Written by The Business Journal Staff
Brooke Ashjian, CEO
Seal Rite Paving and Grading
What we do:
We build roads, streets, bridges and parking lots.
High school diploma,
three years of college at Fresno State
Married 25 years to Gina; Children: Tedi 24 (married), Caz 20, Karli 18, Kesli 16
What was your first business and how did you come to establish that?
Seal Rite Paving and Grading was the first business, I started with a 55-gallon drum and a mini pickup. I did my first three jobs for free to figure out how to do it and then by word of mouth it began to come to fruition.
Besides Seal Rite Paving & Grading and Crazy Horse Car Wash, what are some other businesses you founded in Fresno, Brooke?
Salt Water Croc, which owns apartments and homes for rentals, Empire Storage, which is a self-storage facility, PaintBrush assisted living center, which is currently under construction and I farm pistachios and almonds. I love to farm. There is something about farming that brings a person to put his faith in God for his crops. To dig into the dirt with your hands and realize from this soil comes the food of the nation is humbling.
What would you say are the greatest challenges to business owners like yourself right now, Brooke?
Regulation. Hands down! We need less government running our companies. There is no way I could have started today what I did 25 years ago.
Why are you running for Trustee to the Fresno Unified School District and what are your goals if elected, Brooke?
Our children need a better shot at the American dream of raising a family, having a good job and contributing to our neighborhoods and that all begins with education. My goal is to raise graduation rates, re-institute career technical education and have students become excited about learning. When somebody moves to Fresno, I want them say, “I only want Fresno Unified.”
What do you bring to the position from your experience as a businessman, Brooke?
Hopefully a fresh set of eyes. The ability to problem solve that only business people know, because their lives depend on solving problems and making solutions. Personally, I have learned more from failure than success but I think we have a higher calling to educate our kids and eliminate poverty. They go hand in hand.
What should our politicians do to improve our local or national education system, Brooke?
Get out of the way. We have some great teachers and excellent educators that need the reins freed up so they can do what their heart inspired them to do and that’s TEACH!
What is the importance of vocational training to students and how would you work to implement such programs, Brooke?
This is the basis of my platform. We must bring back career technical education. The next Facebook should be coming out of Bullard High School. We should be partnering with companies and businesses like Bitwise or Grundfos Pumps, Agriland and teaching our kids real trades and family feeding skills. These are great jobs and will insure employment for years to come. The Fresno Teachers Association is in favor of this and so is the administration, so why are we not doing it now? I will implement this STAT.
What are some ways local businesses can support our schools and students, Brooke?
My hope is that we get local successful businesses to participate in vocational education. I also hope they participate in granting scholarships for scholars with character. It has been impressive to watch the Smittcamps do what they have done. Earl Smittcamp was a true pioneer in many ways. He will be missed.
What skills do you think will be the most important for the next generation of job seekers and business leaders, Brooke?
A great work ethic will almost always win the day and add to those skills the ability to dream and you have a successful enterprise.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it, Brooke?
My first PAYING job was working for my Uncle Jim in the lighting business, putting up fans and fixing electrical lamps. He was a tough employer, I would ride my bike at 6:30 a.m. every morning from my grandmother’s house three miles to his house and he would drive me to work with him. If I was late, he would leave without me. That only happened once. I later worked for my dad and I soon figured out that my uncle was too easy on me.
What are your roots in the San Joaquin Valley, Brooke?
My family has been here in the Valley almost 100 years. They originally were farmers and then later my grandfather was chief probation officer for the County of Fresno. I still come in contact with people who tell me my grandfather helped keep them on the straight and narrow. We can learn so much from our past.
What do you like to do in your spare time, Brooke?
I love to fly. I have been flying for a few years now so every chance I get I am in the cockpit. I also enjoy helping out non-profits. I have been involved with a few of them. All that being said, what I enjoy the most is being in the company of my wife and children. She is the calm to my storm.