Across America, small business owners are at the heart of communities. They create jobs, 1 support the local economy and help the dreamers in all of us see it is possible to turn a good idea into a viable business. Ten percent of University of Phoenix® alumni currently own their own businesses, according to the University's 2015 annual alumni survey. 2

"It is not surprising that a significant number of University of Phoenix graduates are business owners because entrepreneurism takes resiliency, and this is inherent in many of our students," said Ruth Veloria, executive dean of University of Phoenix School of Business. "We are proud of our students, faculty and alumni who are often juggling work, family and school and find it within themselves to also pursue their own ventures."

This Small Business Week, University of Phoenix congratulates innovative alumni who are realizing their dreams and running successful businesses, and highlights their experiences using higher education as the foundation for their entrepreneurial aspirations.
  • Albert Giacomazzi, Santa Clarita, Calif., Owner, AMG & Associates, Inc. - Giacomazzi earned both his bachelor's degree and MBA at University of Phoenix. AMG & Associates, a general contracting business with expertise in all aspects of construction from conceptual design through occupancy, was formed by Giacomazzi in 2006 and has been named to the Inc. 5000 four out of the last five years. Additionally, in 2015, the Los Angeles Business Journal recognized AMG as one of the fastest growing companies in Los Angeles County. According to Giacomazzi, since he opened the doors, his company's revenues have quadrupled, and are projected to grow an additional 10-15 percent this year.

"As a business owner, each day I face unique challenges that vary in nature considerably. The education I received at University of Phoenix has given me the necessary tools to better deal with any issue regardless of the complexity," said Giacomazzi. "Both of my degrees have given me the confidence and determination to run my company and engage in problem-solving issues of all types."
  • Felicia Evans Long, Rockville, Md., Owner, Sweet Events and Planning, LLC and Sweet Candy Café - Felicia Evans Long started Sweet Events and Planning in 2008, the same year she earned her MBA from University of Phoenix. The Washington, D.C.-area event planning company has been featured in The Knot DC Wedding Magazine and was named the "Sweetest Booth" by the Washington Bridal Showcase in 2010. In addition to running this successful business, Evans Long started a second business, Sweet Candy Café, a confectionary retail storefront in Lumberton, N.C., in 2012. Sweet Candy Café was the 2015 recipient of a grant from the MC/Manufacturing Confectionery Publishing Company of Princeton, Wisconsin. This educational grant allowed Sweet Candy Café to participate in the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago in May 2015. Both businesses have been featured in Woman's World magazine.

"The only way to get started pursuing a dream is to get started," said Evans Long. "Attaining my education at University of Phoenix armed me with the training and the confidence I needed to get started, and I am now living my dream by owning and operating two successful businesses."
  • Trellis Bernard Mercer, Detroit, Mich., Owner, LoveLifeSwagger - Trellis Bernard Mercer, aka "Bernard Bentley," graduated from University of Phoenix in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. For the past seven years, he has been growing his clothing line, " LoveLifeSwagger," in the Detroit area and beyond. Mercer's designs, currently sold in five states, have been worn by entertainers and professional athletes around the country. Mercer's company has been featured in Detroit-area and national media.

"Throughout my time at University of Phoenix, I learned the importance of living in the dual space of being a professional and a student. I learned that those two facets of my life are equally important, especially as an entrepreneur," said Mercer. "The ability to grow as a professional, while challenging myself to learn as much as I can, was part of the invaluable education I received from University of Phoenix."
  • Rebecca Scarberry, Milwaukee, Wis., Owner, Becky's Blissful Bakery - Rebecca Scarberry founded Becky's Blissful Bakery out of her home in Pewaukee, Wis., in 2007. Her business has grown exponentially since then, and her gourmet caramels can be found in fine food stores and boutiques in 35 states. Scarberry, who earned her Bachelor of Science in Business/Management from University of Phoenix, has received numerous awards, including The Milwaukee Business Journal's Forty Under 40 Award, The Business Journal's Eureka Award and the Pewaukee Chamber Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Additionally, Becky's Blissful Bakery has been featured by media across the country, and the story will be shared in an upcoming book called "The Ah-Ha Effect," featuring 18 women sharing the breakthrough moments that led to their success.

"Communication is the single most valuable tool to any business. My communications classes at University of Phoenix prepared me for the numerous presentations to clients, groups and corporations I make as a business owner," said Scarberry. "Speaking to groups and being able to connect and engage them takes great practice and experience. My business degree prepared me for the real road to business and being an entrepreneur."

"University of Phoenix commends all of our alumni who have persevered and built their own businesses," continued Veloria. "We know firsthand the challenges businesses face, and are proud to offer academic programs that are built by business leaders and reflect these dynamics; in fact, many of our faculty are business owners themselves. What is exciting is that business education is getting more customized to meet students where they are at, so options range from small, bite-sized professional development courses to accelerator programs to industry-aligned certificates and full degree programs."

For more information about University of Phoenix School of Business programs or resources for aspiring business owners, please visit the School of Business Entrepreneur page.

For general information about University of Phoenix programs, including on-time completion rates, the median debt incurred by students who completed the program and other important information, please visit phoenix.edu/programs/gainful-employment.

1 https://www.sba.gov/managing-business/running-business/energy-efficiency/sustainable-business-practices/small-business-trends and http://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2015/econ/g12-susb.pdf 2 Cheng, H. (2015, November 17). 2015 University of Phoenix Alumni survey, Research & Insights

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix is constantly innovating to help working adults move efficiently from education to careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant and engaging courses, and interactive learning can help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. As a subsidiary of Apollo Education Group, Inc. ( Nasdaq: APOL), University of Phoenix serves a diverse student population, offering associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs from campuses and learning centers across the U.S. as well as online throughout the world. For more information, visit www.phoenix.edu.

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