More than 100 aspiring business gurus packed a South Texas College conference center recently to pick the brains of local entrepreneurs.

The college’s Rio South Texas Entrepreneurship Summit brought a power house line up of successful business pros, including Alonzo Cantu, owner of Cantu Construction and one of the region’s leading entrepreneurs; Brent Smith, business banking manager for Wells Fargo; Fernando Gonzalez, executive director of the Regional Center for Innovation and Commercialization; and Robert Melvin, vice president of operations and small business advocate for the Emerging Technology Fund.

“The reason I do all I do is to create employment,” explained Cantu when referring to his interests in Cantu Construction, Lone Star National Bank, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, Peppers and the Vipers. “I employ more than 5,000 people, either directly or indirectly. I believe in the Valley and encourage you to work and stay here and to get as much education as you can because education is the best way to change your quality of life.”

Audience members had a rare opportunity to ask Cantu direct questions about his business philosophy and get advice for their own businesses.

“Work hard and love what you do,” he said. “Stay focused. When you tell someone you will do something, do it. Credibility is everything. Don’t focus in on the bottom line. Focus on doing the right think. If you do that, the money will be there. Also, focus on quality service. If you take care of your customers, you will get repeat and referral business, which is the basis for all my business.”

When asked about his role models for success, his response was simple.

“Your parents have a lot of influence in your life,” he concluded. “My parents brought us here and for them, getting educated was very important. They were very influential so parental involvement is very important in a person’s success.”

The summit also featured a panel discussion of entrepreneurs providing advice on how to get projects funded. Participants included Leticia Guerra, publisher of “Valley Wedding Pages”; Bob Pourgoi, CEO of SiteSelect McAllen; Steve Taylor, editor of the “Rio Grande Guardian”; Dr. Marina T. Villalobos, owner of Bella Vista Eye Care PLLC; and Hector Dominguez, a local agent/owner of an Allstate Insurance branch.

“One thing I learned was to get out of an environment that held me working nights and weekends, said Guerra. “I had to go back to school and learn to put together a business plan and budget because it is extremely crucial to what you do in your business. You have to have a vision and be able to convey it in a strong way to get others believing in it.”