From medicine to lawmaking and beyond: How entrepreneurship can benefit all kinds of careers
During her first semester of medical school, Rose Badrigian was shocked to learn that 70% of physicians show some level of implicit bias against people of color.
She learned that statistic in class and was then asked to take a test that would uncover her own implicit biases. After she and her classmates completed the test, the instructor simply moved on to a new topic.
Badrigian was taken aback, surprised that the instructor didn’t address how to mitigate implicit biases — so she spoke up and told the instructor just that.
“I said, ‘Can you explain to me why we are taught that this is clearly a huge problem, but you’re not teaching us a single thing about how to not perpetuate that problem?’” Badrigian recounted.
Questioning the status quo was second nature to Badrigian, whose undergraduate involvement in the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) taught her the epitome of the entrepreneurial mindset — identify the problem and figure out how to solve it.
“Really successful companies and ideas are the ones who don’t try to fix the wheel. They’re the ones who are like, ‘We don’t need wheels, we can have hoverboards,’” Badrigian said. “My time at the CIE got me really comfortable being like, ‘This is a better option.’”
Badrigian participated in the CIE Summer Accelerator in 2018. The Accelerator is an intensive, three-month program that connects Cal Poly students and recent graduates with the resources needed to build a business, including $10,000 in seed funding.
Badrigian joined the Summer Accelerator as the founder of BooBees, a startup creating sustainable surf wax. In addition to providing an eco-friendly alternative to petroleum-based surf waxes, BooBees set out to empower women in the male-dominated surf scene.
The Summer Accelerator was a rapid introduction to entrepreneurship for Badrigian, who studied biology as an undergraduate. The program introduced her to “the beauty of entrepreneurship,” she said, and proved that “if you can imagine it, there’s a need for it and it doesn’t already exist, you can create it.”
Badrigian eventually decided to step away from BooBees in order to focus on medical school. However, she never lost her entrepreneurial mindset, which she said is like “a flame that will never stop burning.”
Entrepreneurship can be beneficial to practitioners of any discipline, not just business professionals — as Badrigian demonstrated by applying her entrepreneurial thinking to medicine.
Now in her third year of medical school, Badrigian said she’s noticed several problems in the medical space that could be solved with innovation. She keeps a list of startup ideas that could address the problems she identifies.
“I’ll be forever grateful for everything that I learned through the CIE because it’s so applicable, especially in a field like medicine,” Badrigian said.
Shaun Tanaka, also CIE alumnus, is applying entrepreneurship in another unlikely industry — lawmaking.
Unlike Badrigian, Tanaka never planned to pursue a postgraduate degree. He originally intended to enlist in the military directly after completing his bachelor’s degree in marketing. He enlisted in the Army Component of the California State Guard and served while earning his undergraduate degree, intending to pursue a military career after graduation.
“I thought that four years of school was enough for me,” Tanaka said. “But eventually, I found myself in the field of entrepreneurship and innovation.”
Also as an undergraduate, Tanaka founded a startup now known as Castle Innovations LLC. The startup is developing a firearm safety device for AR-15s, which is now patented. The current iteration of the device, called the CastleLock, uses high-speed biometric locking technology to secure AR-15s from unwanted users and negligent discharges.
Tanaka brought the original idea for the CastleLock, known then as the GripSafe, to the CIE. He pitched the startup at the CIE’s annual Innovation Quest (iQ), a high-stakes competition where Cal Poly students present their innovations to a panel of judges for the chance to win thousands of dollars. Tanaka won the third-place prize of $5,000.
Tanaka then brought Castle Innovations LLC to the CIE Summer Accelerator after he graduated from Cal Poly.
Instead, with the help of the California Military Department GI Bill, he chose to pursue a master’s degree in public policy.
Cal Poly’s Master of Public Policy program teaches students to approach government and law from an analytical standpoint. Tanaka said he wanted to enroll in the program in order to learn how to navigate the complex legislation in the firearm safety space.
“It was pragmatic for what I was doing with the business,” Tanaka said.
Working in a startup prepared Tanaka to tackle the heavy workload that comes with a master’s program. He improved his time management skills throughout the Summer Accelerator, which he said “acclimated (him) to being busy.”
There are technical similarities between public policy and entrepreneurship, Tanaka said when comparing policy research to market research. He said the biggest similarity between the two, however, is that both are a people-first field.
“Entrepreneurship teaches you the value of people,” Tanaka said. “Being in firearm safety, we’re working with people that are very pro-gun, very anti-gun. However, just like in policy, you have to find a way to meet in the middle.”
Tanaka said he believes practicing entrepreneurship but pursuing an education in a different discipline can be beneficial to founders — and learning about entrepreneurship can be beneficial to anyone, even those with no plans of starting their own business.
“Experimenting with entrepreneurship can be a very valuable thing,” Tanaka said. “If you’re in college and you don’t inherently know what you want to do, entrepreneurship is a great start.”