The American School in SwitzerlandThe American School in Switzerland
Enrique and Mara Sanz on Entrepreneurship and Changing Lugano

Successful local entrepreneurs Enrique Sanz and Mara Bertelli Sanz delivered an inspiring virtual address to TASIS seniors on the evening of November 16, marking the second installment of the 2020–2021 TASIS Speaker Series. They followed Anna Kraczyna and John Hooper, who opened this year’s series by discussing the significance of Carlo Collodi's The Adventures of Pinocchio on the evening of October 14

Mr. and Ms. Sanz met in high school in Lugano and knew each other for years before becoming a couple in both life and business. After years of living abroad—including a one-year stint in Washington, DC, in which the pentalingual Mara broke ground as the first female Washington correspondent for Swiss Italian Radio and Television (RSI) and Enrique, who is fluent is six languages, worked as a webmaster, translator, and auditor—they returned to Lugano in 2010 to raise their two young children. They’ve spent the past decade working tirelessly to change the city’s culture and ethos. 

In their address to the entire senior class, which can be listened to here, Mr. and Ms. Sanz focused on the evolution of their journey as entrepreneurs, which began with the establishment of the first yoga studio in downtown Lugano, Yoga Roof, in 2011. Their impressive portfolio has since grown to include a second Yoga Roof location in Grancia, Lugano Sud; Yoga Tree, an online shop that caters to yoga and pilates practitioners (the second of its kind in Switzerland but the first to focus on sustainability); GODSPEED, an e-bike shop and service center that opened next to the Grancia Yoga Roof in 2017; and La Serra, a popular new restaurant situated inside a greenhouse in Pambio-Noranco that primarily serves locally sourced, organic food.

Yoga Roof also offers classes at Lido Riva Caccia in the summer.

Mr. and Ms. Sanz noted that Lugano has changed considerably over the past 25 years, and they take pride in the role they’ve been able to play in the city’s transformation. Although their businesses are different, each was sparked by the same passion: to make a positive contribution to the community they love and leave the lightest footprint possible. And while Yoga Roof now has thousands of customers, GODSPEED has swiftly become the largest e-bike shop in Ticino, and La Serra is off to a tremendous start despite opening in the middle of a pandemic, they don’t measure success by profits alone.

For Mr. and Ms. Sanz, success is defined by finding the right balance between principles and business—or ideals and profit. Their guiding principles include demonstrating social and environmental responsibility, treating employees well, showing respect for customers, and, most importantly of all, saving time for family. Even when they were starting out and building their businesses from the ground up, they were still available for their kids when they were young and needed them most.

The selection at GODSPEED has grown considerably over the past few years.

“So my wish and my prayers for you are that you dream big and bold so that you as an individual make a difference—a difference that makes the world a better place in small and large ways and for all the humans who inhabit it,” wrote TASIS Founder M. Crist Fleming in one of her final Yearbook messages in 2007. So too did Mr. and Ms. Sanz emphasize to students the importance of having the courage to dream big—urging them to start small, to embrace failure, and to never stop moving and learning. Progress is incremental, and a successful entrepreneur can never become static. 

Mr. and Ms. Sanz reinforced their messages in a series of virtual visits to TASIS classrooms over the course of November 16–17, helping Mr. Eric White’s IB Economics students, Dr. Jill Sawyer-Price’s IB Biology students, and Mr. Paul Cawthorne’s IB Business Management students better understand concepts such as unique selling propositions, the importance of understanding the current environment before pursuing an opportunity, the lessons that can be learned from Ray Dalio’s real-time feedback loop, and the continued relevance of Joseph Campbell’s “hero’s journey.”

This marks the first completely virtual visit in the history of the TASIS Speaker Series, and it went more smoothly than one could have expected. The entire senior class logged into Zoom for the Monday night address, with many taking advantage of the chat feature to thank the guests and note how inspired they were by the presentation. A smaller group of students and faculty members enjoyed a 30-minute question-and-answer session with Mr. and Mrs. Sanz immediately following the full address.

For English Department Chair Dr. Chris Love, who has chaired the TASIS Speaker Series Committee since the fall of 2019, the virtual visit was an unqualified success. “Like most entrepreneurs, Enrique and Mara have taken big risks, often despite advice that turned out to be dead-wrong,” he said. “What I love is the way Enrique and Mara mesh legitimate idealism with business acumen. Their ideas and story definitely resonated with our students and faculty.”

Located in an actual greenhouse, La Serra offers ethnic and international cuisine.

TASIS Speaker Series

The TASIS Speaker Series (TSS), formerly known as the Senior Humanities Program (SHP) and renamed in 2018 to more accurately reflect its present purpose, draws from five fundamental elements of the TASIS identity—truth, goodness, beauty, international understanding, and humanitarian action—to provide TASIS students with a signature educational experience.

The TSS Committee selects four speakers each year who embody the pillars of the program—with priority given to speakers who fulfill those virtues in some capacity. The Committee strives for a variety of voices, backgrounds, and professions represented in each year’s group but ultimately selects speakers on the basis of their ability to enhance the intellectual and moral experience of the outgoing seniors and the community as a whole.

Although the TSS focuses on students near the end of their TASIS careers, the program aspires to serve as an educative instrument for the entire division, creating opportunities for all High School students to interact with people and ideas of significance that are concerned with the world beyond the TASIS campus. Students enhance their intellectual experience through discussions, lectures, class visits, and film screenings centered on some combination of truth, goodness, beauty, international understanding, and humanitarian action. Above all else, the program conveys a clear message to students about what the School hopes for and expects from them after they leave TASIS.

The influential program was initially made possible by a CHF 100,000 donation from TASIS parents Michael and Jane Grindfors to The M. Crist Fleming Endowment for International Understanding and Leadership in 2008. It remains an integral part of a TASIS education thanks to ongoing support from the TASIS Board of Directors and the excellent behind-the-scenes work done by a dedicated group of students and faculty members.

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