Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, co-founder and chief creative officer of the Vera Bradley company, and Robert Wallstrom, CEO and president, will discuss the importance of corporate culture and innovation to business success as part of the Pay it Forward Luncheon Series at 11:30 a.m. April 20 at Fresno State’s North Gym (Room 118).

Bradley Baekgaard will talk about her entrepreneurial journey and developing a strong corporate culture, as well as highlight the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer, which has raised $25.7 million for research.

Wallstrom, the former president of Saks Fifth Avenue’s OFF Fifth division, will discuss the importance of continual innovation to Vera Bradley’s long-term strategic growth plans.

Hosted by the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Pay it Forward Luncheon Series brings together Fresno State students and community business leaders. Each session is led by different business professionals to highlight a new, informative topic. These events explore in-depth issues and allow for impactful 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 specializes in women’s handbags, travel items, stationery and gifts.

“Vera Bradley is a great entrepreneurial story,” said Mendy Laval, intrapreneur in residence 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.”

The Vera Bradley collection can be found at Top Drawer in Fig Garden Village, one of the company’s 2,700 specialty retail locations. Bradley Baekgaard and Wallstrom will also participate in the grand opening of Top Drawer at River Park on April 20. A percentage from purchases at both shops throughout the day will benefit the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer.

Jane Saunders, owner of the independent specialty shops, will participate in the luncheon to discuss her partnership with Vera Bradley, as well as the expansion of her business.

The luncheon is free and open to the public. Registration is required and space is limited. Visit to register or learn more.

For more information, contact Angelica Cano at 559.278.3707 or

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