President, Founder, Gumas Advertising
When John Gumas (B.S., Marketing, ’84) graduated with a degree in marketing, he told his professors he was going to start his own advertising agency. They told him he was crazy. The economy was in recession and entry-level advertising jobs were scarce, but “I had that entrepreneurial spirit,” Gumas remembers. “It’s born inside you.” That spirit powered him through some tooth-and-claw years, building his business one small client at a time.
In the early days, Gumas created campaigns for local restaurants and “dressed people up in costumes and had them hand out stuff,” but the small restaurant clients became large restaurants; a liquor store he created ads for grew into a national chain. And along the way, Gumas Advertising developed a distinctive niche: thinking smart for companies being heavily outspent in advertising by their competitors.
Today his clients—like SummerHill homes, Hewlett-Packard and SanDisk—aren’t nearly as small as they once were. And Gumas Advertising has become a major San Francisco success story, named one of the city’s top agencies by the San Francisco Business Times. Gumas received real-world experience at SF State. “My professor Jack Tenge encouraged me to be part of the advertising club,” he says, remembering a student campaign for Maxwell House coffee that took second place in the national American Advertising Federation competition.
Gumas adds that both Tenge and SF State professor Joe Ries “told me not to start my own agency because it’s a tough business. That was the only lesson I didn’t take.”