Easy, easy change

New JMU alumnus Gil Welsford has a philosophy for change that is easy and universal. Be the Change intern Anthony Baracat (’13) recently sat down with Gil to find out more.

Easier than you might think

By Anthony Baracat (’13)

Recent JMU alum Gil Welsford in the lobby of Showker Hall

Gil Welsford (’12), smiling in the lobby of JMU’s Showker Hall

When I sat down with Gilbert Welsford (’12) to talk about Be the Change, and about why he is a great example, I had a couple ideas of what type of person he was. I knew about Gil, the student—a College of Business whiz kid, academic standout, university role model. There was also the “Club Gilty” Gil—fun-loving, dancing to his friend’s DJ-ing in Warren Hall. Finally, there was the businessman, the LinkedIn professional.

But the Gilbert I met looked a lot different…

First of all, it was not “Gilbert Welsford Jr.” Just “Gil,” he said. He had an ear-to-ear grin—a grin even he admitted he was famous for. He also talked much more about people than business, it seemed.

That love of people started as a love for JMU. Gil says he has no specific memory, only “walking around campus and being inspired,” he says. “You have so many vehicles to create things here, so many resources. You can’t beat it.”

The vibe of JMU got him excited—whether it was about the College of Business or a Motivational Entrepreneurship class that he taught through JMU Teach. Gil’s enthusiasm increased, as did his love for the people around him. Creating something new through hard work and collaboration was possible, Gil discovered.

He linked up with Ty Walker (’12) to found Club Gilty, an on-campus, alcohol-free nightclub.  And he and Andrew Sparks (‘12) collaborated to build Sparks Entertainment, a one-stop entertainment event planning business based in Philadelphia.

So when I asked Gil about change, he didn’t discuss new marketing strategies or how to bring in revenue or usability testing. He said you must smile.

“People feel like they have to do something big to change someone’s life, but doing small things can be so powerful.” He continues, “I truly do feel like smiling at somebody who’s sitting on the street will save their life.”

He recounted an instance during exam week, when all the busy, weary-eyed students around him shuffled into Starbucks to get in some last-minute studying. He felt empathy for them. Gil grabbed a stack of about 15 or 20 napkins and wrote little notes on each: Good luck, Smile, You can do it! After inconspicuously planting the notes, he watched his experiment unfold. Students began to talk about what had happened, asking who did it?

He said it made them smile.

Gill is still producing smiles. After graduating last May, he is involved in two current ventures, Sparks Entertainment and ValveMan, a business he runs with his father who Gil says is his best friend, role model and now partner. Both enterprises involve fewer than 10 people on the job site. It keeps him going—not having to compete and overwork in a large corporation, but interacting with his friends and family is his own arena of change.

“That’s not why I live on this earth—for business. Not because I want a lot of money—well, so I can earn a lot of money to give it away, change peoples’ lives.”

One way he hopes to do this in the future is through venture entrepreneurship, a business tactic in which stable owners fund smaller hopefuls, sometimes providing mentorship along the way. It is, of course, more complex than a smile but derives from the same motive.

“If you ask anybody if they want to change the world, they’re going to say yes. That’s their eventual goal,” Gil says. But he would add it’s not that difficult—you can change the world every day.

Just smile.


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

3 Responses to Easy, easy change

  1. Pingback: Where cold is hot | James Madison University's Be the Change

  2. Awesome article, keep up the great work Gil!


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