“As cliché as it might sound,” said Ana Lukner, ’04 International Business, “I’m here to change the world.”
A former Spartan tennis star who earned an MBA in her home country of Slovenia, she launched her early career in big pharma, became a solar energy entrepreneur, and in March visited California to establish U.S. footholds for three of her latest ventures: her young marketing company; a separate endeavor that sells advertising in parking garages; and a series of inspirational speaking engagements.
One of those speaking engagements returned Lukner to campus to share her story and her concept of Truhoma—a word she coined for “true and honest marketing”—with a group of business students.
Lukner credits tennis with teaching her discipline, allowing her to travel outside Slovenia, and ultimately opening the door to San José State. “It’s a great school in the capital of Silicon Valley,” she said. “Coming here completely changed my life. And education aside, America gave me life experience. It gave me…me.”
Her campus talk detailed personal and professional hardships: how her first boyfriend died tragically when she was 20; how her solar startup failed; how her family is grappling with her mother’s tragic, early-onset dementia. “I’ve been down so deep,” she said, “sometimes I was sure I’d never get through it. But you have to embrace the bad and decide to finish anyway. You have to be your own inspiration.”
In Lukner’s case, that inspiration has taken shape in her Truhoma marketing business and, more significantly, the charity work that has catapulted her to near-celebrity status in Slovenia. She began Ana’s Little Star as a modest food drive, scaled up fast and built an all-volunteer army that has distributed nearly 150 tons of food to 5,000 families over the past three years. Delo, Slovenia’s biggest newspaper, named Lukner “Personality of the Year” in January; Ana’s Little Star was also recently named Charity of the Year, and the Slovenian She magazine listed Lukner among Slovenia’s 50 most successful women.
“Ana’s Little Star is so Truhoma, so transparent,” Lukner said, “I have the credibility to go in front of the media and say what I think. I can say ‘our social system sucks.’” Ultimately, she considers her charity less about food than about change. “Slovenia needed a charity, a person,” she said, “that gives people hope.”
Read more about Truhoma and watch Lukner’s TedX talk.