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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Founder of Lucky Brand Jeans speaks about journey to success

Aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners listened to former owner of Lucky Brand Jeans speak about the creativity of his craft.

The Santa Barbara County Small Business Development Center sponsored the event, which offered a look at Gene Montesano’s journey to success. The innovator shared his passion of stretching his horizons, from making jeans and selling them at $70 each to opening several restaurants in Santa Barbara county.

“I could never imagine not doing what I like to do…,” Montesano said. “I can never stop being creative.”

The lecture was held on Friday afternoon in the Fe Bland Forum, and was part of the Scheinfeld Center’s Enlightened Entrepreneurship Series.

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On the stage Montesano sat with Melissa Moreno, dean of business and professional development studies, the moderator for the entire speech.

A north Miami Beach native, Montesano started as a worker in a store called The Red Hanger where he met his future partner Barry Perlman.

Montesano and Perlman opened their own store Four Way Street, using money owed by the manager of The Red Hanger and inheritance money left by Perlman’s grandfather.

“We had plenty of ideas and some drive. We didn’t have a lot of money so we started creating by hand,” Montesano said. “In the store, jeans were being purchased in the front end and I would be in the back, making leather bags.”

With an attentive crowd hanging onto every word Montesano spoke, he continued to depart more encouraging words onto the listening audience.

“You have to love your idea and believe in it,” he said. “I always found wrong in something and I wanted to fix it.”

After co-founding Bongo Jeans, falling for a woman and left when the company cost $60 million in the late 1980’s, Montesano started Lucky Brand Jeans as his first solo venture.

Stretching his limbs into more creative endeavors, Montesano became interested in fine dining.

“I traveled to Italy and I went to this small restaurant that seemed to only fit eight people inside,” he said. “It was not about business, it was about making a family.”

What began as a small trip out of the United States turned into an inspiration to open his own restaurants in Southern California.

One audience member asked where his inspiration for entrepreneurship came from.

“I’ve always wanted to make stuff. It’s who you are,” said Montesano, before a round of applause from the audience.

Mohammed Elfragabi, City College student and international business major, said he appreciated how Montesano’s view on business wasn’t filled with jargon.

“The speech was beautiful. You didn’t have to think about it in a technical way,” Elfragabi said. “You had to feel it.”

Montesano’s appearance was well received by the students, who approached the entrepreneur with questions and praise during the reception after the speech.

“He really emphasized how different things were back then,” said Violet Cota, global program coordinator for the Scheinfeld Center. “He was really encouraging.”

The sky turned orange as Montesano left the center at sunset, leaving behind a batch of future entrepreneurs to discuss new ideas with their peers.

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