"I've done almost everything I've wanted to do. . .," says Oriana Lehman Wood ('96). She graduated from the University of Arizona with degrees in Entrepreneurship and Marketing, earned her MBA at Florida International University in International Business, traveled the world and managed hundreds of millions in revenue for British Airways, US Airways in San Diego and Phoenix, and ultimately brought in over six million dollars in wish-granting money over two years in sponsorship with the Make-A-Wish Foundation National Office. Lehman Wood prides herself on the fact that she was able to accomplish all of the above while having three kids, "4 1/2" dogs, and hiking the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim in one day, four years in a row. As she says, "Then I became entrepreneur. Well, I always was. I just now actually pay an accountant to show me my P&Ls to make sure I'm not screwing it up! So far, so good!"
5 Questions with Oriana Lehman Wood ('96)
Q. What is most surprising about being an entrepreneur?
A. How liberating and daunting it is at the exact same moment. The success of your business depends on your own efforts and your availability to work well with others whom you need in your sphere: clients, support staff, employees, vendors, b2b partners -- but at the same time, you are self-reliant and knowing it rests with you and your efforts produce your outcome is both equally liberating and daunting.
Q. What was the most important lesson you learned in the Entrepreneurship Program?
A. Stay connected to your network and always go after what you want - no stopping you - ever. No is never the final answer. Plus get good at talking with your teaching staff and advisors - they are an immense wealth of knowledge, support and connection. The 4 key ingredients to a successful business: a mentor, advisor/coach, knowledge, support staff and working to stay connected to EVERYONE!
Q. What impact has the Entrepreneurship Program had on your career or life?
A. Confidence. The single most significant impact is the graduation with an impressive degree that gave me confidence to go after anything I wanted to achieve — because I had worked so hard and partnered so successfully through a real-world experience, yet in a safety net. I gained an immense, amplified confidence that has made me unstoppable since.
Fun Fact: “I performed a flying trapeze act in front of 500 of my colleagues ... while wearing a fuchsia & orange leotard.”
Q. What do you consider your biggest entrepreneurial success?
A. Currently owning and operating five successful residential and vacation rental businesses simultaneously, profitably in multiple states with learning curves, curveballs, grace and gratitude! And for the ability to navigate and manage that and an absolutely busy and blessed life with three kids, a Wildcat husband and two chocolate labs at my side all the way, based in Paradise literally . . . Paradise Valley, AZ. And ultimately following in an entrepreneurial life that was imparted on me by former Phi Kappa Si honoree and U of A Alumnae and U of A Italian teacher, and my mother, “Bear Down” Bianca Lehman with my Masters degree (‘86). She was the ultimate pioneer and entrepreneur of her generation, starting a textile business in Milan, Italy in the late 60's, which I was named after, Oriana, in Italy, marrying my Wildcat father Warren Lehman (‘69), and having me class of ‘96 and my Wildcat brother, Dr. Stefano Lehman, MD (‘95). She is one my igniting catalysts to pursue entrepreneurship and the degree in the first place and why I am so inspired to pursue this self-sustaining dream and torture!
Q. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
A. Go after it and go after it hard. Never say die and don’t take “no” for an answer. It’s not an answer, it’s a roadblock. Find a way. If you want it, make it happen. It will not be easy, but nothing good or worth doing ever is. Earn it and enjoy it. Stumble, and get back up. Give someone a hand up when you can, and don’t look back. You aren’t going that way.