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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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The Largest Interdisciplinary Club at Cal Poly, Fully Ran by Students | Cal Poly Entrepreneurs

Cal Poly Entrepreneurs (CPE) embodies the ideal of interdisciplinary entrepreneurship. Already heralded as the largest interdisciplinary club, the new leaders of CPE are still consistently working toward further diversification of their membership makeup.

“You need people in liberal arts, people in design, people in engineering, people in business, etcetera,” explained co-president Tal Kornfeld. “Without diversity in background, you can’t really start a successful well-rounded business.”

Sarah Shaffer, co-president alongside Kornfeld, adds to this idea in that the CPE wants to work “to include all genders, all races, all ethnicities, all backgrounds, all majors and all ages to really give everyone an opportunity to be a part of the startup world.”

Since its conception in 2009, under the guidance of the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), CPE has evolved into a multi-faceted community that inspires self-motivation, innovation and tangible entrepreneurship involvement. The leaders of CPE, currently including two co-presidents and an officer board of 12 students, foster the club’s entrepreneurial mindset through weekly meetings, guest speakers, workshops, events, and tours to see successful startups in action.

VP of Tours Jack Pawela is in charge of planning the club’s tours of various company offices to give CPE members an up-close view of what running a startup is like. He explains that he sees this part of the club experience, and CPE as a whole, “as a really amazing way to dip your toes in the water and test [entrepreneurship] out to see if it’s right for you.”

“We recognize that sometimes this club and entrepreneurship, in general, can be a little intimidating and tech-heavy and confusing,” added Sophie Rothenberg, co-vice president of Membership Experience and Recruitment. “We are really just trying to show Cal Poly that anybody with any major is welcome and… we want this to be a warm welcoming experience where you can make friends, build your network and also learn.”

While CPE stands out amongst the club-community on campus for its high level of diversity in disciplines, the club is also special for its functioning as an entirely student-run organization. Kornfeld says that he is grateful for the help that CPE receives from advisors and from the Cal Poly CIE, but he is proud of the club’s internal functioning.

Between his time as a CPE member, CPE co-president, and the CIE Hatchery program participant, Kornfeld says he has learned that one of the key skills for these roles and for entrepreneurship at large is self-motivation.

“[Self-motivation] is one of those things that can’t be taught in the classroom. I think that is definitely one skill you need for either commitment because, at the end of the day, no one is forcing you to do anything,” he says. “You need to take it all into your own hands. Even if you have to make some sacrifices, it will be worth it in the end.”

Self-motivation, diverse networking, tangible experience, and a strong internal and external supportive community are all key components in the entrepreneurial world that can be gained through joining CPE.

To learn more about Cal Poly Entrepreneurs and how to dip your toes in the entrepreneurial world, visit https://cpentrepreneurs.com/.

If you’re looking for ways to take a full dive into your innovative ideas, visit https://cie.calpoly.edu.

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From Startups to Corporations to Startups Again | A Faculty Fellow’s Full-Circle Entrepreneurial Career

Life has a way of coming full-circle. Taryn Stanko, a Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Faculty Fellow, spent a portion of her career working for a large corporation, Paramount Pictures, before her involvement with entrepreneurial students and startup companies in San Luis Obispo. However, her career happened to jumpstart in the same realm as her current endeavors.

“When I was an undergrad, I got an internship at a startup doing computer programming and it became a full-time job,” Stanko explained. “I worked there for several years developing customized business solution software, so that’s where I got my first taste of entrepreneurship.”

Even though she left the startup for an established company, Stanko says she never lost her entrepreneurial interests; that’s why she jumped at the chance to be a part of Cal Poly’s entrepreneurship program.

Upon coming to Cal Poly from the University of Oregon, Stanko began teaching courses around business negotiation. Currently, she teaches three separate negotiations courses: one for undergraduate business students, another at the MBA level and a third for entrepreneurship students built-up from scratch by Stanko herself.

It wasn’t until she was approached by a student midway through her first year at Cal Poly that she found the CIE.

“When I was teaching my MBA class, one of my students had taken on a roll in the CIE and he came to me and said ‘Taryn, you have to come run a workshop for these folks,’” she recalled. “I’ll never forget going to the CIE HotHouse and meeting everyone… The energy, enthusiasm, and level of engagement was contagious.”

That’s exactly how Stanko found herself back in the world of startups. After becoming a faculty fellow at the CIE in 2016, she led workshops for students going through the Hatchery and accelerator program, as well as held one-on-one mentoring with startup teams. Stanko also got involved with businesses in the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), a program hosted by CIE, by mentoring and consulting with local startups and small businesses.

Stanko brings an extensive set of knowledge to the table, often utilizing her negotiations teachings within her mentoring of the entrepreneurs. She notes that negotiations are commonplace for entrepreneurs, between internal team negotiations, day-to-day operational negotiations, and negotiations with external stakeholders.

“I believe there’s special pressure on entrepreneurs to be able to negotiate well,” she states. “Your ability to negotiate good deals and partnerships within your team, and every other relationship with external stakeholders, is going to drive your success.”

While Stanko possesses a great deal of insight into this realm of entrepreneurship, she recognizes that everyone within the CIE is full of unique knowledge and skills from all different areas of expertise.

“One of the best things about the CIE and the faculty fellows program… is that it brings people from across campus together. The CIE fosters this interdisciplinary networking, which means you get exposed to opportunities you never would have been otherwise.”

Between her course teachings, mentoring and workshops, Stanko offers three key takeaways for her students and entrepreneurs. First, ask for what you need. Second, never underestimate the necessity of research and planning. Third,  see the importance of fostering valuable relationships.

Where better to put these lessons to work than at the CIE, a program, and community that Stanko says “gives people a chance to learn, grow, flourish and start something new.”

If you are looking to grow your negotiation skills as an entrepreneur, look out for Stanko’s Introduction to Business Negotiation for Entrepreneurs course, typically offered during Spring quarter.

To apply your entrepreneurial skills and innovative mindset toward starting something new, visit https://cie.calpoly.edu  to explore the programs and resources that the CIE offers.

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Skill Center: Introduction to the Marketing Funnel

By Lauren Arendt

People buy products for the first time based on the quality of your marketing more so than for the quality of what you’re selling. While your product or service must wow customers to inspire repeat purchases or word-of-mouth recommendations, your marketing efforts make or break the first-time purchase of most customers.

Marketing should not be random but rather planned out to keep costs low, maximize touch points* and ultimately convert the most leads into customers. The marketing funnel is a model designed to help businesses organize their marketing tactics to best reach their selling goals.  

But first…

Before determining what tactics work best for your business, it is essential to define your target customer* and the messaging you will use to appeal to them. Segment this customer group as much as possible in order to keep marketing costs low and impact high. Try to imagine a single person you will be speaking to through the campaign so you can craft messaging that perfectly suits their needs.

Wrong:

  • I will target all male and female college students that commute to school.

Right:

  • My target customer is Kelly, a 20-year-old, female college student who currently rides the bus to school, as she doesn’t have access to a car and lives too far away to walk. She doesn’t like riding the bus, however, because it is oftentimes running late and crowded, causing her to run late. She aspires to be punctual and perform well in school so that she can get good references and grades for graduate school.  

Which of the above target audiences is easier to create an emotional, compelling, high impact message around? The second option offers many more opportunities to hone in messaging for more successful, resonating campaigns.

Designing your Marketing Funnel

Now that you know who you are trying to attract into the funnel and what you want to say to resonate with them, it is time to design the different marketing tactics you will use to get them through the funnel.

Awareness

The goal of the awareness phase is to identify a need from within the target audience and show how your product or service can fill that need. Customers likely know little to nothing about your company or what you offer at this stage, so it is all about building trust and establishing thought leadership*.

Since these prospective customers don’t know much about your product or service at this time, product-centric advertising won’t do you much good. Rather than focusing on tangible features and capabilities, create value in your brand with educational, need-centric content.

Do you like it when people are always talking about themselves and ignore your thoughts and feelings? Prospective customers don’t either. They will tune out blatant advertisements about what you’re selling. Rather, become a lead magnet by crafting irresistible content that creates value for prospective customers.

Tactics:

  • Free blog, video, Ebooks or worksheets that focus on or assess consumer problems, not your solution
  • Engagement-centric social media advertisements
  • Events (with social media coverage, of course)

Consideration

The consideration phase is where you introduce your product or service as the solution to the prospective customers’ need or problem. This will help you build trust and develop a relationship with consumers. This still doesn’t mean it is time to get too salesy, however. Providing consumers with useful information is key in helping them learn more about your product and how it can make a difference in their lives.

In the consideration phase, you have learned much more about who your leads are from the awareness phase, so you can send out much more targeted information. If you effectively captured your leads from the awareness phase by collecting email or other contact information or using the Facebook pixel, you can send these targeted messages directly to them.

Tactics:

  • Targeted social media advertisements
  • Education-based email blast
  • Media placements or influencer marketing
  • Free blogs, videos, Ebooks or worksheets that focus on educating the consumer about your product or service’s ability to solve their problems or fill their needs.

Action

Now it’s time to inspire the final purchase. By now, you have helped consumers realize a problem or need they have, educating them on how your product can solve that problem or need, and have a good idea of who your leads are and how to reach them. All that’s left is to give them one last nudge to buy. Not an irritating push, but a nudge. That means avoiding over inundating consumer with sales calls or promotions, but rather presenting offers they can’t refuse.

In the action phase, it’s important to exhibit why consumers should buy your product rather than an alternative route. This doesn’t mean to get lost in talking about specific features, but rather highlighting what makes your product or solution the perfect fit for this prospective consumer.

Special offers or promotions fit in well at this stage to give that last nudge of incentive to buy. Offer free shipping, 10 percent off, or BOGO with a time limit on the purchase to create urgency and excitement around your promotion. This final touch point is all about the final sale, so make it exciting and irresistible.

Tactics

  • Send out an email series exhibiting your solution’s benefits and offer email subscribers an exclusive offer
  • Retarget leads from the awareness and consideration phase with an exclusive offer through social media advertising
  • Offer a free trial or sample to valuable

Loyalty

After investing time, effort and budget into guiding a lead all the way through the marketing funnel, the last thing you want to do is lose them. If you don’t have a plan for the loyalty phase, you are likely to lose those hard-earned customers to the next big thing.

It is essential for a business to continue providing customers with opportunities to engage with their brand by providing entertaining or informative content that reminds customers why they love what you do. Subscription models are also excellent vessels for keeping customers close.

Tactics

  • Tutorials on different uses for the purchased product sent via email
  • Re-post user-generated content on social media to make customers feel appreciated and connected
  • Engage in community management on social to maintain relationships and engage customers
  • Integrate a subscription model to keep customers engaged weekly or monthly.

Advocacy

In this new era of digital marketing, an additional stage of the marketing funnel has emerged called the advocacy stage. This is where businesses have the opportunity to leverage the vast networks and connections across the globe created by email, social media, online reviews, forums, blogs and more. Now, when customers buy a product or service, they have the power to create new customers in a few clicks. That’s right: your customers will bring even more new leads into your marketing funnel for you, and more leads mean more chances for sales.

This leverages the power of word-of-mouth, which is regarded as one of the most powerful conversion factors. According to Nielsen, 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family over any other type of advertising.

Tactics

  • When customers buy, incentivize them to post on social media or submit an online review with a discount or bonus.
  • Create a referral or ambassador program. The more customers they help you acquire, the more benefits they receive.
  • Regularly post shareable social media content to create opportunities for advocates to engage

Remember, marketing is not random shots in the dark, free or unattached to specific goals. The marketing funnel is a proven model to plan out touchpoints with consumers in a way that focuses on lead generation and relationship building. There are many other models to explore, so long as you have a solid plan backed by customer development and research.

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Poly Canyon Ventures | A Hatchery-born Company

In 2016, Cal Poly Investing Club members Nathan Johnson and Sean Reilly noticed an issue in the area of student entrepreneurship: a lack of investment funding.

“We saw a gap at the school where there were a lot of really exciting projects on campus that, with a little bit of funding, could explode into something more than just a project,” said Reilly.

The two decided to create an organization that could help student projects grow into businesses through venture funding. Thus, Poly Canyon Ventures was born and its “idea to incubation” mission went into action.

“Our core mission is to lower the risk bar for entrepreneurship at Cal Poly and help educate people to let them know they can do school and entrepreneurship at the same,” said Reilly. “With a little help from our organization, they can make that possible.”

The Poly Canyon Ventures team seeks out student business projects that are in need of initial funding to develop tangible prototypes or proofs of concept. They also ideally look to fund student teams that are interested in the CIE programs such as the HotHouse Summer Accelerator and the Hatchery program.

Johnson explained that they look for these Hatchery-based projects because they know firsthand how valuable and impactful the entrepreneurship-dedicated program can be for startups.

“We spent many days and nights in there working and thinking about the best way to structure Poly Canyon Ventures to help startups,” Johnson noted. “I think the Hatchery was a really crucial component of our organization.”

While in the Hatchery the two co-founders were provided with invaluable guidance via mentorship, weekly workshops, monthly check-ins and an array of other activities and events that gave them hands-on experience. Due to the entrepreneurial skills they learned in the Hatchery, Johnson and Reilly make an effort through Poly Canyon Ventures to inform students about the on-campus Hatchery and its resources.

They are also expanding their company’s missions, by partnering with the San Luis Obispo mayor Heidi Harmon and the Cal Poly Department of Sustainability to start the Climate Changer’s Fund. Through this, they plan to fund and foster clean technology innovation and entrepreneurship projects on Cal Poly’s campus.

Poly Canyon Ventures is a non-profit founded and managed by Cal Poly students. To learn more about the organization, visit https://www.polycanyonventures.org/.

For more information on the Hatchery and other CIE programs, visit https://cie.calpoly.edu/.

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Meet the CIE Entrepreneur-In-Residence: Dan Weeks

About seven years ago, Dan Weeks discovered the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). After visiting and speaking with student startup teams at the CIE, he returned home to San Diego to tell his wife that they were moving to San Luis Obispo.

Upon venturing back to the Central Coast, the Cal Poly alumnus dove full force into the local entrepreneurial effort. Weeks, a seasoned entrepreneur himself, currently splits his time between leading tech programs at the SLO County Office of Education, teaching entrepreneurship courses at his alma mater and mentoring student startup teams in the CIE HotHouse.

As the CIE entrepreneur-in-residence, Weeks mainly works with the innovative student teams that have already gone through the summer Accelerator program, helping them stay motivated through the trials of entrepreneurship.

“When you’re an entrepreneur, the highest highs and the lowest lows can happen on the same day,” he explained. “To some degree, I’m the cheerleader helping them persevere through the low spots, which happens with every team.”

Weeks says that he often helps the students stay committed to their goals once the fast-paced summer program ends and team members start seeing. He always reminds them that the path of entrepreneurship is not an easy one, but that it is a rewarding one.

While he is motivated to help each team reach success, Weeks acknowledges that plans can change for individual team members. Nonetheless, he stresses the value of going through the Accelerator program for both the overall startup team and each student themselves.

“All the attributes they’ll learn over the summer program will be valuable whether its a startup or any kind of company,” he said. “The entrepreneurial mindset is what makes you actually have more leverage within a company because you’re able to speak the language of business in a way that’s not boring.”

Between priceless mentorship and real-world experience, the CIE Accelerator offers students a platform to transform their ideas into companies. The 13-week summer program involves hands-on learning for the teams, following Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing spirit.

But as Weeks likes to put it, “entrepreneurship is Learn by Doing on steroids.”

Anyone ready to dive full force into their visionary startup can apply to be part of the CIE’s programming or can start by dipping their toes into entrepreneurship with Weeks’ Introduction to Entrepreneurship course at Cal Poly. 

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Wildnote revolutionizes fieldwork and protects natural resources | Meet a CIE Incubator

The digital world has revolutionized the way people from many industries do their jobs. Kristen Hazard, CEO of Wildnote Inc., a Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) incubating company, realized that biologists, botanists, archeologists and other scientists still used primarily pen and paper and largely missed out on the benefits of digital tools. This observation inspired her to launch Wildnote Inc., a mission-driven organization focused on enhancing and protecting natural resources by building the best-in-class, go-to digital platform for collecting, managing and reporting environmental data.

A typical day for biologists and other scientists conducting field work demands that they record data using pen and paper on the scene and then later manually transcribe their notes into a clunky PDF or Word document to send to a project manager. This transcribing can be tedious busy work after a long day on the field, but also leaves room for error.

Wildnote takes away the need for manual transcription, saving people time and allowing for consistent, real-time data across a team.

“This is a classic paper to digital play,” Hazard said. “It basically means we are revolutionizing the process of collecting, managing and reporting this kind of data.”

Utilizing the technology leads to higher efficiency, higher accuracy and the exact same type of information from each person out in the field. When the project manager gets the data, they are working in a web app. This means they can go to a photo gallery, look at the different data collected from a single spot and export that data.

Wildnote’s mission to protect and enhance natural resources doesn’t stop at creating digital solutions for biologists: the company is a registered B Corporation and a member of the 1% for the Planet program, which means Wildnote donates one percent of gross revenue to environmental organizations.

“If you have a business in San Luis Obispo, you aren’t doing it because housing is cheap, you’re here because of the nature,” Hazard said. “We have clean air, clean water, so why not keep giving back to the local natural resources in a simple way like becoming a member of 1% for the Planet.”

Wildnote started their entrepreneurial journey in San Luis Obispo with the Small Business Development Center, hosted by the CIE, and utilizing the free consulting available. The team then entered the incubator program, a two-year-long program open to community members and Cal Poly students alike.

“We found out that the CIE allows community companies,” Hazard said. “I like to call it the old folks incubator or the late bloomer incubator.”

The modern office space in downtown San Luis Obispo, the support of mentors and consultants, and the CIE’s creative, can-do energy are some of the Wildnote team’s favorite benefits. Access to investors and learning unfamiliar skills gave them the boost they needed to grow into the company they are today.

“I get a lot of people who come to me about launching a startup,” Hazard said. “The first thing I always say is to either apply for the SBDC or incubator program. If you can get in, you are immediately given all of these resources you need to grow the company.”

If your community startup is interested in receiving office space, gaining mentorship and joining a vibrant, energetic community of like-minded entrepreneurs, visit https://cie.calpoly.edu/launch/hothouse-incubator/ and explore the tools that empowered Wildnote to revolutionize their industry.

 

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Get to Know the 2019 Innovation Quest (iQ) Finalists

Eleven Cal Poly startups have been selected as finalists for Innovation Quest (iQ), an opportunity for entrepreneurial-minded students to showcase what they have built, coded, designed or prototyped throughout their efforts at Cal Poly. $30,000 in equity-free funding will be available to three winners, decided by a panel of judges and announced April 27.

Get to know the student-founded startups competing in iQ this year:

Armadillo Designs

Creating the All-Access Camper, which is a customizable camper shell with a convertible roof.

Buteo

Creating a bird detection and deterrent technology that utilizes autonomous fixed wing drones to help vineyard managers and other berry farmers protect their crops from bird damage and receive valuable data about the health of their vines.

Golden California Crust

A ready-to-bake, 100% vegan, gluten and dairy-free walnut-based pie crust made with organic sugar and walnuts grown in California.

HealthBlock

A code-free platform enabling health researchers to create & deploy remote studies, while providing a decentralized application that securely connects them with consenting participants.

Physio

A wearable device that allows people suffering from wrist pain to recover from their injuries at home, without going to a physical therapist.

PolyMuir

Leading an industry transition from petroleum-based plastics to sustainable algae based alternatives, beginning with a waterproof coating for performance rain coats.

Popshop

Allows users to shop pre-approved clothing with custom parameters in a consolidated supply chain, congregate all event information in one location and offer custom websites for every function.

Roopairs

Provides a field service management software to service companies to streamline their business operations.

Santronics

Provides an automated, adaptable, and caregiver-oriented hand hygiene compliance monitoring system for hospital infection control teams, designed to reduce healthcare-associated infections by providing insightful accountability to healthcare providers.

Tulum Cosmetics

A direct-to-consumer brand, developing a matte liquid lipstick with FDA approved medical treatment to heal and conceal cold sores.

Wayve

A universal sink and spout attachment that filters non-potable water into safe drinking water.

For more information on iQ, past winners and this year’s prizes, visit https://cie.calpoly.edu/prepare/innovation-quest/.

Make sure to follow @CalPolyCIE to receive live updates on this year’s competition.

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You could own where you shop | CIE HotHouse community Incubator to launch customer-owned e-commerce platform

By: Lauren Arendt

 

What if you could own a piece of Amazon for only $100? Bill Wollrab, one of the original founders of the restaurant chain The Yard House, is on the verge of launching an ecommerce platform called Betterfly that is majority owned by its customers to create a more democratic, equitable shopping experience.

Wollrab said the benefit of shopping in a collaborative model is that customers are able to find nearly any product in a grocery store like Whole Foods, but that for an investment of at least $100, hold stock in the company.

“Its like Amazon, but if Amazon were owned by all of its customers,” Wollrab said. “It’s a dropshipping model, but instead of the profits going to Jeff Bezos or the large institutional investors, the profits are shared with the customers.”

When the site launches in April, more than 5,000 products will be available, but in the future, 20,000 products and services will be available to customers. Wollrab wants Betterfly to be a portal for anything bought online.

Not only do customers own the business, but know exactly what they are buying and how different products could affect their health and the health of the planet. All products will be tested and rated by an independent nonprofit organization to take the time and resources needed to vet out products for customers.

The customer empowerment doesn’t end there. Five percent of company revenue will be donated to charities of the customers’ choice. This is ten times more than Amazon Smile, Wollrab said.  

Backed by years of successful entrepreneurial experience, Wollrab chose to work within the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) incubator program for the one-of-a-kind environment of community, support and knowledge.

“It’s encouraging and inspirational to walk into a physical space in the morning with like-minded people who are facing the same challenges that we all face when we try to get into entrepreneurship,” Wollrab said. “Help is not only available but encouraged in this sort of environment.”

Within the environment described by Wollrab, entrepreneurs of diverse experience levels, ages, and levels of progress in their companies thrive. Wollrab said that this diversity is not polarizing but in fact part of why the program is so enjoyable.

“[The incubator] is very inclusive. It doesn’t matter what your age is or anything else,” Wollrab said. “We are all working toward the same goal, which is to create solutions, and people in this environment are not only happy to help, but inspiring each other. It is one giant team up here even though everyone is working on different projects.”

The incubator program is accepting applications from entrepreneurs throughout the San Luis Obispo community. Learn more about the program and submit applications here: https://cie.calpoly.edu/launch/hothouse-incubator/.

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