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Six University of Dallas Alumni Entrepreneurs Honored at 2021 Texas Business Hall of Fame

Six University of Dallas alumni were honored for their early-career championship and success in business, as “transformative trailblazers who exemplify Texas leadership and innovation,” during the Texas Business Hall of Fame 38th Annual Induction Ceremony in Dallas in late October 2021. Only 78 scholars and veteran entrepreneurs from across Texas, in 2020 and 2021 collectively, were bestowed a Future Texas Business Legend Award, receiving $15,000 each toward their business ideas. 

“It is exactly during these challenging times that we see the power of free enterprise in protecting our communities,” said Jon P. Karp, chair of the 2021 TBHF Foundation. “You are looking at the leaders who have shaped Texas, and those who will continue to do so in the future. We hope that you will be inspired, as we are, by their stories.” 

The following were the UD alumni honored for 2021:

Zara Atiq is a business analytics professional. She earned her master’s degree in business analytics from the University of Dallas and strives to continually inform business decisions through data-driven insights. She has worked in the telecommunications industry to significantly increase the customer base for 4G and Mobile Financial Services. Atiq has also served in the microfinance sector and led awareness programs specifically for underprivileged women of Pakistan to empower them financially and increase their access to banking. The pandemic has served to inspire her to work toward better health care, and she is now determined to launch an interactive platform where users will be connected to lifestyle coaches, registered dietitians and nutritional psychologists to help educate them toward a healthier lifestyle.

Dustin Mathis is the owner and founder of Grind to Greatness Skills Development. His business involves developing lifelong relationships with his basketball clients, helping them grow in their personal lives and developing their basketball skills to the best of their abilities. Mathis has been able to work with over 50 clients within the past few years, and each year this number has steadily grown. Being able to help this amount of people in their lives on and off the court has truly been the best reward. He plans to acquire his own gym in the future, creating a place for people to call home outside of their homes – a place for them to receive personal training and skills development and to bring a community closer together.

As an entrepreneur, John Paul Thomas started pursuing his career as a fashion designer by starting his own fashion label, Fly Forever, in 2018. It is a ready-to-wear menswear line, sold online and carried in several independent specialty stores around the United States. Over the past year, he has opened a new design studio/showroom and has pivoted his focus to the first collection from his Jacob & John line. Thomas has also entered into the Airbnb business. He currently has five rental properties in the downtown Dallas area and is evaluating other investments in the region. In addition to these three businesses, Thomas would like to start a sports agency now that he has completed his master’s degree in finance.

The following were the UD alumni honored for 2020:

Christiana Fote is originally from Houston and came to the University of Dallas to pursue an MBA. After graduating from Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, she joined Kimley-Horn, where she works in municipal roadway design. She was drawn to this industry because it allows her to be engaged in her community while employing her skills in math and science. This past year, she received her professional engineering license through the Texas Board of Professional Engineers. She appreciates the opportunity to see her work positively impact transportation systems, parks and developments in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. By one day owning her own engineering firm, she hopes to further encourage public and private sector partnerships.

Isaiah Hayes, born and raised in Arlington, is a first-generation college graduate. He graduated cum laude from the University of Dallas in May 2021 with a bachelor’s in business. Hayes, a student-athlete, served as captain of UD’s basketball team and ran on the track team. Growing up in a low-income, single-parent home, Hayes knew from a young age that he wanted to be an entrepreneur and a role model to his younger siblings. Isaiah combined his love of sneakers and art to launch ISO, which is an acronym for “I Stand Out.” ISO offers restoration and customization services for vintage clothing and sneakers, creating unique, one-of-a-kind footwear. Hayes plans to pursue an MBA in the near future while continuing to expand and grow his business.

Edisson Ramos was born in Fairma, Peru, and moved to Texas at the age of four. A first-generation college student, he graduated from the University of Dallas in 2020 with a bachelor’s in business. Currently, Ramos works for AT&T in their B2B sales channel. Ramos is passionate about making education accessible to all. During his time at UD, he created the Groundhog Library. Founded in 2019, the library is a collection of more than 370 textbooks available for students in Core and upper-level courses, helping students in need. Since its inception, the Groundhog Library has expanded rapidly. In the near future, the project is set to expand to additional universities across the country.

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