–By Brittany Torres Rivera for FIU News
Joel Gandara is the CEO and founder of Morro Capital, a privately-owned e-commerce apparel company with a portfolio of more than 20 men’s apparel brands. He immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba in 1980 on an overcrowded boat full of hopes and dreams.
Having always had an entrepreneurial spirit, Gandara made his first business moves in the fourth grade, earning $30 a day by buying stamps, trading cards, and selling them to his classmates. He graduated from the Honors College with a bachelor’sin international relations and a minor in business. As a result of his Honors College curriculum, Gandara says he gained an “addiction to learning” in the form of reading books. He is grateful for this “addiction” because it has led him to read more than a thousand books since his time at FIU.
He also credits his success to the relationships he formed at FIU and the Honors College. A friendship with a professor led him to his first mentor who guided him “through challenges as well as great opportunities.”
After graduation, Gandara decided to take a big risk on his dreams: he left his steady job and dedicated himself full-time to his apparel company. After a few years of selling other people’s brands, he successfully created his own underwear brand, which retailed $1 million within his first 13 months of business.
Having become the businessman he is today through mentorship, he is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business executives unlock their full potential in their given industry and in life.
Gandara now gives back to FIU in many ways whether it’s mentoring students through a three mile run or getting to have lunch with the Honors College Dean’s Scholars. He acknowledges the importance of a guiding figure in the lives of young professionals saying, “I made mistakes (as we all do) when I was younger. If I would have had mentors from an earlier age, I believe I would have either avoided some more mistakes or at least rebounded from them more effectively.”
Gandara says he is on a mission to change lives and empower future entrepreneurs, especially these bright Honors College students.
“Being able to reach hard-working, intelligent, young people before they get out in the world excites me because I think I can make the most impact there,” says Gandara, which is why he is glad to give these students what he most values: his time.
Most recently, Gandara was a featured guest on the Honors College’s podcast series More Than a Major, where he offered advice to students on entrepreneurship, growth and making the most out of time and energy.
For his contributions to the FIU community, his success and innovation, Joel Gandara was honored with an FIU Torch Award in 2014, the university’s highest honor bestowed on alumni. He has also been invited to provide mentorship to the Honors College Dean’s Scholars program and has worked closely with Dean Juan Carlos Espinosa to innovate Honors for current and future students.
Gandara says he hopes to inspire people to accomplish things they never dreamt possible and help them along their journey.