MBA Alumna's Business Started In Classroom With Capstone

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Carla Bonilla Barbier ’07, ’08 MBA had a bright idea when she was an undergraduate student at Dominican University of California, an objective she turned into a Capstone project in the classroom that evolved into a fledgling business in the real world that is now a model for any MBA candidate.

She did what she set out to do.

Carla is the co-owner and founder of Barbier Security Group, a business that has provided security for a range of clients including corporations, non-profit organizations, Fortune 500 companies, and individuals. It has grown from a home office and a compact car to a company with almost 200 employees and a fleet of 30 plus service vehicles.

That Carla created this successful business beginning with her senior thesis at Dominican speaks to the support and resources the Barowsky School of Business offered her to help carry out her plan.

“I learned that personal touch from being a student here. I feel like our class size made for a really close relationship experience with our professors in school and I think that’s something that’s very important in business, especially now because of the pandemic there are so many things that people have to consider in life now,” Carla says. “There’s a need for a personal touch of staying in communication and being able to be flexible with your clients’ needs that comes from being in a tighter community at Dominican.”


Born and raised in Oakland, Carla attended summer college preparatory classes at Mills College. She did an internship for the Oakland Economic Development department. That exposed her to the world of business and allowed her at one time to shadow and observe then Oakland Major Jerry Brown.

“I wanted to own a business, but I really never knew what type of business,” she says. “I wanted to be self-employed. But I didn’t know quite what that looked like.”

That’s when she decided to cross the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and check out the business school at Dominican for the first time.

“As soon as I came onto the campus it was like `This is it,’” Carla recalls. “It’s drastically different from growing up in Oakland. The nature at Dominican really attracted me to school and its size.”

By her senior year, Carla’s career was about to take off. She had met Dr. Christopher Leeds, Professor of Management, in her classes and met her future husband, Evan Barbier. He was going to John Jay College of Criminal justice in New York for criminology and criminal justice and his family had a background in local law enforcement.

Carla dated and eventually married Evan and the idea of a security business was wed into her 40-page business proposal. With support from Dr. Leeds plus other BSB professors such as Dr. Jayati Ghosh, Elizabeth Capener, and Grant Pritchard, Carla’s MBA capstone was thorough and trendsetting.

 “Carla's project was extremely well done and had a great deal of value to starting Barbier. I think it worked so well because they were actually using the plan to guide the starting of the business,” Dr. Leeds says. “Carla approached it very seriously and we even signed a confidentiality agreement because it revealed many aspects of the future business. The plan is a great option for applying learning from a degree program. It takes on more meaning when it can be realized. These business plans are extremely complex and involve a great deal of research and data gathering/processing.”

For Carla, it was a dream come true.

 “We did our 3-to-5-year plan and looking at it now it was spot on,” she says. “It really took off, almost out of nowhere.”

Kim Corbett ’07, a longtime college friend, is not surprised by Carla’s success.

“She’s always been precise, ambitious and has a competitive streak in her, though she keeps it quiet. She is eloquently business savvy,” says Kim, who was a Communication and Media Studies major at Dominican when Carla was a business major. “She can hold herself in whatever room or situation she is in and yet she takes the time for mentorship and coaching and to continue the education for those in her department.”

Kim now works with Carla as Human Resources Coordinator at Barbier. While she was General Manager at Cinemark Holdings, Inc. in Marin County for 15 years, Kim contracted with Carla and Barbier Security Group, especially when there were big events or movie releases at local theaters.

Then the pandemic hit and Kim, handed the difficult task of laying off staff and closing the theater doors, began searching for other employment opportunities. That led her to a network of Dominican friends and colleagues. Through this network, she reconnected with Carla, who offered her an HR position.

“It was a beautiful opportunity that presented itself at the exact right time,” Kim says. “I am grateful for the wealth of college friends and connections who have helped me thrive through their professional coaching, mentorship, and endless support.”

That network is reliable and always ready to help. What advice would Carla offer to any 4 + 1 Dominican business student or MBA candidate? Be bold and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

“Reach out to your professors and get their advice as you are going through your project,” Carla says. “Utilize your resources and network and get advice from other professors and people in different industries.  Don’t be afraid to ask about what worked and didn’t work for their business as well as their path to success. They can help you in refining your overall project.”

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