Local business academy aims to encourage talent to stay in Las Vegas


A good business leader is honest, with integrity and is prepared to be held accountable, according to the Las Vegas Business Academy.

The association is dedicated to corporate mentoring and supports graduate students of UNLV by offering them a full scholarship. Its students also receive direct mentorship on how to be a business leader beyond balance sheets and boards, said Rino Armeni, founder and CEO of the association.

“The best thing about the program is the complexity of the program,” said Armeni, who noted that he has worked in marketing and beverage sourcing for companies such as Caesars Entertainment and Walt Disney World Resorts. “It’s not about writing a check. It is about giving them real life lessons.

Armeni and other board members made such a name for the program that they decided to expand it. The nonprofit is partnering with Global Celebrity Women Organization, a Chinese organization, to create an LVBA affiliate called Las Vegas University of Business Etiquette.

An early agreement between the two groups shows that the LVBA will create a month-long program focused on business, social etiquette and mentoring for a class of around 20 to 30 women. Similar to the local curriculum, the courses will take students behind the scenes of different industries in Las Vegas.

“It is an opportunity for us to develop ourselves,” said Armeni. “It’s not the money, it’s an opportunity to teach other people in other countries how to run a business.”

Keeping Talent in Las Vegas

Founded in 2011 in response to the brain drain during the Great Recession, the academy wanted to encourage smart and dedicated people to stay in Las Vegas, said Gary Charmel, West Regional President of Johnson Brothers. The programming is there to keep high quality business people in the city, he said.

“The country was suffering but we were particularly suffering,” said Charmel, who serves as an officer and mentor at the academy. “We decided, what could we do here to prevent people from leaving Las Vegas, especially the talented young people? “”

The five-year program accepts a handful of graduate students each year. Students spend one to three months observing various board members, which include executives in banking, hospitality, legal, business, and sports. They also learn lessons outside of the classroom, such as eating etiquette and dressing for an important meeting.

Students must stay in Las Vegas for at least three years after graduating from their two-year graduate degree.

Students are challenged to learn outside of their comfort zone through observation and rotations. If they don’t like sales, they could spend a day with their mentor at negotiation meetings. If they are unfamiliar with restaurant operations, they could spend a rotation working in the kitchens at Wynn Las Vegas.

The adversity of a new situation pushes the students. MacKenzie Jones, a current academy student, said she initially avoided sales positions.

“(Armeni) asked me, ‘MacKenzie, do you like sales?’ and I said, absolutely not. I worked in an Olive Garden and it was hard to sell a dip, ”said Jones, a sophomore MBA student at UNLV.

But the lessons were worth it. After her mentoring experience with Armeni, she sold a pen to her business professor as part of a classroom exercise so the professor told Jones that this was the only time he had called a student a “Brilliant”.

LVBA student Nikolas Fava, who will begin his Masters in Hospitality Administration program in January, said the learning opportunities are invaluable and unique.

Fava’s mentor is Paola Armeni, lawyer at Clark Hill PLC. Fava wants to work in the gaming industry, but uses rotating laws to expand his knowledge base, he said.

“I didn’t know anything about the law, and I walk in this office every day and I’m a sponge,” Fava said. “I learn so much every time I’m in this.”

McKenna Ross is a member of the corps for Report for America, a national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms. Contact her at [email protected] To follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.


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