October 13, 2015

Gillaspie Pays It Forward

A desire to help people and a love for education almost led Aaron Gillaspie ’09 to switch majors from management to education. An equal desire to graduate in four years meant he would focus on entrepreneurship in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business Administration which has benefited him as a teacher and an administrator.  

“I had no idea how similar running a classroom is to being an entrepreneur,” Gillaspie said. “As a founding math teacher, I had the opportunity to dive deep and develop a seventh grade math curriculum. Teaching is similar to pitching a business plan only my boardroom was a class full of seventh graders. They can be tough to win over.”

At the end of his two-year stint with Teach for America at a new school in New York City, the former Husker fullback walk-on was approached to found a charter school in the South Bronx. Intrigued by the challenge, he accepted the offer and went on a whirlwind tour of the U.S., observing 150 schools in 22 states in 180 days to create a vision for the Brilla College Prep Public Charter School.

Aaron Gillaspie played football at Nebraska
“Charter schools are unique because they are not tied to anything as long as you can justify why you do it. After traveling on a six month residency, I was able to take the best practices I learned to create what eventually became Brilla. We are making a difference and I am proud of that accomplishment,” he said.

Fast forward to 2015 and he took another turn in his career path. He moved to Houston, got married and founded Willis Park Corporation, a venture capital firm in Texas. His next big venture through Willis Park is working with MY SALON Suite, a business model which offers beauty professionals the opportunity to own their own business without the large costs and risks associated with a building.

“My love is helping people change their lives and you can do that in business,” said Gillaspie. “It’s about building relationships with people and sharing what you know to make them successful. No matter what you do in CBA, you need to remember business is anything and everything in this world.”