he never became a game show host, but 40-year radio and television
veteran Gary Cocola has television in his blood.
is Fresno State's third Entrepreneur in Residence. He recently
shared his success story with the Collegiate Entrepreneur's
Club, the Central Valley Business Incubator and students in
admits he has been fanatical about television since 1953.
His enthusiasm paid off-his stations serve the Fresno, Bakersfield,
Sacramento, Santa Maria and Arroyo Grande television markets.
He also operates a home shopping affiliate in Boise, Idaho.
Entrepreneur in Residence Program was established in 1998
to coincide with the launch of the Entrepreneurship Option
and Entrepreneurship Minor within the Craig School of Business.
It provides students, faculty, and the Valley commuity with
opportunities to interact, learn, and share ideas related
to the entrepreneurial process. The program is hosted by the
Institute for Developing Entrepreneurial Action (IDEA) at
the Craig School of Business. Funding is provided by the Coleman
weeklong program exposes the selected entrepreneur to the
resources and facilities that promote and support entrepreneurship
at Fresno State. Candidates are selected based on their entrepreneurial
achievements, their commitment to supporting young entrepreneurial
achievements, and their desire to promote entrepreneurship
throughout the Central Valley.
Stearns, entrepreneurship professor and director of the university's
Entrepreneurship Program, said Cocola demonstrates the spirit
of an entrepreneur.
success is an example of how an entrepreneur can find a successful
niche even in a mature industry."
president of Cocola Broadcasting Commpanies, Cocola explores
nontraditional uses of television. Like a true entrepreneur,
he neve stops thinking of new ideas. He saw low-power television
as the wave of the future when he started Channel 66 (KHST)
in Fresno. It soon became one of the largest revenue generators
in the Home Shopping Network.
started out far from the television lights. At age 11, he
worked in a fruit packing house for 50 cents an hour.
really wanted me to have a good work ethic," Cocola said.
even though at age 18 he saved enough to buy a brand new Thunderbird
convertible, Cocola wanted something more. In high school
he worked for Al Radka at Channel 12 (KFRE-TV), on a program
called "Open House", judging popular records on the Wednesday
portion of the "Traffic Pops" show. After that he hosted a
local dance party program called "TV Record Hop," in a format
similar to Dick Clark's "American Bandstand." That gave him
the itch to pursue television.
meeting with a crusty old Los Angeles agent made 22-year-old
Cocola rethink his plans. The agent told Cocola to consider
where he wanted to be when he was 40 years old and whether
he really wanted to compete with Hollywood's perpetual supply
of new talent.
Cocola got into selling fresh produce for his father. At 32,
he owned his own business and was chosen to be on the board
of the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association. It still
wasn't enough. Cocola wanted his own television station.
1977, since he couldn't afford the $5 million price tag of
an existing station, Cocola applied to have a new one allocated
to the Fresno market. Seven years and $350,000 later, he bought
out the interest of four other applicants, and the rights
to the station were his.
only the rights. He still had to find $1 million to build
the station. By getting various ministries to commit $500,000
during a National Broadcaster's Association convention, Cocola
got funding to build Channel 59 (KMSG) in 1985. Later the
station became an affiliate of Telemundo, that's when Cocola
started Channel 66, which began broadcasting in 1989.
his divorce, Cocola took the proceeds from the sale of his
half of Channel 59 and started Channel 34 in 1991. Soon after,
he started Channel 43. Now he owns 20 television stations
and sells affordable advertising spots to local businesses
through his Internet site, www.discounttvspots.com.
entrepreneurial success isn't easy, according to Cocola. He
compared his struggle to chipping away at a brick wall until
just never give up," Cocola said. "You always look for a way
to keep going."
took Thomas Edison more than 1,000 times before he got the
light bulb right," Stearns said. "Imagine if he'd stopped."
Entrepreneur in Residence, Cocola visited campus Nov. 13-17.
Former Entrepreneurs in Residence were Bruce Musick of Skyline
Concepts in Malaysia and William Lyles of Lyles Diversified
Inc. in Fresno.