Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Menu

Blog

Favorite Places in SLO County: Summer 2021

We asked the CIE community to tell us their favorite places here in San Luis Obispo County. Here’s what they had to say:

Hiking Hot Spots

Poly Canyon Trail. Photo by Emily Olstad

Hike Poly Canyon to Architecture Graveyard, a collection of deserted architecture structures built by Cal Poly architecture, engineering and design students.

Prefumo Canyon. Photo by Willa Westneat

The Prefumo Canyon trail leads to a scenic overlook perfect to watch the sunset.

Pismo Preserve. Photo by Stephanie Zombek

Pismo Preserve connects to a number of hiking and biking trails, great for hikers of all levels.

More Outdoor Attractions

Cal Poly Leaning Pine Arboretum. Photo by Alyson Smith

The Leaning Pine Arboretum is a scenic garden on the Cal Poly campus composed of a class projects, lab exercises and senior projects from over a span of 50 years.

Pismo Beach. Photo by Emily Olstad

Located only about 15 minutes from the Cal Poly campus, Pismo Beach is a classic beach town with plenty of outdoor and indoor attractions.

Morro Rock. Photo by Stephanie Zombek

Morro Rock is an iconic Morro Bay landmark formed about 23 million years ago by volcanic plugs.

SLOcal Lunch Spots

Firestone Grill. Photo by Willa Westneat

The Firestone Tri-Tip challenge is when you hike 3 of the major peaks in San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly “P,” Madonna Peak and Bishop Peak) all in one day, then go to Firestone Grill to reward yourself with their famous tri-tip sandwich. 

High Street Market & Deli. Photo by Willa Westneat

Founded in 1927, High Street Deli is a historic San Luis Obispo landmark that was once frequented by railroad workers and their families. 

Sandwich from Old San Luis BBQ. Photo by Old San Luis BBQ

Old San Luis BBQ Company prides themselves on their unique red oak barbecue, hand-trimmed tri-tip and locally farmed, organic vegetables.

Can’t Forget Coffee Shops

Nautical Bean. Photo by Willa Westneat

Nautical Bean has great coffee, great breakfast burritos and a great study atmosphere.

Kreuzberg California. Photo by Willa Westneat

Founded in 2010, Kreuzberg California was inspired by the café scene in the Kreuzberg neighborhood of Berlin, Germany.

Linnaea’s Cafe. Photo by Willa Westneat

It’s been almost 40 years since it was founded, and Linnaea’s is still going strong.

Scout Coffee. Photo by Scout Coffee

Scout Coffee has two San Luis Obispo locations and will be adding a third right on the Cal Poly campus in fall of 2021.

BlackHorse Espresso & Bakery. Photo by Willa Westneat

BlackHorse Espresso and Bakery is a small business supporting other small businesses, proudly serving coffee from local Paso Robles coffee roasting company Spearhead.

Kin Coffee. Photo by Emily Olstad

Kin Coffee Bar serves coffee, matcha, superfoods and baked goods and works hard to create a welcoming atmosphere for all members of the San Luis Obispo community.

And of course… 

Cal Poly Red Brick Dorms. Photo by Emily Olstad

 

Comments are off for this post

Coworking Spotlight: HiView Solutions

HiView Solutions team standing in the SLO HotHouse.

For Miles Hischier, coworking with the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) is a vital part in building a remote business in San Luis Obispo.

Hischier is founder and senior partner at HiView Solutions, a Google Cloud consulting partner that helps organizations improve their remote collaboration tools and technologies. Most of his workday is spent in front of his computer, connecting with coworkers and clients over video calls. Coworking at the HotHouse allows Hischier opportunities to connect in-person with other local entrepreneurs and foster a sense of community that his workdays would otherwise lack.

“There’s a lot of good energy from the other community coworkers,” Hischier said. “Everyone is excited to be around colleagues and replicate that feeling of working at a larger company, but really, we’re all working remote.”

The HotHouse and the CIE first caught Hischier’s attention when he moved to San Luis Obispo in 2016, but as a UC Berkeley graduate with no direct ties to Cal Poly, he was unsure if he would be permitted to utilize CIE resources.

One year later, Hischier learned of the CIE’s community coworking program, and he jumped at the chance to get involved.

“When I found out that there’s a community program that accommodates not only coworkers that are working remotely from San Luis Obispo, but also individuals who are starting businesses, I got real excited,” he said.

Hischier was impressed with the resources offered by the HotHouse. Facilities such as the phone rooms and high-speed internet would prove to be valuable assets in building a business based around remote technology.

His decision to start coworking, however, was ultimately propelled by his desire “to be around other like-minded entrepreneurs.”

The HiView team has now worked out of the HotHouse for nearly two years, and Hischier still looks forward to opportunities that will allow him to connect with the other CIE entrepreneurs — especially during the HotHouse Summer Accelerator.

The HotHouse Summer Accelerator program is an intensive 13-week program designed to help Cal Poly students and recent graduates develop their startup ideas into real, sustainable businesses. Participating teams are provided with $10,000 in capital and given access to expert mentorship, tailored workshops and other CIE resources, including a workspace in the HotHouse.

The accelerator brings a unique energy to the HotHouse that, according to Hischier, encourages and inspires the community coworkers.

“Seeing people stay at the office late at night, white-boarding, thinking about what their business could be in five years — that energy is infectious,” Hischier said. “It always gives us lots of fun ideas.”

San Luis Obispo, said Hischier, has proven to be a hotspot for young talent.

“When I first got here in 2016, I remember getting a lot of questions [about] starting a technology company in San Luis Obispo, but now, four plus years later, it’s very commonplace and seems quite obvious,” Hischier said. “Why not live in a fantastic area that has access to a great university that graduates stellar engineering and business talent?”

HiView hires Cal Poly students as interns or part-time workers, sometimes retaining these young professionals as full-time employees after they graduate. 

Kelly Carroll joined the company during her junior year at Cal Poly when she stumbled across an available position for a Sales Development Representative at HiView.

“The position wasn’t quite what I was looking for, [but] their industry and business model caught my interest,” said Carroll.

She submitted her resume, hoping to speak with a representative about other opportunities at HiView. She met with Hischier and his co-founder Narjit Patel for an interview, where she shared samples of her previous marketing and technical writing work. Hischier and Patel then collaborated with Carroll to create a custom position that was best suited to her skillset.

Carroll worked for HiView as a part-time Marketing Coordinator until she graduated from Cal Poly in June of 2020. Following her graduation, she remained with HiView, working part-time as a contractor until February of 2021, when she was promoted to her current position as a full-time Marketing and Customer Success Specialist.

“At HiView, I feel like my career has been jump-started,” Carroll said. “Working alongside my expert team members at HiView, our colleagues at Google and the industry-leading clients we serve, I learn so much every single day.”

Carroll has gained leadership experience in several realms of business throughout her time at HiView, including marketing, account management, user communications and project management. Her most recent project was spearheading the creation of HiView’s new website.

“It’s been great seeing Kelly’s growth from when she first joined as an intern to now, taking on big projects like overhauling our website [and] running a team of web developers and designers,” Hischier said. “They [were] all reporting into Kelly, who’s only a year out of school, but worked for us 10, 15, 20 hours a week for well over a year before she graduated.”

Coworking has helped shape Carroll’s career at HiView. The HotHouse offers an environment that, according to Carroll, invites collaboration and hard work.

“The friendliness and entrepreneurial spirit of the people working within the HotHouse is inspiring,” Carroll said. “It provides a great in-person working environment that is often missed by remote teams.”

Coworking has similarly shaped Hischier’s startup experience, providing a space in which he can work to grow his company.

“I cannot recommend [coworking] enough for a new entrepreneur,” Hischier said. “If you’re starting a business in San Luis Obispo, I would say the first thing you should do — form your company and then join the HotHouse.”

For more information on coworking or to learn how you can cowork with us, visit https://cie.calpoly.edu/coworking/.

Hatchery Spotlight: EVO Athletics

Three former Cal Poly soccer players are turning their passion for fitness into an entrepreneurial endeavor. Fourth year computer science major Michael Bautista has partnered with his friends Zack DiDonato and Rigas Rigopoulos to create EVO Athletics, a startup working to build an iOS application that allows users to explore new ways to achieve their health and fitness goals.

“We had this idea of creating a training facility and an application, and we decided why not try and pursue it as a sort of side project,” said Bautista. “Then one of our members found the Hatchery, and we decided to join and try to pursue it as a startup idea.”

The Hatchery, an on-campus Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) program that helps students develop their innovative ideas into viable startups, has been a valuable asset to the EVO Athletics team. While Bautista and his colleagues entered this project with the technical skills needed to create the EVO Athletics app, building and maintaining a business was entirely new to them. 

I think the Hatchery is a great opportunity for all Cal Poly students,” said Bautista. “We decided to join the Hatchery because we had little to no business knowledge and, being a computer science student, I had very little resources to acquire those business skills. The Hatchery has really helped us in the business side of our company, while I can really focus on the technical side with my degree.”

One undertaking the Hatchery is currently helping the team with is customer acquisition. This means endless strategic interviewing of potential customers to identify the problems they face and innovating solutions for these issues.

Meanwhile, Bautista is developing their iOS application. The app will double as both the first step in the growth of EVO Athletics and Bautista’s senior project. He will be working with a Cal Poly mobile development professor through two quarters to develop the minimum viable product (MVP), or a simplified version of an app that allows a product team to quickly receive user feedback that they can use to improve their product.

“My personal next step for our startup is to get the MVP out, which I’m working on for my senior project,” said Bautista. “In terms of business, our next step would be to pitch to some investors, apply to Innovation Quest and hopefully get into the HotHouse to develop the business.”

Although EVO Athletics is still in its early stages, Bautista hopes that he can one day grow his startup into a nationally-recognized brand.

“I’d say one of our long-term goals is to be one of the top health and fitness apps in the app store and maybe create some sort of partnership with an athletic brand, like Nike or Adidas,” he explained.

For now, though, Bautista and his team are focusing on growing EVO Athletics into a sustainable business — one that Bautista hopes he can fully devote himself to after graduation.

“I definitely want to be able to work on this full time,” he said. “My two passions are technology and fitness, and this is the only thing I’ve found that combines the two.”

To keep up with EVO Athletics and other CIE startups, follow us on social media.  Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn | Twitter

Comments are off for this post

Hatchery Spotlight: FEARLESS Fitness Kids

black and white photos of FEARLESS Fitness Kids team member's head shots. Intertwined with orange swirl and typographic background of the company name.

Senior business students Sara Glaser and Madison Lewandowski are making it easier than ever for children to have fun while remaining physically active with Fearless Fitness Kids, a student-led startup developing an interactive, story-based video game that requires users to work out as they play.

“Parents need a convenient way to keep their kids active and get their energy out, so we’re creating a game where the core mechanic is exercise,” said Glaser. 

The Fearless Fitness video game creates a positive experience with exercise, helping children to develop and improve their muscle strength, cardiorespiratory health, coordination and fine motor skills — all while having fun.

The idea for Fearless Fitness originated in November 2019 at Startup Marathon, a 54-hour long event hosted by Cal Poly Entrepreneurs in which student innovators work through the weekend to build out a startup idea.

“I came to this event not knowing anyone and almost left because it was a little overwhelming,” Glaser recounted. “But I stayed and pitched an idea — originally for a different concept, but it was related to fitness.”

At Startup Marathon, Glaser met co-founder Lewandowski, who pitched a concept similar to Glaser’s. 

“Long story short, we combined ideas and formed a team,” said Glaser.

The founding team has since expanded to include biomedical engineering major Clayton Pelz and computer science major Emily O’Neal, who have worked together to code and animate the video game. Glaser is meanwhile responsible for the fitness-related content of the game, while Lewandowski is responsible for marketing.

The Hatchery, a CIE program designed to help Cal Poly students develop their startup ideas, has helped the Fearless Fitness team navigate the obstacles of the entrepreneurial journey.

“The Hatchery has been a tremendous help,” said Glaser. “There have been many times when we’ve been in a rut and we’ve been stuck, and they’ve helped us through that and given us a lot of great ideas.”

At this point in their startup growth, The Fearless Fitness team has released a simplified, eight-minute version of their video game for customer testing.

“We’ve gotten some really great feedback, which is very exciting,” said Glaser. “We’ve had a lot of teachers play it in their classrooms, a lot of parents having their kids play it, so that’s been really helpful.”

The team is also working to advance their technology, which will not only allow them to improve upon the current version of their video game, but to create and produce more games. Eventually, Glaser hopes to reach a point where Fearless Fitness is its own platform, where users subscribe month-to-month for access to a whole host of Fearless Fitness video games.

“Our games are story-based. People could play a game and then there would be a sequel game,” Glaser explained. “The story could continue.”

Glaser and her team recently brought their idea to Innovation Quest, an annual competition hosted by the CIE where Cal Poly students pitch their innovative business ideas and prototypes. Fearless won first place, and the team was awarded $15,000 in prize money that will be used to further fund their startup.

To keep up with Fearless Fitness and other CIE startups, follow us on social media.  Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn | Twitter

 

Comments are off for this post

Senior Sequence: Experience Building a Startup

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Business Building

Senior projects are a norm across Cal Poly’s campus. These graduation requirements differ between the university’s six colleges and, in the Orfalea College of Business, differ between concentrations.

Within the realm of entrepreneurship, students are able to choose from one of two “senior sequences.” In one sequence, students get to work with a San Luis Obispo-based startup. In the other, students are given the opportunity to experience building their own company.

The latter sequence, referred to as “Experience Building a Startup,” most directly involves engineering students and business students concentrating in entrepreneurship, but students from all six colleges are welcome to take the course with their respective department’s permission.

For engineering students, the three-quarter Learn by Doing project acts in-totality as their senior project and consists of ENGR-463, ENGR-464 and ENGR-465. For non-engineering students, the sequence involves three, four-unit classes, in which one counts as their senior project credit: BUS-488: Building a Startup Skillset, BUS-487: Launching and Growing the Technology Start-Up, and BUS-464: Applied Senior Project Seminar.

“The course is ideal for anyone who thinks they want to start their own venture and want to see what that’s like, and it’s great for people who want to be a product manager,” explained one of the two course professors, Dr. Tom Katona. “The top feedback I get on why students choose this sequence, though, is that they want to take classes with people they haven’t been taking classes with for the last three years.”

The interdisciplinary nature of the course is what makes building a startup possible.

Over the course of the sequence, students form company teams to practice problem-solution tactics, ideation, customer development, competitive research, prototyping and user testing — all accomplished by having a range of skill sets and backgrounds involved. 

And while some students come into the course with an idea for a startup or product, Dr. Katona says there isn’t a guarantee that a whole team will want to work on it, nor is it as simple as having a cool idea.

“I tend to tell students who say they have an idea of what they want to make that I’m far more interested in hearing about the problem that they want to solve,” he said. “Then we’ll let the time in class help them figure out what the right solution to that is.”

While students can continue to build their startups post-graduation, that isn’t always the outcome — but second sequence professor, and CIE Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Dan Weeks says that continuing on with the company students build isn’t the whole point.

“I think 5% of students will continue on with their created companies and 95% we’re teaching an entrepreneurial mindset to,” Weeks explained. “If you go through a 9-month program with all of the detail we offer, no matter where you work after college, you’re going to look at things differently.”

This is exactly the reason mechanical engineering senior George Luebkeman chose this senior project.

“As an ME student, this option sounded like an excellent way to learn the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, which really sets me apart from other applicants for jobs I am applying to,” he said. “Having a Cal Poly engineering education paired with this entrepreneurship experience makes one a prime candidate for small, disruptive tech companies.”

Similarly, electrical engineering senior Russell Caletena says this senior project was one he couldn’t pass up.

“[The course has] taught me to prioritize empathy, creative thinking, and perseverance when working with others for a shared common goal,” he said. “The skills gained, challenges faced, and people I’ve networked with are all valuable experiences I’ll not only cherish, but also apply to my post-grad plans.”

Luebkeman and Caletena are students who plan to utilize their entrepreneurial mindset within already-established organizations in the future — often called “intrapreneurs.”

Business administration senior Kasey Moffitt, however, plans to take the knowledge she learns in this sequence to one day build her own company.

“As an entrepreneur, my ultimate goal is to one day start my own business,” she explained. “My entrepreneurship courses have given me a glimpse into how to start a business, however this course is giving me the hands-on experience that you can’t get from a textbook.”

Regardless of students’ post-grad game plans, this senior sequence provides them with endless experiential knowledge and the ability to mold the course to their needs.

“This is the good and the bad: there’s a lot of ambiguity in the class,” Dr. Katona said. “We can’t tell these innovative students exactly what to do, but we do understand the process by which these things get off the ground and that’s what [Weeks and I] help with.”

And as daunting as it may sound to build a startup versus taking a more typical senior project, course professors and students alike advocate for the course as the ultimate “Learn by Doing” experience with the safety net of school.

“Our whole attitude here is to fail often, but fail early,” Weeks explained. “You don’t know what you don’t know until you do things. That’s what Cal Poly is all about.”

Through this hands-on senior project, Caletena’s biggest takeaways have been to “think bigger,” “be bold” and “explore beyond your comfort zone.”

“For me, senior project means a lot more to me than a grade on paper,” said Caletena. “The sky is not the limit; the limit is whatever you set it to be and I strongly believe that ideas, no matter how small or big, can truly make a difference in people’s lives as long as we continue to pursue them wholeheartedly to bring them to reality.”

Ultimately, that is the essence of this entrepreneurial senior sequence: setting future intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs up for success and apart from others to make a difference in the real world.

Comments are off for this post

Senior Sequence: Experience Working in a Startup

Cal Poly campus education building

Across campus, Cal Poly students are asked to complete a senior project prior to graduation. Project requirements differ across Cal Poly’s six colleges and, in the Orfalea College of Business, differ across concentrations.

In their senior years, business students with entrepreneurship concentrations are able to choose from one of two “senior sequences.” In one sequence, students are given the opportunity to build their own startup. In the other, students work with a pre-established startup team in the San Luis Obispo area.

The latter option, often referred to as “Experience Working in a Startup,” is a two-quarter sequence that consists of two, four-unit classes: BUS-488: Building a Startup Skillset and BUS-464: Applied Senior Project Seminar.

“In the first quarter, BUS-488, we have [students] working on the side to make sure they understand the value proposition of the company, the customer segments — the kind of stuff they need to be good entrepreneurs in the future,” explained course professor Jon York. “By the end of the first quarter, they’re pretty embedded in the company, so they really start to rock and roll.”

The overall experience offered by the course differs notably from student to student. The work students are asked to do and the skills they develop are entirely dependent upon the needs of the startup that he or she has been assigned.

Because this assignment is so involved, course professors Jon York and Lynn Metcalf do their best to pair students with startups that they have a genuine interest in. They screen a number of local startup teams, looking for founders who can provide a valuable learning experience to students. Then, they present these companies to the students and, in turn, present descriptions of their students to the startup founders, or “company mentors.”

“There’s sort of an interviewing process, and then we let the cards fall where they fall,” said York. “So, for the most part, students end up choosing who they work with.”

According to business senior Nicholas Thorpe, the company that a student is paired up with heavily influences the value of this assignment. 

Thorpe was initially paired with a startup that he believed could not provide him with the opportunities he had wanted to obtain through his senior project. He voiced his concerns to York, who reassigned him to BlueLine Robotics, a startup founded by two engineering students, Ryan Pfarr and Geoffrey Smith, that manufactures tactile robots for law enforcement use.

Through his work with BlueLine, Thorpe said, he has been “able to stretch my wings and exercise some of the things I’ve been learning at Cal Poly.”

Working with BlueLine has taught Thorpe how to apply the skills he has learned in the classroom to a real-world business. 

“In class, you get the skill set you need, but then the reality of how that plays out is very different sometimes,” he said. “In typical lectures, you don’t see how complicated things can actually be in real life.”

Metcalf believes that it is this hands-on learning that makes this senior project such a valuable experience.

“The thing that’s unique about this is it is a ‘Learn by Doing’ experience, but [students] are working alongside a founding team and are really treated as a part of the organization,” she said. “They sit in on important meetings and are privy to the kind of information that makes them feel like a part of the team.”

Students become integral members of the startup teams, sometimes even going on to work for the startup after graduation. 

According to Pfarr, Thorpe and the other students assigned to BlueLine have been valuable assets to his startup and prime examples of how this project is not only beneficial to the students involved, but also the companies.

“[The students] are super talented and well-prepared to a level beyond what I expected,” said Pfarr. “They taught me things that I didn’t even know I needed to know. They’ve both gone above and beyond what the class requires them to do and are great members of the team.”

While Thorpe entered his senior project with a strong understanding of entrepreneurship, working with Pfarr and Smith provided him with a unique perspective on how to run a business.

“Ryan is an encourager,” said Thorpe. “He’s good at seeing what people are good at and thanking them for that. He and Geoffry are intelligent guys. They’re humble and willing to seek out help and advice and mentors, and I think that’s something to look at, see as valuable and try and imitate.”

Throughout the senior sequence, students have both their company mentors and course professors at their disposal for the guidance they need.

“The professors are great,” said Thorpe. “They’re equipping students and then they’re actually there as a resource. I have the ability to connect with them, and because I switched companies, I switched from being under Professor York to being under Professor Metcalf, so I’ve benefited from both.”

York and Metcalf are eager to see their students succeed. Both believe that success in this senior sequence is indicative of a successful career post-graduation.

“This is really about life-long learning and finding resources,” said Metcalf. “[Students] are learning how to keep their skill sets relevant and current, which is what you need to do after you graduate. Nobody is going to give you an assignment. You need to be able to go to someone and say this is what I need in order to do my job better. They’re learning how to do that.”

York echoed similar sentiments.

“For the last 16 years of their life, [students] have lived off of someone telling then when to turn work in and what it should look like — in college, we call that a syllabus,” he said. “If [students] can get to the point where they can create their own goals and objectives and get through it, they’re going to be way above other students who have just been sitting in the classroom.”

Learn more about this senior project course sequence, contact lmetcalf@calpoly.edu.

Comments are off for this post

Hatchery Spotlight: Venue

VENUE hatchery startup

Success as a musician is not an easy feat. It requires relentless hard work, unwavering dedication and, more often than not, connections to an established professional in the music industry. 

Senior computer science major Matthew Lawler is looking to change that with Venue, a mobile application that makes the music industry more accessible to small musicians. 

Venue connects musicians to local venues looking to showcase new talent.

“Musicians can bootstrap their careers, and venues can find new and promising talent that helps draw a crowd to their business,” Lawler explained.

The idea for Venue originated when Lawler was in high school and watched his classmates struggle to use their passion for music to earn revenue that could put them through college.

“They didn’t really have the same opportunities that people who were well-connected did,” said Lawler. “I wanted to see if there was a way I could help empower these smaller musicians to give them the same opportunities as those at the top.”

Lawler began developing Venue about three years ago. This past year, he and his co-founder, senior software engineering major Rohan Ramani, began to expand their focus from product development to business development, working with the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) to turn Venue into a full-fledged startup.

The Hatchery, a CIE program that helps Cal Poly students turn their innovative ideas into viable startup companies, has played a key role in the growth and development of Venue.

“The Hatchery has been invaluable in helping us learn how to actually run a business,” said Lawler. “We’re all technical founders, so we can do all the coding and the programming, but we don’t know much about marketing or sales, so we need the Hatchery’s support in all the other aspects of our business.”

The Hatchery has acted as a guiding force for Lawler throughout his first entrepreneurial endeavor. The program’s resources have provided him with not only the business expertise needed for his startup to succeed, but the morale needed for Lawler to succeed as an entrepreneur.

“The Hatchery has done everything they can to learn about who we are as individuals and what we want to do with this company,” Lawler said. “They’re really willing to invest in you as an individual, and you’re going to learn a ton of skills that you won’t learn in the classroom.”

With the first rendition of the Venue mobile app set to launch within the next month, Lawler and his team are working with the Hatchery to grow their customer base beyond their minimal number of prospective users. They also have a goal of participating in Innovation Quest, a prototyping competition hosted by the CIE in spring.

While Lawler personally hopes to one day see his startup succeed, he is just as excited to witness the success of small musicians who have inspired his creation of Venue.

“Right now, 50 percent of musicians are undiscovered, which means that they can’t actually make a living off of it,” Lawler explained. “I would love to see that number drop significantly so that we can have a lot of new talent entering the market.”

To keep up with VENUE and other CIE startups, follow us on social media.  Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn | Twitter

Comments are off for this post

Hatchery Spotlight: Celebrate

Celebrate team members

Giving the perfect gift is far from an easy task. In fact, an estimated $15 billion is wasted on unwanted gifts each year, resulting in hundreds of tons of additional waste in landfills and incinerators.

Sophomore business major Julie Arnette has set out to remedy this issue. She and Juan Pèrez have created Celebrate, an online platform that makes it easier than ever to give purposeful gifts.

“I’m actually a terrible gift-giver,” said Arnette, one of Celebrate’s two co-founders. “I never know what to buy and I always wait until the last minute. I think [gift-giving] is so difficult— and kind of unnecessarily difficult— but I love giving gifts. That’s kind of where this idea started.”

The fix? Personalized interest boards which friends and family can view to find a gift idea that the recipient is guaranteed to love. 

Arnette and her team have been working on Celebrate for just over a year. In that time, they have won the audience choice award at the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (CIE) annual Elevator Pitch Competition and joined the CIE Hatchery.

The Hatchery, a CIE program designed to help students develop their startup ideas, has been an extremely beneficial resource in building Celebrate. According to Arnette, the guidance offered through the Hatchery has been paramount for Celebrate’s success.

“The mentorship is super valuable,” Arnette said. “They [mentors] provide so much feedback and a different perspective to your business than you can come up with on your own.”

The Hatchery has also introduced Arnette to a community of student entrepreneurs who have acted as a support network through the highs and lows of building a company.

“Having that support and knowing that there are other people going through the same exact thing that you’re doing, like figuring out what you want your business to be and how you’ll get there — I think that’s important,” Arnette said.

Celebrate has recently launched their new landing page, which provides what Arnette describes as “a snapshot of the company in a few pages.” Through the site, users can sign up for Celebrate’s limited beta testing or register to receive their company newsletter.

Now, with their landing page up and running, the Celebrate team is shifting their attention to prepare for Innovation Quest, a prototyping competition hosted by the CIE. They are also continuing to develop their product and enhance their knowledge of Celebrate’s customer base.

“Our mountaintop is getting to the place where we understand exactly when people are having those rough days or when their birthdays are coming up, using data to figure out when they could use a little pick-me-up gift and communicating that to their gift-givers,” Arnette explained. “That way, people are giving the right gift at the right time.”

Learn more about Celebrate at celebrategifting.com and follow the CIE on social media to keep up with all things entrepreneurship and innovation on the Central Coast. IG | FB | LI | Twitter

Comments are off for this post

3D Printing for Airplane Pilots in the HotHouse Annex

RAO Ideas Aviation Headset Holders

Ryan O’Toole founded his business RAO Ideas at just 15 years old. While flying in his pilot father’s airplane a few years ago, O’Toole noticed that smaller airplanes weren’t equipped with storage for the expensive headsets needed when flying. That’s when he set out to design and 3D-print a headset holder for his father, who shared the product with others in the flying community. 

RAO Ideas has since developed into a fully functioning business with various headset holder designs available through both their website and the wholesale market. Its current base of operations: the HotHouse Annex.

The HotHouse Annex provides local entrepreneurs, small businesses and remote employees with a professional coworking space that encourages productivity and collaboration. Along with dedicated office spaces, conference rooms and kitchen amenities, the Annex offers coworkers a manufacturing lab fully equipped for product development.

“It’s a great space to induce that workflow,” O’Toole said of the Annex. “Everyone in there has a similar entrepreneurial mindset, and I definitely like that. It gets the brain juices flowing.”

O’Toole, who is currently a freshman at Cal Poly, hadn’t always planned to continue RAO Ideas into college. The 3D printers he uses to create his headset holders, in addition to the packaging materials used to ship his products, wouldn’t exactly fit in his dorm room. But the Annex was the perfect solution.

“I was thinking about seeing if I could get my parents or a friend back home to ship orders for me, but I really couldn’t figure it out,” O’Toole explained. “Then I found the CIE… I reached out and got pointed towards the Annex, found a space here and so far it’s been great.”

The practicality of the Annex is what originally appealed to O’Toole. The Higuera Street location is easily accessible and its manufacturing space allows O’Toole greater creative freedom in how he creates and produces his headset holders. 

It’s the people, however, that have quickly become O’Toole’s favorite aspect of coworking at the Annex.

“Everybody here is super nice, and it’s just a great workspace and environment,” O’Toole said. “I’ve met nothing but amazing, innovative people at the HotHouse.”

The young entrepreneur plans to continue building his business throughout his college years, with hopes to branch out from aviation headset holders and pursue new innovations. Coworking at the Annex is an integral facet of that plan.

“As long as my business is going strong, I’m planning to stay [at the Annex] at least until I’ve graduated from Cal Poly,” O’Toole said. “And maybe even after that. I really don’t know where my business is going to take me next.”

Find out how you can start coworking at one of the CIE’s coworking locations today at https://cie.calpoly.edu/coworking/

Comments are off for this post

Hatchery Spotlight: PolyVolunteers

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an economic downturn that has caused a rapid increase in unemployment and homelessness throughout the United States. But in the midst of these challenges, student entrepreneurs have found inspiration. 

Communications studies seniors Maureen Turnbaugh and Marissa Soza saw the obstacles posed by the pandemic as opportunities to encourage togetherness and instill a sense of community in San Luis Obispo. Along with classmates Connor Haitfield (Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies), Alejandro Quintero (Interdisciplinary Studies in the Liberal Arts) and Kenzie Rutherford (Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies), they founded PolyVolunteers, a startup company with a mission to make finding volunteering opportunities easier than ever. 

The PolyVolunteers team is utilizing the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Hatchery program to create an app that will connect users with local organizations seeking volunteers and resources.

“We want to be that middle party that can connect people in the community with volunteer groups that they’re actually interested in,” Soza said. “Kind of like a matchmaking app.”

PolyVolunteers originated as a class project for the business and communication hybrid course BUS 458: Solving Big World Challenges. Each quarter, the class presents students with a social or environmental challenge specific to a local community — like the impact of COVID-19 on the San Luis Obispo community.

“From that course, we were able to identify that the homeless population is heavily hit by the pandemic,” Turnbaugh said. “We focused on how we could help and whether our solutions help the greater good. We needed to fine tune our ideas into a very specific position within the community and that’s when we really zoned in on volunteer work.”

BUS 458 professors Lynn Metcalf and David Asky suggested that PolyVolunteers take their idea to the CIE and connected Turnbaugh and Soza with CIE Director of Student Innovation Programs José Huitron. 

“We met with José and clicked with him and he told us everything that the Hatchery was about,” Soza said. “We just fell in love with it, so we decided to give it a go and so far it’s been very beneficial.”

The CIE Hatchery program provides student entrepreneurs with the tools they need to help their startups thrive. The on-campus program has connected PolyVolunteers with mentors to help them navigate the intricacies of entrepreneurship, as well as introduced the team to computer science and software engineering students who can help design the app. 

“You know, being a student and not really knowing how to create a business from the ground up, it’s really helpful to have people who are trained to coach you through it all,” Turnbaugh said.

Hatchery resources have proved extremely valuable in creating PolyVolunteers. 

Four of the five students involved in PolyVolunteers come from liberal arts backgrounds who, prior to their involvement in the Hatchery, had minimal experience with the startup scene.

“All of our team, besides our newest member, are liberal arts students, so we had no idea what goes into creating a business — or creating an app for that matter,” Soza said. “Being in the Hatchery has been very interesting and I think we have all found a new passion that we never thought we would even be interested in.”

PolyVolunteers is still in its early stages. According to Turnbaugh and Soza, their team is focusing on customer development, reaching out to the local community to ask what they would like to see in an app like PolyVolunteers. They’ll soon begin prototyping and hope to participate in Innovation Quest, a prototyping competition hosted by the CIE in the spring.

Turnbaugh and Soza envision a bright future for PolyVolunteers and hope to one day see their app used nationwide.

“We’re starting with Cal Poly and SLO because that’s what we know and what we’re close to,” Soza explained. “Big picture, we want to be able to take [PolyVolunteers] to other universities across the United States and across the world.”

As Turnbaugh explained, the fundamental goals for PolyVolunteers remain faithful to the startup’s core values: helping others and making an impact.

“Our overall hope is that this is a product that’s useful and bridges the gap between volunteer organizations and the students that want to give back.”

To keep up with PolyVolunteers and other CIE startups, follow us on social media.  Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn | Twitter

Comments are off for this post
1 2 3 10