On February 25, 2021, the Acton Institute hosted its third Business Matters event. The one-day conference brings together business leaders and CEOs to discuss business ethics. For the first time the event streamed online to a global audience. Because of the unprecedented challenges facing businesses and entrepreneurs, this year’s theme was “Certain Principles for Uncertain Times.”
Executive director and Acton co-founder, Kris Alan Mauren, hosted the event and provided the opening remarks. “We are in the midst of challenging and volatile times. Businesses are being tested to survive in a climate of fluctuating markets, civil unrest, political upheaval and a prolonged pandemic that has forced many businesses to redefine themselves,” said Mauren. “With these challenges come difficult ethical questions for business people and demands for innovation.” To tackle these challenges, Mauren introduced the speakers and panel discussions, starting with an inspiring session titled “Doing Business in a Pandemic,” featuring Anne Rathbone Bradley, Ph.D., academic director at The Fund for American Studies, and Ezequiel Vazquez-Ger, co-founder and managing partner of Seven Restaurant Group.
Vazquez-Ger began by sharing his incredible journey of leaving Argentina to move to the US for work. As a trained economist, Vazquez-Ger started working in political consulting and eventually started his own D.C.-based firm. “I worked with some of the best business groups in Latin America, doing crisis management,” explained Vazquez-Ger. But after several years, and despite his success, he decided to take a risk and “do something completely different.”
Following a visit to an impressive Venezuelan restaurant in Baltimore, Vazquez-Ger decided to inquire if the chef (Enrique Limardo) would consider moving to D.C. to start a restaurant together. Despite Vazquez-Ger’s lack of restaurant experience, Chef Enrique agreed, and eventually they opened Seven Reasons. The restaurant was an instant success and was voted “best restaurant in the Americas” by Esquire magazine. Unfortunately, when the pandemic struck, the new restaurant was forced to temporarily close. But instead of relying on government assistance to stay afloat, the owners decided they were the ones best positioned to ensure their restaurant’s success. “In the end, if I want to succeed, it’s not about depending on the government. It’s gonna depend on how we deal with the situation and learn to adapt and turn a crisis into an opportunity,” explained Vazquez-Ger. And so Vazquez-Ger and his team innovated, creating a very successful takeout menu delivered by staff members. Because of their creativity, Seven Reasons not only weathered the closures but also thrived, and they are in the process of opening another restaurant in D.C.
The uplifting conversation set the tone for the conference. Following sessions, which featured Doug DeVos, co-chair of the Amway board of directors, and John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, addressed how the pandemic and government restrictions are no match for the entrepreneurial spirit and human innovation.