Getting to Know Entrepreneur-in-Residence Mary Ullmann Japhet ’84
Alumna and students build their businesses side-by-side
Friday, March 6, 2020
Get to know Mary Ullmann Japhet

For a passionate, driven executive like Mary Ullmann Japhet ’84, “Boredom is the kiss of death.” Fortunately, Japhet has little experience with this feeling. Her career has been nothing if not varied, encompassing everything from broadcast journalism to sports organizations. Now, Japhet is back at Trinity as entrepreneur in residence (EiR). 

Luis Martinez ’91, director for the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, launched the EiR program in 2014 to connect student entrepreneurs with knowledgeable mentors. Every year, Trinity welcomes a new alumnus to coach student ventures, instruct entrepreneurship courses, and advise Stumberg Venture Competition participants. “It really is a great, enlivening experience,” Martinez says. “It provides our students an initial point of contact and our alumni a point of engagement.”

As the program’s first communications specialist, Japhet brings experience in reporting and anchoring local news as well as producing content for national networks including TCL, Oprah’s Harpo Productions, and Robin Leach Productions. In 1993, Japhet returned to San Antonio to serve as the U.S. Olympic Festival’s director of special events and advertising; her PR strategies contributed to record-breaking attendance, making the event the most successful festival ever staged by the U.S. Olympic Committee. 

Following the festival’s conclusion, Japhet joined the San Antonio Sports Foundation (now San Antonio Sports), becoming senior vice president in 2001. She played a pivotal role in developing one of the nation’s most successful sports commissions, bringing more than $853 million in economic impact to the city. Now, Japhet is applying her impressive communications expertise to her own marketing and media production service, Japhet Media LLC.

“I want all our students to understand that being an entrepreneur is hard,” Japhet says. “But if you have the passion, the fortitude, and are truly solving a problem for your customers, building a business is tremendously rewarding.”

Mary Ullmann Japhet '84 has helped bring the Final Four to town, chaired the Mayor's Fitness Council, and more.

How has your background in journalism and the sports industry influenced your approach to entrepreneurship?

Journalism and sports share an appreciation for storytelling and teamwork that influences all my work. As a news reporter, I told the community’s stories and worked in tandem with some terrific photojournalists. At San Antonio Sports, I helped tell the stories of our nonprofit’s events and youth programs and their power to change lives. Teamwork is everything, whether on the field or in an office. Today, with my students, I emphasize how important it is for them to find and tell the stories of their ventures and seriously consider their choice of teammates. I do the same with Japhet Media.

What inspired your career change with Japhet Media? Do you have any other ventures you would like to pursue?

I enjoyed 18 years leading the communications and marketing team at San Antonio Sports, and I’m happy to remain involved with the organization. However, I was ready for a new challenge and eager to test my creativity in other areas. Right now, I’m focused on building Japhet Media and doing great work for my clients, but I also have a couple of other ventures I’m exploring with some colleagues who inspire me. More to come on that!

How do you balance running your own media company with a new teaching position?

Time management is critical! I schedule everything—and I mean everything—on my calendar. If it’s prep time for class, a meeting with a client, or picking up my dry cleaning, it goes on the calendar. I also schedule my personal downtime, so I don’t forget to allow myself the chance to recharge. I don’t think I ever appreciated how much goes into preparing for and teaching a class. I’m in awe of the people who do it every day with passion and purpose.

Looking back on the past semester and a half, do you think you have accomplished your goals for your time in residence?

I hope I’ve provided knowledge and inspiration to the students I’ve mentored. They’ve certainly done that for me. I believe it’s critical to develop an entrepreneurial mindset—a way of seeing problems and developing creative solutions—that benefits a person whether they found the next Google or work for a traditional employer. 

We’re doing that here. Dr. Luis Martinez and Trinity’s entrepreneurship program are amazing at connecting students to San Antonio’s startup scene. I love amplifying that work by bringing my contacts to campus, so more people know about the bright, young entrepreneurs emerging from our program.

What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far?

Oh my! There are so many memorable moments from every stage of my career—from crazy live shots in the TV news business to the exhausting but exhilarating experiences behind the scenes while hosting an NCAA Final Four, or the fear and exhilaration of teaching my first class. For me it’s not about the celebrities I’ve interviewed or the big public moments; the most memorable experiences are those I’ve shared with friends and colleagues working hard toward a common goal. I think that’s the definition of teamwork.

    Brooke Yung ’20 helped tell Trinity's story as a writing intern for Strategic Communications and Marketing.

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