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Salsa Ambassador encourages people to expand their horizons

March 22, 2011, Whitney Schaefer

${image-alt} College of Business Alumnus, Julio Barrenzuela

Earning the title of “Salsa Ambassador” from the mayor of Springfield, Illinois, College of Business alumnus Julio Barrenzuela became an entrepreneur right after graduating from SIU. He started his company, Salsa 29 Productions, where he combines his passion for salsa dancing with motivational speaking to bring attention to important topics.

Barrenzuela was born in Lima, Peru and moved to Springfield, Illinois when he was nine-years-old. After graduating from high school, he joined the U.S. Navy and then went on to graduate from SIU in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a minor in intercultural communications. That same year, he traveled back to Springfield to start up his company.

When Barrenzuela founded Salsa 29 Productions, no other company like it existed. “I didn’t find any job offers appealing because I was not looking for the monetary benefits. I wanted the opportunity to use my talents and interests to better this world,” he said. Barrenzuela puts on motivational presentations that address the issues of childhood obesity, the academic achievement gap and cultural competence in the workforce while incorporating salsa music as a way to deliver his message. “I use salsa music and dancing to encourage people to explore and expand their comfort zone,” he said. The goal of his presentations is to allow people to overcome the limitations they place on themselves to enhance their personal and social development. He works with local communities to provide programs for children, older adults, and people with disabilities.

He also likes being his own boss. “I set my hours and I set my limits. I decide what direction to take it and what things I want to be associated with.” He used his SIU education to run his business better. He explained that his marketing degree has given him the ability to establish effective promotions and understand his consumer’s behavior.

In the future, Barrenzuela hopes to expand the program into other communities. He also wants to eventually go to graduate school so that he can produce a dissertation about his experiences on how to motivate all different types of people. “This is my interest in the long term,” he said. “What I am doing everyday is fun but it is also contributing to my knowledge of the human tendency to shy away from trying something new.”