On the evening of Thursday, March 19, LMU’s Roski Dining Room was transformed into a swanky venue to welcome Jason Felts, CEO of Virgin Produced, as part of the Hilton Distinguished Entrepreneur Lecture Series. With Virgin’s signature purple lighting on full display, the event organizers – made up of mostly LMU students – created a fun and creative environment evocative of the Virgin brand.
Virgin Produced is the film, television and new media content development, packaging and production arm of the Virgin Group. As one of the youngest CEOs in the company, Felts has built Virgin Produced into a global brand that puts quality and innovation first. Named by Variety as one of the “Top 10 Producers to Watch,” Felts is creating a new approach to premium television and commercial branded entertainment and is expanding the company into India, China and South America.
Guests mixed and mingled over drinks and tacos before sitting down to an exclusive Q&A with Felts. Moderated by Entrepreneurship Professor Jason D’Mello, Felts answered a series of questions on how he became involved with the Virgin brand, his leadership style, company culture and lessons learned on his ascension to the top.
Though Felts is young, hip and making a lot of money, he is surprisingly grounded and grateful for the opportunities that have come his way. He couldn’t say enough great things about what it’s like to have Sir Richard Branson as a boss. It was refreshing to learn that Felts strongly believes in the power of saying “thank you” and that you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with.
“Yes, my business card has a fancy title, but I would be nowhere without the support of my incredible team,” said Felts. “This is a very demanding industry – you end up working really long hours and have to make sacrifices – that’s why I’m a big believer in establishing a fun and creative work environment that spurs innovation.”
In conjunction with Felts’ appearance, Virgin Produced teamed up with the Fred Kiesner Center for Entrepreneurship and the LMU Entrepreneurship Society to organize a music video contest for LMU students looking to gain exposure from one of the world’s most innovative companies. Felts announced the winner at the event – Hailey Rowe, a junior entrepreneurship major and aspiring singer. Her music video for “Don’t Need Your Approval” will be featured onboard all Virgin America flights starting this spring and seen by over a million passengers!
“I’m so excited to be associated with the Virgin brand!” said Rowe. “It’s such a fun and exciting organization. Thank you to the LMU Entrepreneurship Program for sponsoring such a cool contest.”
Felts chose Rowe as the winner because “her music video was right on brand with the Virgin Group and had a very entrepreneurial theme in its message about not needing approval.” Rowe was invited onstage to perform two songs live in front of the audience to showcase her singing chops. Guests were also treated to a special 40-minute acoustic set by Shelby Spalione, an emerging artist from Southern California with the energy and vocal styling reminiscent of Gwen Stefani.
“This was my first time at LMU and I am blown away by the hospitality and all the work that went into making this event successful,” said Felts.