandparents. They have, and continue to be, my biggest supporters.”