published on April 13, 2016 - 1:44 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

The co-founder and president of women’s accessory brand Vera Bradley will speak at Fresno State as part of its Pay It Forward series on April 20. 

The luncheon event will include remarks from Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, co-founder and chief creative officer of the Vera Bradley company, and Robert Wallstrom, CEO and president. The two will highlight the entrepreneurial journey and development of a strong corporate culture, as well as the efforts of the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer. The organization has raised $25.7 million for research over the years. 

Hosted by the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Pay it Forward series brings together Fresno State students and community business leaders. Each session is led by different business professionals to highlight a new topic. The events explore in-depth issues and allow for networking between Fresno State students and successful business professionals. 

“We are very excited to be a part of this unique opportunity and the valuable insights students will be able to take from it,” said Dr. Scott Moore, interim executive director of the Lyles Center. “Introducing students to these kinds of entrepreneurial topics and connections is exactly what the Pay it Forward series is about.”

Founded in 1982 by Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia Miller, Vera Bradley specialize in quilted women’s handbags, travel items, stationery and gifts. 

“Vera Bradley is a great entrepreneurial story,” said Mendy Laval, intrapreneur in resident at the Lyles Center. “It is also a great case study of a company continually reinventing itself and illustrates the challenges associated with growth, going public and remaining relevant in a very competitive space.”

While in town, Baekgaard and Wallstrom will also participate in the grand opening of Top Drawer in River Park. The store is one of the few Vera Bradley retailers in the area, and a percentage of all proceeds at the store will benefit the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer. 

The April 20 luncheon is free and open to the public, however registration is required as space is limited. More information on the event is available at

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