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CIE Graduates Keeping it SLOcal: Kick-it Points

For San Luis Obispo entrepreneurs like Brett Foreman, community and mentorship are key to a successful startup. They’re also big reasons as to why the entrepreneurs stick around.

When Foreman first interacted with the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), he took a new idea into the 2017 HotHouse Accelerator program. This idea has now developed into his growing company Kick-it Points, a “real world social app” that relays local business deals to users who get out and do things in the surrounding area. 

The app, which is iPhone- and Android-compatible, encourages people to explore San Luis Obispo, whether that be going to Avila Beach, studying at the Robert E. Kennedy Library or catching sunset on Terrace Hill. Kick-it Points users can then check-in at certain spots to claim deals for local businesses like Woodstock’s Pizza or SLO Yoga Center.

Although he is looking to expand his app’s reach, it is currently just based in San Luis Obispo. Nonetheless, Foreman says starting here was the best decision he made.

“Part of why we’ve been successful as a company and at growing Kick-it Points is because we started by accessing the community first,” he said. “In a place like San Luis Obispo where everybody’s about community, everybody’s about sharing the vision and growing together, that charm is essentially what’s allowed us to grow.”

But Foreman didn’t get to that point of accessing the local community all on his own he utilized the CIE’s bounty of mentors to navigate the startup world.

“Once I graduated from the [Accelerator] program, I thought I could go kind of underground for as long as I wanted and build the business myself,” he explained. “Eventually, I made my way back to the wealth of knowledge that the mentors bring.”

One of his mentors from the beginnings of his business, the CIE’s Interim Executive Director John Townsend, has continued to help Foreman with everything from revenue to expenses to how he’s balancing life and work.

“The CIE has been an awesome asset to have. Everyone involved in the organization is so willing to help and further your business,” Foreman said. “They’re always putting you first and it’s visible through all of the awesome companies they’re pumping out.”

Of course, the startup’s team of 10 loves having its base on the Central Coast for the laid back and fun lifestyle; but the reasons for keeping Kick-it Points local always circles back to the support of entrepreneurship and growth.

“If I was to leave and try to bring [Kick-it Points] somewhere else that has less of a camaraderie around a community, then we wouldn’t have had as much success as we’ve had so far.”

Head to https://cie.calpoly.edu/launch/hothouse-incubator/ to find out how you can access the CIE’s mentorship and community for your SLOcal startup and find out more about Kick-it Points at https://www.kickitpoints.com/.

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The 5 Best Coffee Meeting Spots in SLO

Every entrepreneur knows the value of a coffee meeting for casual networking and building relationships. Just as valuable is the decision you make about where to have your coffee meetings. Luckily, many of San Luis Obispo’s local coffee shops offer an entrepreneurial and community-based spirit of their own. Here are the five best places to grab a latte and chat with fellow entrepreneurs, clients, investors and more. 

Scout Coffee Co. 

 

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As Scout’s owners Jon and Sara Peterson explain it, “Our goal has always been to create inspiring spaces, with great people and amazing products, in a way that truly adds value to the community around us.” The focus that Scout has on community, which includes their fellow entrepreneurs like you, is evident upon arrival to either of the shop’s two locations. The baristas at Scout are upbeat and helpful, making any customer feel welcomed. As for location, while their downtown spot is in the hustle and bustle of the SLOcal life, Scout’s Foothill Boulevard location offers storefront parking, natural light, more space and more seating for your coffee meetings. With indoor and outdoor seating, as well as a vibrant atmosphere, Scout is perfect for meeting clients you know would appreciate a simple, fresh ambiance. The only downside is the lack of outlets in Scout’s locations, making it difficult if you need extended access to technology.

 

Kreuzberg California 

 

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Kreuzberg, a coffee shop and lounge inspired by the German neighborhood of the same name, bases itself “in the creativity-boosting and community building power of coffee, food, beer, wine, cocktails, strong wifi, lots of outlets, cozy seats, and an inspiring atmosphere to enjoy it in,” according to the shop’s website. Basically, Kreuzberg has it all. What makes this downtown San Luis Obispo shop perfect for coffee meetings is that it is open from 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., giving you freedom of scheduling time and the ability to turn your coffee meeting into cocktail hour. Plus, there’s lounge chairs, an upstairs area, bar seating, small and large tables, and two secluded sidecar-style seating areas, allowing you to accommodate for any seating preferences. The only real cautionary tip about Kreuzberg is that it is eclectic and darker in lighting, so it may not cater well to meetings where you’re looking for a modern, bright atmosphere.

 

Libertine Coffee Bar 

 

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Libertine Brewing Company is no longer just for beer, now they have expanded into the type of brew you need for your morning meeting: coffee. Located right next to its downtown restaurant, Libertine Coffee Bar offers local coffee and food, as well as whole leaf tea. As described on its website, Libertine Coffee Bar has “Warm vibes and street side relaxing in downtown SLO,” making it a great choice for a mellow coffee meeting. The shop is simple and bright, but it does have a limited amount of seating to take note of in case you’re looking to meet with multiple people. However, the intimate seating of the shop can allow you to have a conversation without several other voices looming in the background.

 

Lucy’s Coffee Co. 

 

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The owner of Lucy’s Coffee Co. says that her shop is “a place that contributes to making the world better through community and yummy coffee,” extending the reach of San Luis Obispo’s entrepreneurial community all the way out to Laurel Lane. Lucy’s is the only coffee shop on our list without a downtown spot, giving you uniqueness of location. It also offers close parking, an open atmosphere and an old-fashioned aesthetic. Additionally, Lucy’s offers an array of drinks as well as food items, a benefit when your coffee meeting turns into lunch. While these qualities make it a nice place to escape the noise of downtown and network, you might want to opt for another shop if you are looking to meet with people who are already going to be in the downtown area of San Luis Obispo. 

 

BlackHorse Espresso and Bakery

 

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With four locations, BlackHorse takes first place for leeway of location. As the coffee shop’s website says, “If you are lucky enough to be in San Luis Obispo, there’s a BlackHorse near you.” This rings true, but if you’re looking for the best of BlackHorse for your networking meetings, the Los Osos Valley Road locations may serve you best. This specific shop has greater sitting room than others, making it a more relaxed and casual spot to grab a cup of coffee and talk business. Not to mention, the coffee shop states that it was “born out of an idea that coffee and community go together” on its website. BlackHorse is what you would expect out of any simple and down-to-earth coffee shop that has the sole purpose of giving people a space to enjoy good coffee and a great community. Be cautious of timing, though, as this location closes at 3:00 p.m., two to three hours earlier than all of the other BlackHorse spots.

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CIE Graduates Keeping it SLOcal: Flume, Inc.

In 2015, Eric Adler wanted to do something to fix California’s severe drought. Recognizing that consumers needed to truly understand their water usage rates in order to reduce them, he dedicated his senior project to making that happen. 

“The state and cities were trying to get people to reduce consumption, but there was no feedback loop,” Adler explained. “The whole concept was how do we really get data to people in real-time so they can change their behaviors, protect their home, reduce how much they have to spend.”

His goal was to enable homeowners to monitor their water consumption via an easy-to-install product with real-time smartphone feedback. That way, consumers can see how much water they are using in their homes and where they need to cut down. 

Adler later evolved this idea into a business plan, co-founding Flume, Inc. with the support and programming of the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The Flume team initially took the water-monitoring product proposal through the CIE’s Innovation Quest competition, later joining both the HotHouse Accelerator and Incubator programs to launch their business.

“Since we left the incubator program, we’ve raised a pretty significant amount of funding, basically doubled in size every year, launched on Amazon and we work with cities all over the country,” said Adler of Flume’s growing success.

After moving out of the HotHouse in downtown San Luis Obispo, Adler’s team moved into the newer HotHouse Annex, which is the ideal coworking spot for companies with a hardware component like Flume. This location gives the company the space it needs for testing, manufacturing and inventory, plus keeps Flume connected to local companies and the CIE.

Adler notes that even as the company grows, he is thankful that the CIE is still part of Flume’s support system.

“Eventually you’re supposed to outgrow [the CIE] and be able to be self-sustainable, so I’d say we’re kind of at that point right now,” Adler explained. “But we still get mentorship and tap into some of the resources here and there. It’s great just having a network around us and support behind us.”

Not only does Flume still have connections with the CIE, but the company also sustains a relationship with San Luis Obispo through an ongoing study with the city and an insurance company that has subsidized the product for local residents. The study’s goal is to see how giving real-time data can help customers change their habits and overall reduce their water consumption.

Between this program and his love for the area, Adler sees no reason to move his company’s base from San Luis Obispo despite its nationwide growth.

“First and foremost you want to build a company in a place where you also want to live. People are excited to be here and they really want to stick around and stay with your company,” he noted. “In terms of starting a company, if you’re looking for that initial capital to kind of test things out and get them off the ground, SLO is a good place to get started with that.”

Adler emphasized that between CIE and Cal Poly alumni support, a comfortable cost of living, a great pool of talent, and a high quality of life, San Luis Obispo has served Flume well as it’s grown into what it is today.

If you’re looking to build your business with all of these SLOcal benefits, explore the CIE HotHouse Incubator program at https://cie.calpoly.edu/launch/hothouse-incubator/.

To see more about Flume, Inc. and its water-monitoring device, head to https://flumetech.com/.

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A Startup’s Guide to Instagram

So you’ve started your own business and know a thing or two about entrepreneurship, but as far as Instagram goes… you’re a little lost. Luckily, navigating this app doesn’t have to be hard, especially with a simple guide for making your startup social media savvy.  

From Basic to Business

The first action you should take after creating your company’s Instagram is heading to your account settings and turning the profile into a business account. With over 25 million business profiles across the world, Instagram is a place to be for startups getting into the social media game. Plus, with a business account, you now get access to perks like data on your posts, follower insights (hello, targeted content!) and extra space for contact information.

Content Creation

A good rule of thumb for Instagram content is quality over quantity. Instagram is a great platform for posting high-resolution photos and videos that showcase the lifestyle side of your brand, highlight your brand voice, and show behind-the-scenes content. Instagram is where the personal meets the professional with a thematic look and often light-hearted spin. Your content should always be of value to your followers and ignite emotions; this way, you can hopefully gain higher engagement rates to prop you up on the Instagram feed.

Storytime

Instagram stories have become vital to the platform’s users, so you can’t miss this piece of content creation. Stories can be a great place to direct followers to new posts, to your profile page or toward engaging. You can ask followers to vote on fun polls, take mini-quizzes, send in submissions and more. Plus, you can make your stories stand out with countdown widgets, gifs and text. The key to posting stories is to literally tell a story, get more personal with your audience or get your followers to interact with you.

CIE Tip: Save the important or successful stories as highlights on your profile page so anyone viewing your account later can rewatch them.

Caption Creativity

While your photo or video content is the most important part of catching viewers’ eyes, captions are king when it comes to engaging with your followers. They shouldn’t be too long unless necessary, should grab reader attention, and should entice them to like, comment and share the post. Your copy on both feed and story posts is a great way to show your brand voice, spark emotion in your viewers, teach them something new and ask them questions to gain consumer insight. This way you can create a community and brand loyalty by starting a conversation with your audience.

CIE Tip: Inspire engagement rather than ask for it. If you directly tell followers to tag, like, comment, click, etc. on every post, Instagram’s algorithm may knock you down in others’ feeds.

Stay Posted

Instagram is different from platforms like Twitter, where multiple posts a day are a norm; your average for posting to Instagram should be about once a day. It’s best to first check your follower insights to see when the best posting times are, then create a schedule for posting to get peak views and engagements. Getting into a rhythm of posting will help you in the algorithm as well as let your audience know you are consistent and loyal.

Insights 

Instagram insights will show you your follower age ranges, gender make-up, general location, and peak online times so you can best cater your content to your followers; plus, this can let you know if you are reaching your target audience with posts and advertisements. Insights can also show you your top posts for multiple categories, metrics for individual posts, story analytics and paid promotion data so that you can constantly improve and refine your content.

CIE Tip: Take track of these analytics over time to see your growth and what is or isn’t working for you on Instagram.

Paid Advertising

On Instagram, there are two main ways to go about paid advertising: promotions or Facebook advertisements. For boosted visibility and engagement on a post on Instagram, you can opt for promoting a post. If you want to gain sign-ups, purchases or external views, you should opt for creating ads via Facebook that can be integrated into Instagram for actual conversions from the post to a landing page. From there, you can dive into specific ad looks and layouts to make your ad stand out.

Keep Learning

There is never an end to the knowledge of social media, but at least you now know the basics to get your startup into the Instagram world. Use this guide to launch your account, but always keep advancing your online presence and social media marketing knowledge as the app itself advances.

 

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Which On-Campus Resource is the Right One for You

The Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) has countless entrepreneurial outlets for students of all interests and goals on Cal Poly’s campus. Whether you just want to see the innovations of fellow Mustangs or immerse yourself in the startup world, the CIE has just the resource for you.

Programming

Entrepreneurship Forum Series

Throughout the school year, the CIE holds forums in the Performing Arts Center Pavilion for anyone interested in innovation, startups and small businesses. The forums are open to students and the public alike to bring the community together to see all that is going on with Cal Poly’s entrepreneurial efforts. At these events, attendees can expect guest speakers, Cal Poly student entrepreneurs, pitch competitions and networking.

Who this is best for: Students interested in entrepreneurship and the CIE.

Cal Poly Entrepreneurs (CPE)

If entrepreneurship sounds daunting, or you don’t have a startup idea of your own but still want to be part of that community, then Cal Poly Entrepreneurs is for you. As the largest interdisciplinary club on Cal Poly’s campus, CPE welcomes students of all backgrounds, ages, majors and interests. The club offers networking, skill-building, resources and more at its weekly meetings and constantly welcomes drop-ins and new members.

Who this is best for: Students looking to meet their entrepreneurial peers and discover how to get involved in the startup world.       

The Hatchery

Oftentimes, students have a great business idea to pursue or want to be part of a startup company. If you fall under this category, the Hatchery program is the perfect way for you to learn the business model canvas, gain entrepreneurial skills, get mentorship and work toward turning an idea into a company—all on your own schedule. With a focus on multidisciplinary teams and hands-on learning, the Hatchery allows for exponential growth in learning and is often a stepping stone to the CIE HotHouse Accelerator program.

Who this is best for: Students with a desire to create and be a part of a startup company.

Innovation Sandbox

Students looking for a workspace to make their product ideas tangible need not look further than the on-campus Innovation Sandbox. The space has prototyping and ideation tools, like a 3D printer, for creativity and innovation to collide. The CIE resource allows students to Learn by Doing and turn their dreams into reality. If you have a business idea that requires prototyping and modeling, the Innovation Sandbox could be your one-stop-shop.

Who this is best for: Students looking for a workspace to create prototypes of innovative product ideas.

 

Competitions

The Elevator Pitch Competition (EPC)

When you think you have the next big idea, but you’re not ready to commit to making it happen, the Elevator Pitch Competition is the way to go. Any student is welcome to submit a 90-second elevator pitch of their innovative product or startup idea to our panel of judges, getting them in the running to win the $1,000 prize. The competition does not require tangible business plans or implementation commitments, making it a low-stress and fun way to get involved with the CIE.

Who this is best for: Cal Poly and Cuesta students with innovative ideas and a desire to practice their pitching skills.      

Innovation Quest (iQ)

A little more advanced than the EPC is the Innovation Quest competition, which is for students looking to showcase what they have built, coded, designed or prototyped throughout their efforts at Cal Poly. Participation in iQ gives you the chance to win up to $15,000, so if you have a startup or product in motion and are looking to find investment money, the iQ competition would be great for you and your team. 

Who this is best for: Student teams with a viable startup plan or product creation looking to take their work a step further.

Startup Weekend

With 54 hours to create a startup, this event is perfect for Cal Poly’s ambitious, creative and entrepreneurially-minded students. If you are interested in being part of the startup world, Startup Weekend is your chance to pitch your big idea and build a team to launch it. Culminating in presentations to a panel of judges and investors, Startup Weekend is the best way to meet your peers, elevate your skills and get the opportunity to become an entrepreneur in action.

Who this is best for: Students who want to be part of Cal Poly’s entrepreneurial community and become part of the startup world.

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Where Are They Now? | Boost Acquisition

In 2014, Josh Hirahara, then-senior at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, decided to jump into the entrepreneurial world. Within a year, he found himself immersed in his startup idea: a platform to connect for-sale-by-owner vehicle sellers and qualified buyers.

Hirahara began his journey by pitching his idea at Cal Poly Entrepreneurs’ Startup Weekend, later joining the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Hatchery program. Post-graduation, he continued to grow his idea into a functioning company, Boost Acquisition, through the summer-long HotHouse Accelerator program and two-year incubator program. 

“It was my senior year when I was getting into the entrepreneurship stuff, so I was late to the game,” explained Hirahara. “It’s been about five years since graduating and going through that program, but I left the area and my close CIE involvement about two years ago.”

Within those two years, Hirahara moved his business’s base to Salt Lake City, Utah, as well as opened an office in San Diego, California. Although far removed from San Luis Obispo, Hirahara still has connections from his CIE days.

“I’m still close to a lot of the people that I went through the CIE programs with and still keep in touch with people who run the programs,” Hirahara said. “I’m also partnered up with some older Cal Poly alumni and I consider us the founding group when I pitch our company now.”

Not only did Hirahara’s connections from the beginning stages of his career last, but so did the knowledge he gained from the programs.

“I was an industrial technology major, so I had some business background but knew nothing about entrepreneurship coming in,” he said. “It was great being able to go through the successive programs because I was advancing more than I could have by trying to learn everything on my own.”

Hirahara has now gone from learning the basics of the business model canvas to employing over 20 people at Boost Acquisition. His company is currently running market maker technology that connects in-market sellers with potential buyers online and in real-time. 

“We’re growing and it’s a long journey with a lot of pivots,” he expressed. “But it’s awesome seeing people want your product and pay you for it, making enough revenue to grow and hire more employees, and having a clear outlook on your goals for your company.”

While Hirahara and his team put in the work, he attributes the base of his growing company to the support and resources of the CIE, no matter how far he is now from the area it all began.

To read more about Josh Hirahara’s startup, visit https://www.boostacquisition.com/home.html.

See how you could be the next startup to grow with the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s support at https://cie.calpoly.edu/#launch.

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5 Reasons Why You Should Cowork

Working from home sounds like a breeze until you get distracted by the TV, try to make conference calls from a bustling coffee shop or feel detached from the social workplace. Luckily, there is a happy medium between being a remote worker and having an office job: coworking. Here are the five reasons why you should make the move into a coworking space.

  1. Boosted Productivity

One thing for certain about working from home is that distractions are everywhere. With a sink full of dishes, pets running around and a new season of your favorite Netflix show all just a few steps away from your desk, it can get hard not to focus on your home life over the work on your computer screen. Utilizing a coworking space lets you leave the distractions behind, devote your attention to your job and better set a routine for work hours, undisrupted by home life. 

  1. Heightened Motivation

Another benefit of the bustle of a coworking space is having fellow remote workers around to give you a sense of community, as well as keep you inspired, social, and motivated. Instead of spending hours in the silence of your own living room, seeing what your peers are achieving will motivate you to keep improving yourself and your business. Nothing compares to the energy of an open office space full of hardworking entrepreneurs, innovators, and remote workers to keep you excited about coming to work every day. 

  1. Community Networking

A major bonus about coworking with a diverse, interdisciplinary group of people is having the ability to build your network. Being able to discuss business or brainstorm with your fellow remote workers and local entrepreneurs can lead to partnerships, project ideas, job opportunities or problem-solving tactics. Every so often you might even find yourself needing someone with skills you don’t excel in; through coworking, you can seek help in your community. Luckily, networking happens consistently in a coworking space.

  1. Professional Growth

Coworking spaces often offer meeting rooms, private phone call spaces, a professional office address and more. Instead of meeting or calling clients at your makeshift home office or a coffee shop, you can utilize designated meeting rooms in your coworking space to relay professionalism. Plus, sending and receiving mail at an office building, rather than your home address, can also create a more business-minded feeling. By giving both you and your clients or customers a heightened sense of professionalism throughout all factors of your business, coworking spaces can lead to growth in your work.

  1. Letting Home Be Home

When you work from home, there’s no longer the idea of “bringing your work home;” instead, work becomes home. On top of feeling isolated in your own business bubble, you can begin to feel trapped in your work as well, constantly pressured to sit down at your desk. By moving your work to a coworking space, you can rediscover the beneficial separation of home and job. Creating a designated workspace with a solid routine will keep you productive at work and more relaxed at home, overall improving your quality of both business and life.

Coworking at The CIE

Fortunately, coworking through the CIE does all of the above and more for San Luis Obispo remote workers, startups and entrepreneurs. With two unique locations, the CIE provides coworking opportunities for everyone. The HotHouse, located in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo, is surrounded by coffee shops and restaurants that are great for casual meetings, client dinners or lunch breaks. Just a few minutes away, at 75 Higuera Street, is the HotHouse Annex, a coworking space featuring a hardware lab that is great for product development, prototyping, early-stage manufacturing and lots more. 

Both coworking spaces are accessible 24/7, allowing you to take advantage of your ideal schedule. Plus, we offer a communal kitchen, meeting and phone rooms, event space, lounge area, in-house workshops, and networking events. Coworking out of these CIE locations gives workers a chance to build their local community, learn skills to better their business and network with entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers of all ages and disciplines. 

To learn more on why you should cowork with the CIE and schedule a tour of our vibrant coworking spaces, visit https://cie.calpoly.edu/coworking/.

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CIE Graduates Keeping it SLOcal: BoltAbout

It all started on a summer day when Matt Maxwell, a Cal Poly sophomore at the time, tested out an electric bike at Avila Beach and immediately fell in love with the newfound mode of transportation. Not long after, with the help of his business partner Tavin Boynton, the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), and the City of San Luis Obispo, BoltAbout was born.

Maxwell and Boynton decided to begin turning their love for electric bikes into a career in April of 2016 by joining the CIE’s on-campus Hatchery program. From there, the team landed themselves a spot in both the HotHouse Accelerator and Incubator programs.

“I learned so much just during that three month period [of the Accelerator] that really helped set a strong foundation to build our business into what it is today,” said Maxwell. “After the accelerator program, we were in the incubator for about a year out of the two years of the program because as our business grew, we needed to get a warehouse and a bigger office.”

Now that BoltAbout has left the CIE nest, the company mainly functions out of its location on Broad Street to work on its various services. 

BoltAbout’s main goal is to reduce the barriers to electric transportation adoption in the community through selling and long-term renting electric bikes. The company offers a popular electric bike subscription program that allows customers to rent their own bike and equipment for $79 per month. 

However, the company also has its focus on two services running underneath it.

One of these services is Agile Defense, a program that BoltAbout started in order to aid the local police force and emergency responders.

“It’s a BoltAbout owned business where we up fit police and emergency responder electric bikes,” Maxwell said of the service. “Hopefully, soon when the new budget cycle starts, we’re going to be upgrading their fleet to our Agile Defender electric bikes.”

As their second endeavor, motivated by the location that sparked their business idea, Maxwell and Boynton acquired the Pedego electric bike store in Avila Beach to share their passion for electric transportation with locals and tourists.

With a range of services, BoltAbout is expected to double or triple its number of bike subscriptions in the next Cal Poly academic year, make more contributions to the city, advance the local workforce community and increase its team of employees with the coming months. 

Even though their big advancements happened after moving out of the HotHouse, the co-founders stress that they couldn’t have done it all without local city and the CIE support.

“When we started BoltAbout, it was crazy. There was always this silent hand that was pushing us in the right direction,” said Boynton, BoltAbout co-founder and Director of Customer Experience. “I think if we were doing this in another region or city it might be hard, so we’ve tried to keep everything here in SLO.”

Not only is the quality of community support high in this Central Coast city for the BoltAbout team, so is the quality of life. 

“Most important to us is the happiness and wellbeing of everyone on our team and there’s no happier place in the world than SLO,” added Maxwell. “We’re grateful to have the opportunity to be here and the CIE made that happen for us.”

Looking to begin your next business venture in the vibrant City of San Luis Obispo? Head to https://cie.calpoly.edu/launch/hothouse-incubator/ and learn about joining the CIE HotHouse Incubator program today.

To see more about BoltAbout’s services and programs, visit https://boltabout.com/.

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CIE Graduates Keeping it SLOcal: Restoration Packaging

Once just a senior project, Restoration Packaging is now a nationally and internationally utilized business. Founded by Alex Henige, Restoration Packaging is a one-for-one sustainable packaging company that produces compostable and recyclable cups, to-go containers, utensils and more for the foodservice industry. 

“Essentially, with each product served we plant a plant at a local restoration site,” Henige explained about the company’s one-for-one sustainability aspect. “We partner with local restoration groups in all the territories that our products are served… to design the most effective restoration programs.”

Through a process called hydroseeding, Restoration Packaging, corporately known as Reduce. Reuse. Grow. Inc., mass-plants seeds to make a strong impact in areas of need. The company also works to increase consumer awareness of local restoration efforts so that they can give back through their everyday purchases.

The company’s successes haven’t happened overnight, though, as Henige went through both the HotHouse Accelerator and Incubator programs, with three years in between his departure from those Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) programs and now.

“The accelerator program was a solid foundation for us, really taking the senior project concept and then transforming that into an actual business model,” said Henige. “And then in the incubator program, we were able to take what we learned from the accelerator and… really implement it.”

While building Restoration Packaging in the HotHouse, Henige was able to use CIE resources and networking to get his products into around 45 shop locations, with local Paso Robles company Spearhead Coffee being his first customer. 

In the three years since leaving the incubator program, the number of shops and restaurants using Restoration Packaging products has now risen to over 800 nationwide. The company is even reaching internationally, now partnering with 7-Eleven Canada to advance its sustainable packaging efforts.

As the company’s reach is expanding, so is its product line. Restoration Packaging currently supplies around 40 different products with hopes of expanding closer to 100 in the following couple of years.

Even with all of the expansions, though, Henige says that the CIE is still a key player in his company’s success, as well as a continual inspiration to him. 

“Many of our mentors that we still talk to on a week-to-week basis are very involved with the CIE,” he explained. “I think it’s pretty neat, being still connected with the CIE [and] seeing new companies come in and ultimately flourish into legitimate businesses a couple of years out.”

Flourishing years after starting in the CIE is exactly what Restoration Packaging has done, all while staying locally rooted. 

“The San Luis Obispo community, I think, is perfect to launch a company, especially one like ours that’s in the environmental space,” Henige boasted of the Central Coast city. “If you have a good idea and you’re solving a problem that is applicable not only in our community but could be implemented throughout the world, people are going to want to help out.”

For that reason, Henige decided to keep his business based here in San Luis Obispo, staying close to the community that helped Restoration Packaging grow into what it is now.

If you’re looking to start a business in the supportive San Luis Obispo community, take a look at our HotHouse Incubator program at https://cie.calpoly.edu/launch/hothouse-incubator/.

To see more on Restoration Packaging and where you can find its products, head to https://www.restorationpackaging.com/.

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CIE Graduates Keeping it SLOcal: Calwise Spirit Co.

Aaron Bergh went from creating homemade liquor in his early college days to being the youngest distillery owner in the United States.

“I just kept pursuing distilling as a hobby,” said Bergh, the owner of Calwise Spirit Co. “Then I recognized that there was an opportunity to grow this into a business.”

To get his bearings of the startup world, Bergh began getting involved with the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), first by pitching his business idea at Innovation Quest and subsequently landing himself a spot in both the HotHouse Accelerator and Incubator programs. 

“Having the resources, the people and the valuable mentorship from the CIE really… taught me how to make my idea an actual business,” he explained. “It was the stepping stone from being a college student to getting connected into the business community and the business network that there is on the Central Coast.” 

While in the HotHouse, Bergh only sold his spirits through the business-to-business model. Now, a year after graduating from the incubator program, Calwise has its own distillery location in Paso Robles that also functions as a brick-and-mortar liquor tasting room and the Central Coast’s first cocktail bar. 

The company’s products are also available across California in stores like Whole Foods, Albertson’s, Vons and BevMo!, but Bergh hopes to launch his spirits nationwide in the near future. Nonetheless, Bergh notes that Calwise’s roots will always be in the San Luis Obispo area.

“I fell in love with SLO when I came here to go to school at Cal Poly,” Bergh explained. “Apart from it being beautiful, the people here are absolutely great.” 

As Calwise continues to grow, starting a spirit and cocktail club and expanding into new types of spirits, Bergh doesn’t plan to move the company’s base from where it was born and fostered.

“The Central Coast has a large number of innovative business thinkers here and especially in my industry, the alcohol industry… it’s just this melting pot of different minds and different schools of thought,” said Bergh. “It’s not like we’re all competitors even, it’s like we’re a family all helping each other out, which really goes back to the culture of the Central Coast.”

Bergh attributes the ability to start and keep his business in this place he calls home to the CIE’s support that continues even post-incubator program.

To learn how you can start a business in the innovative San Luis Obispo community, check out our HotHouse Incubator program at https://cie.calpoly.edu/launch/hothouse-incubator/.

To see more about Calwise Spirit Co. and its products, head to http://www.calwisespirits.com/.

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