“Introduction to Entrepreneurship” is the first class an entrepreneurship student takes at LMU. The class is taught by Jason D’Mello, a 2010 LMU MBA alumnus and serial entrepreneur who brings real-world experience to the classroom. In his three years as a faculty member, Jason’s had the opportunity to do what he does best: get students excited about entrepreneurship and help them develop their ideas into real businesses.
“LMU students are so driven,” said Jason. “I’m continually astounded to see these students hold their own with Silicon Beach investors. Their enthusiasm and energy makes me want to up my game!”
Jason’s resume is already strong thanks to his involvement with multiple startups, educational partnerships and community outreach programs. He’s also a talented musician and producer with the Louisville-based band, Jenna Dean. Jason’s entrepreneurial pursuits have taken him all over the U.S., yet Los Angeles is where he calls home – a culturally-diverse city bursting with creative energy.
“I got the entrepreneurship bug about a year into living in California,” said Jason, a Michigan native with a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Western Michigan University. “I was working for Walmart.com at the time and YouTube had just launched. There was a lot of buzz and excitement about being in Silicon Valley.”
Soon after launching his first startup, a wedding planning app called TheWedLink, Jason realized he needed to learn more about the business of entrepreneurship. He enrolled in LMU’s MBA Program.
“LMU was my first and only choice for my MBA,” said Jason. “The university had a great reputation for entrepreneurship and I liked that I could take classes in the evening while continuing to build my business.”
Jason launched the app as a student but changed course in the last semester of his MBA.
“My father actually brought up the idea of me becoming a professor,” said Jason. “I couldn’t see myself in a corporate job and I really wanted to get people excited and passionate about entrepreneurship. I saw how many lives Professor Kiesner impacted and I wanted to do the same.”
Jason listened to his dad’s advice and enrolled in the University of Louisville’s doctoral program in entrepreneurship. Around this time, Louisville’s gun violence was at an all-time high and a sense of paranoia had overtaken the racially-divided city. Jason became very involved in the community and sought ways to make the situation better.
“Louisville is where I became a social entrepreneur,” said Jason. “The city has a natural entrepreneurial spirit and I was able to apply my action-based research for my Ph.D. requirements and start a few businesses there.”
One of those businesses is still thriving and making a real difference in the community. AMPED – which stands for Academy of Music Production Education and Development – is a non-profit youth program that focuses on music and aims to provide a safe and productive environment for youth to explore their creativity through music.
Music has always been a huge part of Jason’s life and a source of inspiration. His band Jenna Dean recently released the music video for a powerful ballad called “Prayer.” The song promotes a strong message of unity, hope and compassion at a time when there is so much hatred going on in the world.
For the “Prayer” video, Jason enlisted the help of a former LMU entrepreneurship student, Sydney Strabala ’16. Initially hired to run the publicity and press, Sydney ended up stepping into a creative director role by co-producing the music video, designing the album artwork, and painting the 25 ft. mural in Louisville featured in the video.
“Dr. D’Mello was my first entrepreneurship professor at LMU and is now someone I consider to be a good friend,” said Sydney. “Working with an up-and-coming band like Jenna Dean is similar to working for a startup. I was excited to develop Jenna Dean as a ‘business’ using all the tools I acquired through my education at LMU.”
Sydney founded her own business during her LMU studies called the Underground Society, a conscious community for creative and personal growth.
“Being a part of the LMU community gave me a support system that I still benefit from post grad,” added Sydney.
In only a few weeks since its release, the “Prayer” video is resonating with audiences, especially throughout the Louisville community. The band will release a full album this summer.
“Making this album was one of the most rewarding creative experiences,” said Jason. “We want to make music that starts conversations, promotes social good and makes a big impact.”
Jason is going a step further with his next entrepreneurial venture: an effort that ties the future of music into social causes.
“I’ve always loved businesses that raise money for charities,” said Jason. “I’m currently pitching brands that already work with charities to do a campaign. Wouldn’t it be nice if every time a music video is watched online, a brand contributes money toward a charity? I want to integrate music with corporate social responsibility and social media – this has the potential to make a major impact.”