Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Menu

Blog

Category: Entrepreneurship for All

Entrepreneurship for All: How A Fresno High School and the CIE Are Increasing Educational Access for Low-Income Students

When Isaac Hernandez started high school, he attended a Fresno public school alongside over 2,500 other students. He had ambition, but no structure, and his school simply did not have the resources to help him develop career goals or build a four-year plan.

“It was thousands of students, and there was a fight every week. I didn’t feel like I was getting anything out of my education,” Hernandez said. 

Hernandez then discovered the Phillip J. Patiño School of Entrepreneurship (Patiño), a small magnet high school in the Fresno Unified School District that focuses on business and innovation.

“One day, Patiño was doing recruitment, came to our classroom and started talking about what they do,” he recounted. “It was the holy grail of ‘This is for you.’”

Hernandez eventually transferred from his original high school to Patiño.

Students at Patiño spend their time learning the process of building a business and the fundamentals of entrepreneurship.

“All of our classes are geared toward helping students develop an entrepreneurial mindset,” said principal of Patiño Blair Sagardia.

Freshmen at Patiño take a project management class that introduces them to basic principles of entrepreneurship. In their sophomore years, students move onto classes in online marketing and web development, where they build websites and create digital advertisements for real companies in Fresno.

Juniors at Patiño begin building their own companies through an incubator class. Students form small groups and work together to develop product, service and startup ideas. They continue working on these ideas into their senior years, when they move onto an accelerator class.

“Their goal is to further develop a business idea, pitch it to investors and to hopefully launch it at some point during their senior year,” Sagardia said.

During his senior year, Hernandez, along with a small group of classmates, launched Gavin’s Notebook, an online directory that connects families with special needs to disability services and resources. The Gavin’s Notebook website is still live, but is no longer being updated. The founding team took a step back from the project to focus on their studies as they entered their first years in college.

“If it were up to me, I would still be working on it,” said Hernandez, who is now a business administration freshman at Cal Poly. “There were many things we just couldn’t do because of our limited time and experience, but I’m very proud of what we created.”

The hands-on learning opportunities afforded to students at Patiño align well with Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy. The high school’s incubator and accelerator classes are remarkably similar to the programs offered by the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE).

Entrepreneur and Cal Poly alum Mark Jackson recognized these similarities. Jackson served on an advisory committee that provided feedback to Patiño during the school’s early development in 2015. He recommended that Patiño connect with Cal Poly and the CIE. 

“We really focus on a different way of educating students,” Principal Blair Sagardia said. “It’s about applying your [education] to something real to learn at a deeper level. What we saw with Cal Poly is that students have the opportunity to do the application of learning and the real-world experiences. It was completely aligned with what our kids were learning.”

Sagardia acted on Jackson’s advice and reached out to the CIE.

CIE executives were excited by the idea of building a relationship with Patiño.

“The idea was there’s this incredible school that has an entrepreneurial curriculum, so what can we do to inspire these students to pursue college, pursue an entrepreneurial experience in college and look to Cal Poly for that experience?” said CIE Senior Director of Development Cory Karpin. 

In their initial outreach, the CIE invited a group of Patiño students to attend Demo Day, where they could see firsthand what Cal Poly students are able to accomplish with the help of the CIE. 

Demo Day is the culmination of the three-month CIE Summer Accelerator program. During the Summer Accelerator, the CIE provides a select group of Cal Poly students and recent graduates with the resources needed to turn their startup ideas into real business ventures. At Demo Day, Accelerator teams showcase the results of a summer of hard work and pitch their companies.

“We had about 20 students come out with their principal, vice principal and counselor to attend Demo Day, and they just ate it up,” said Karpin.

Patiño seniors on a tour of Cal Poly campus in 2019

The relationship between the CIE and Patiño is now four years strong, and each year several of Patiño’s graduating seniors go on to attend Cal Poly. Nearly 10 of the 30-40 students who graduated from Patiño in the 2020-2021 school year now attend Cal Poly, according to Principal Sagardia.

The CIE ensures that even Patiño students who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds have the opportunity to attend Cal Poly. They do so with the help of Cal Poly Scholars, a program that supports high-achieving, low-income students at Cal Poly. 

“The ultimate goal is that students graduate Cal Poly, but we want to make sure that along the way, they are getting the support and resources they need,” said Cal Poly Scholars Assistant Director Alexis Melville. “The three goals we have for the program are to assist scholars in building a personal support network for college success, to foster an inclusive community of scholars and to help scholars develop knowledge and skills for lifelong success.”

Incoming students, both freshmen and transfer students, automatically qualify for the program based on their Free Application for Federal Students Aid (FAFSA) or California Dream Act application. The program currently assists around 1,200 students.

Cal Poly Scholars provides students with financial support, including a scholarship, technology credit and waived orientation fees, throughout their time at Cal Poly. The program also connects scholars with academic advisors, fosters an inclusive mentorship network, maintains a residential learning community for first- and second-years living on-campus and sponsors other workshops and programming that promote the central goals of the program.

Funding for the Scholars program comes primarily from the Cal Poly Opportunity Fee, a $2,100 fee paid by out-of-state students that is used to cover campus-based costs not covered by financial aid for first-generation and low-income California students. Certain scholars, however, receive scholarships paid for by private donors. Select students from Patiño, for example, receive scholarships funded in part by CIE donors.

Many students at Patiño are first-generation students from low-income backgrounds. When the CIE learned that several Patiño students had been accepted into Cal Poly, but turned down the acceptance because they could not afford the cost of attendance, they turned to their donors for help.

“We went to our donors with the goal of raising enough money to provide a full-ride scholarship for one Patiño student to come to Cal Poly that year,” Karpin said. “We very quickly were able to raise enough money for two full rides.”

CIE donors commit $7,500 per year, for five years, and Cal Poly partially matches that donation with $2,500, according to Karpin. These funds, along with government-provided financial aid, ensure that Patiño students are able to graduate from Cal Poly debt-free.

Hernandez was one of the two Patiño students in his year who received a scholarship from the Cal Poly Scholars program. Throughout his first quarter at Cal Poly, the program proved to be “very helpful when it comes to being acquainted with college life,” he said.

“Without my Scholars scholarship, I don’t think I would be here,” Hernandez continued. “I’m incredibly grateful to be a part of a program like this.” 

Patiño fosters students’ passion for entrepreneurship, and the CIE and Cal Poly Scholars program create opportunities for these students to pursue their passion. These programs not only ensure that they are able to further their education, but provide them with support that helps them thrive as both students and as entrepreneurs.

“It’s not only important to increase access to education, but it’s important to increase inclusion and support of all students on-campus, especially those who have been historically underrepresented and underserved in higher education,” Melville of Cal Poly Scholars said.

For students like Hernandez, increased access to education and educational support are seen as integral to the success of both current and future entrepreneurs.

“Being able to fund these kids who have dreams, but maybe not the finances to pursue them is essential in education,” Hernandez said. “It’s giving kids a chance to pursue their dreams, and I think Patiño is going to be dishing out some kids that have great dreams.”

Searching for Success in a Male-Dominated Field: The Challenges Faced by the New Generation of Female Entrepreneurs

Female representation within the entrepreneurship industry is steadily growing. The number of women-owned businesses is increasing faster than the number of businesses overall, according to Forbes Business. Despite this trend, however, the space is still male-dominated, with only 36% of small businesses owned by women worldwide

New female entrepreneurs encounter challenges that generally do not exist for their male counterparts. Women — especially young women — don’t align with the traditional image of an entrepreneur. This puts them at a disadvantage when meeting with investors and other industry professionals.

Roxanne Miller is one of three co-founders of TractorCloud, a startup developing a hardware-software solution that will help operations managers monitor the predictive maintenance of their vehicles. The startup is still in its early stages, and Miller and her co-founders, both male, are frequently meeting with potential venture capital investors (VCs). 

Miller found that her co-founders are able to effortlessly connect with VCs, 81% of which are male according to Forbes Business.

“Because VCs tend to be white males, my co-founders can identify with them,” Miller said. “They have a lot of similar interests and experiences. For me, it’s more of a balancing game. I have to think about how I’m presenting myself, and it takes a little bit more effort to figure out how to connect with them.”

Roxanne Miller and her co-founder, Morgan Swanson.

VCs are proven more likely to invest in male-led startups. White males control 93% of venture capital dollars, according to Forbes Business, and only 2% of raised VC backing went to female-founded startups in 2017, according to Entrepreneur Magazine.

For Miller, TractorCloud’s male co-founders can act as allies, and are sometimes able to mitigate this issue.

“My male colleagues can support me, give me the floor when it’s my turn to talk and show potential investors that I’m trusted with our business,” she explained. 

But for female-founded businesses, Miller said, “figuring out how to connect with those male VCs on a level that makes them excited about investing in your company can sometimes be a roadblock.”

Christina Grigorian and Camila Monchini, founders of women-led startup For Mom Care, struggle to not only connect with potential investors, but convince VCs that their mission is worthwhile.

For Mom Care is building a postpartum recovery platform that provides holistic support to ensure mothers properly heal after birth. Since founding the company in April of 2021, Monchini and Grigorian found that most cis-gendered males are unaware of the physical and mental toll of childbirth. 

“Our biggest fear going into this was how we were going to convince a bunch of men that [postpartum care] is really important,” Grigorian said. “It’s an issue that they won’t 100% understand. They’re not women, and because there’s a stigma around not being okay after giving birth, their wives likely haven’t spoken about it.”

Grigorian and Monchini must prove to potential investors that problems exist within the postpartum space before they can showcase their startup as a viable solution. The For Mom Care startup pitch is very problem-centric compared to other early-stage startup pitches.

“If you compare our pitch to other startup teams’ pitches, they talk about their problems for one or two slides,” Grigorian said. “We have six or seven slides on our problem.”

Another challenge when pitching to investors, said Grigorian, is establishing credibility. 

Grigorian and Monchini are both biomedical engineers, but because they are not mothers, VCs and other industry professionals often question why they are interested in postpartum care. Grigorian, who has both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in biomedical engineering, believes her credibility is brought into question because of the deep-rooted gender bias in both the entrepreneurship and healthcare industries.

“Women in the healthcare space are not taken seriously,” Grigorian said. “I 100% believe that if there was a man standing behind us on stage, no one would question what makes us credible.”

Graphic by Rachel Weeks

And Grigorian’s belief is not unfounded. A recent study conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that investors prefer startup pitches presented by male entrepreneurs over those presented by female entrepreneurs — even when the content of those pitches is exactly the same.

When pitching their startup, Grigorian and Monchini go out of their way to establish their credibility and stress that they have both the passion and the skills to bring For Mom Care to fruition.

“At the beginning of our pitch, we say we’re the two biomedical engineers so [investors] know we’re not just two random girls standing up there,” Grigorian said. “Saying ‘engineer’ gives you a certain amount of credibility.” 

Tessa Luzuriaga, co-founder and CEO of OdinXR, faces similar challenges. OdinXR is a startup developing a virtual reality where engineering students and professors can conduct hands-on experiments during online learning. Luzuriaga, an electrical engineering student, founded the company after watching her professors struggle to adapt lab classes to an online format during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was her passion for engineering that inspired Luzuriaga to found OdinXR, but people often assume that her interest is rooted in the educational aspects, not the technological components, of the company.

“People assume I don’t know anything about computers, when in reality, I’m doing this because I’m an engineer and I know VR hardware to an obsessive amount,” Luzuriaga said. “I’m constantly validating myself. I have to work that much harder to prove that people should be listening to me.”

Tessa Luzuriaga and her co-founder, Ali Mohammad.

Luzuriaga feels that because she is a woman in a male-dominated industry, people expect less of her and hold her to lower standards than they do her male counterparts.

“Sometimes it feels like there’s more positivity than I deserve, and I’ll very candidly say, ‘No, you should not be applauding this right now,’” she admitted. 

When meeting with industry professionals alongside her male co-founder and all-male team of engineers, Luzuriaga works to “not make gender a thing,” and instead “walks into the room with the same confidence that any one of [her] male peers would.”

She hopes that, as female representation in entrepreneurship increases, gender will no longer be an influential factor in the success of an entrepreneur.

“My biggest hope is that when a woman walks into the room, the initial thought isn’t ‘Oh cool, another woman entrepreneur,’” she said. “It’s ‘Oh sweet, there’s another entrepreneur.’”

Camila Monchini of For Mom Care echoed similar sentiments.

“It would be amazing if in the future, when we think of an entrepreneur, there isn’t necessarily a gender assigned to it,” she said. 

More women entering the entrepreneurship space today leads to a more diverse industry tomorrow, and diverse representation makes the space feel more accessible to people of all backgrounds. Monchini hopes that these changes will inspire younger generations and encourage more young women to embark on their own startup endeavours. 

“It’s absolutely incredible to see so many women getting into the [entrepreneurship] space,” she said. “For younger girls, it’s really cool for them to have role models and know they can one day get into the space and pursue their passions.”

For Mom Care, along with OdinXR and TractorCloud, is one of nine participating teams in the 2021 Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Summer Accelerator, an intensive, summer-long program where Cal Poly students and recent graduates are given the resources needed to turn their startup ideas into real, scalable businesses. 

Demographics within the Summer Accelerator reflect the worldwide trend of increased female representation in entrepreneurship. Over half of the co-founders (59%) in the 2021 cohort are women, compared to the previous year, when women made up less than one third (27%) of the entire cohort. 

“It’s really inspiring being constantly surrounded by strong, amazing women who are dealing with the exact same work relation problems as me,” said Luzuriaga. “It’s so nice to have another woman’s shoulder to lean on, especially when I have nothing but guys on my team.”

CIE staff are hopeful that this trend will continue, and more women will get involved with the Summer Accelerator as well as other CIE programming. 

Many CIE programs, including the Summer Accelerator, match students with mentors who can help them to navigate the startup process. These mentors are often CIE alumni and often male. Increased female representation across CIE programs, however, will eventually lead to more female mentors, with current students hoping to become mentors for the next generation of entrepreneurs.

“It’s so exciting to see the flywheel in motion,” said CIE Senior Director of Development Cory Karpin, who often works with CIE mentors and alumni. “In the early days of the CIE, the percentage of female entrepreneurs was far lower than it is today, but each year, the number grows. Those trailblazers in the early days of the CIE inspired other female founders and so on and so forth. Here we are today with more than half of our Summer Accelerator startups founded by women.”

The growth of female representation in the entrepreneurship space is a slow process, but a valuable one — and one that Grigorian believes is key to successful entrepreneurship.

“There’s no way to solve problems that women have without the involvement of female entrepreneurs — and that includes female entrepreneurs of color and of different backgrounds, ethnicities and religions,” Grigorian said. “People of different orientations have such different worldviews and can offer such different perspectives on how to solve a problem.”

Comments are off for this post

Entrepreneurship for All: The Freshman Perspective

Overhead shot of four students working at a table.

Close your eyes and picture an entrepreneur in your mind. Are they strong, powerful, leading the business meeting as their company’s CEO? Naturally. Are they a freshman in college? No?

Then close your eyes and try again. Reimagine what it means to be a CEO, an entrepreneur or the next big innovator. This time, envision yourself, a new undergraduate student, as the one leading your own company’s meeting.

Because it’s possible. In fact, if you have a desire to dive into the startup world, it’s probable. 

The Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) is dedicated to helping forward-thinking students reach their highest potential, whether they’re just beginning their collegiate journey or graduating on to their next venture.

One student who dove headfirst into entrepreneurship during her first quarter as a Mustang is Alexandra Joelson, now a business administration sophomore.

“I was at the club fair on campus and saw Cal Poly Entrepreneurs advertising the Elevator Pitch Competition,” she said. “I decided to join the club and participate in the competition, because I was just a freshman and I wanted to get as involved as possible.”

For the competition, Joelson pitched an innovative athletic footwear concept that ultimately won the $1,000 top prize and led her to Cal Poly Entrepreneurs’ (CPE) Startup Marathon, where she formed the team of all first-year students that now makes up her company, Intego Sports

So, just like that, Joelson found herself becoming a CEO at 18 years old.

“It’s kind of wild trying to balance learning how to start college and live on your own, trying to figure out how to budget your meals, all while also running a company and doing classes,” she explained. “But it was a really good learning experience to figure out how to balance school and life and our company.”

And while Joelson’s entrepreneurial journey centers around her role as company CEO, students don’t have to be the one with the initial vision to get involved in startups.

For one Intego Sports co-founder, aerospace engineer sophomore Jack Browers, joining Joelson gave him the opportunity to meld his love for engineering and entrepreneurship together and get hands-on experience outside of the classroom.

“It was really exciting being a first-year student diving into entrepreneurship,” Browers said. “You get so much flexibility to create whatever you want and there are so many people willing to help you along the way.” 

According to both Joelson and Browers, there are two major reasons why freshmen can and should get into entrepreneurship: for the early Learn by Doing experience and because you’ll never have such a large support system and safety net again.

“There’s no risk in it,” Joelson said. “If you start a company that fails, you fall back on a college education. I think that there’s no better time to start a company than now, especially when you’re a freshman.” 

However, it’s important to know that entrepreneurship and innovation aren’t just about starting a company; cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset can be key for students with any collegiate goals or career aspirations.

When software engineering junior Kalen Goo first came to Cal Poly, he saw entrepreneurship as a daunting, premier thing reserved for business students. During freshman year, though, Goo joined CPE and realized that entrepreneurship was exactly what he needed.

“Entrepreneurship is about so much more than starting a company,” Goo explained. “Had I not followed through with entrepreneurship, I would’ve been stuck with just my software engineer mindset.”

Two years later, Goo, now the president of CPE, says that having grown his entrepreneurial mindset since freshman year has made all the difference throughout his time in college.

Luckily, if you’re interested in entrepreneurship, there are countless CIE resources available starting from the moment you become a Mustang — whether your goal is to be a startup founder or a future intrapreneur building your innovative community.

Comments are off for this post

Cal Poly Entrepreneurs Fosters Community Despite Social Distancing

Cal Poly Entrepreneurs Club Members

On Tuesdays at 6 p.m., in a typical quarter, you can expect Building 2, Room 210, to be full of Cal Poly Entrepreneurs (CPE) members ready to learn entrepreneurial lessons, hear from startup leaders and connect with their innovative peers over copious amounts of pizza. 

Now, instead of piling into the bustling room across the hall from the Hatchery, members log in to the virtual Tuesday evening meetings from their various locations — but CPE President Kalen Goo said the club’s energy is still the same.

“Most of the challenges this fall lie around how to reach out to people and re-engage them,” Goo said. “But once they come to our meetings, they’ll be welcomed in that typical CPE environment and feel like they’re back at home.” 

With a fresh board of leaders, the club’s focus this year is on re-engaging past members and expanding its reach on and off campus to strengthen the entrepreneurial community in San Luis Obispo. 

Plus, the CPE officers have plans to energize student entrepreneurs beyond the screen.

“Zoom overload is a real thing,” political science senior Sophie Hosbein, CPE’s VP of outreach and community engagement, acknowledged. “We’re putting together basically a workbook, or a toolkit,… to give people entrepreneurship resources that they can pursue [outside of meetings].” 

While they recognized that joining clubs in this virtual climate may seem strange, Goo and Hosbein said that it’s worth it because their club isn’t just another campus organization. 

To them, CPE is an inclusive and supportive community.

One of the best things about CPE, according to Goo, is that there are no requirements to join; they don’t charge membership fees and there’s no expected major, year or experience level, making it the largest interdisciplinary club on campus.

“CPE is for anyone who is interested in entrepreneurship, and I don’t mean just people who want to start a company,” the president said. “A key part of CPE is even just meeting people who are different from you and understanding their perspectives.”

For Hosbein, joining the club was paramount in her college experience, gaining her friendships with like-minded people despite not being interested in founding a startup herself.

“With every CPE meeting I go to, I leave more energized, more excited,” she said. “I’ve always admired the people that [CPE] brings together who are all very driven and ambitious go-getters, but also very ready to have a good time.”

Goo added that, as a non-business major from the College of Engineering, CPE upgraded his academic endeavors by helping him cultivate an innovative mindset to complement his programming and software studies.

However, aside from the educational perks, Goo’s reason for joining, staying in and becoming president of CPE was always the members — whether they’re bonding over slices of pizza in-person or catching up in virtual breakout rooms.

“These are the people who are passionate and really inspirational and are really different from myself who will challenge me to grow and think about the world in a different way,” he said. “These are the people that I want to surround myself with.”

If you’re looking to grow your entrepreneurial mindset, find your campus community and network beyond the classroom, Cal Poly Entrepreneurs is for you, and they’re always welcoming new members. Check them out at https://cpentrepreneurs.com/

Comments are off for this post

Cultivating the Entrepreneurial Mindset: Where Creativity Meets Science

For many, entrepreneurship means creating a startup; for others, it’s about being your own boss. But for students like fourth-year biology major Maddie Alexander, it’s about recognizing innovative opportunities in unlikely places.

Although Alexander’s post-graduation plans originally consisted of her becoming a doctor, she felt like her studies lacked creativity and collaboration, two things she really valued.

That’s when she found Cal Poly’s entrepreneurship minor.

“In most of my biology classes, information is super black or white and there’s not a lot of room for creativity and working with other people,” Alexander explained. “I have so many random interests that I want to play off of in my career and the entrepreneurship minor has encouraged me to explore these interests rather than stick to one specific path.”

When she began taking classes for the minor her junior year, Alexander was able to pinpoint exactly what those interests were: innovation, genetics, human connection and business. 

“Wanting to go into healthcare, I was really interested in the empathy aspect, so I always thought I had to be a doctor,” she said. “This minor taught me that I’ll still help people as an entrepreneur by seeing a customer’s needs, putting myself in their shoes and building off of that.”

Although her immediate plans are to gain more hands-on experience in the healthcare industry or continue her studies, Alexander noted that she wants to build her own company in the future. Until then, though, she said that her entrepreneurial knowledge won’t be wasted.

“Cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset is about having the ability to see opportunity in places other people wouldn’t,” Alexander said. “Having that mindset in a biology setting is kind of unique because not everyone is willing to look at the established, black-and-white information as an opportunity to innovate.”

Alexander recognizes that not many of her College of Science and Mathematics classmates are interested in becoming CEOs; however, she said that entrepreneurship really isn’t just for people who want to launch a startup.

“Sure, some people are more drawn to the entrepreneurial mindset, but there’s always room to innovate and come up with ideas and put in new input,” she said. “You can still use the principles of entrepreneurship in your life even if you don’t have the fire in your body to start a company.”

And that’s why thinking like an entrepreneur is truly for anyone. There’s no downside to seeing things from different perspectives and thinking outside of the box.

“Anyone can follow procedures and go through the tasks of a job,” Alexander said. “But it’s the people who can recognize problems and see where growth is needed who help a company or industry progress.” 

You can build these skills for success regardless of your future plans, and we’re here to help. Visit https://cie.calpoly.edu/ or https://www.cob.calpoly.edu/undergrad/entrepreneurship-minor/ to find your entrepreneurial fit.

Comments are off for this post

Entrepreneurship for All: The Graphic Communicator’s Perspective

When Joe Sobrero came to Cal Poly, he was already determined to be an entrepreneur. As surprising as it may sound, that’s exactly why he chose to study graphic communications with a minor in philosophy.

He didn’t even consider being a business major.

“I think the most important thing that an entrepreneur needs to be is a good communicator,” Sobrero reasoned. “If you’re not a good communicator, you won’t be able to get people on your team, get investments or communicate to your customers why they need your product or service.”

As the co-founder of Ropegun, a mobile application that allows rock climbers to track their progress and compete with friends, he says that his knowledge of communicating, branding and UX/UI design has been invaluable, saving them from having to outsource. Sobrero also noted that his studies of philosophy improved his critical thinking skills, getting him through the endless problems he faces as an entrepreneur. 

After graduating in the spring of 2019, Sobrero and his co-founder Nathan Furbeyre went straight into the HotHouse Accelerator program with their startup idea. Since the program’s end, the pair have kept working with mentors and investors in the two-year HotHouse Incubator.

“To get feedback from advisors who know what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur is absolutely essential and has made a huge difference for me,” he said. “It just gives you confidence when they think you’re doing the right thing because there’s so much uncertainty when you’re an entrepreneur.”

As of January 2020, the team has launched the Ropegun app for iPhones, pushing through their entrepreneurial uncertainty with endless support.

So, what does it really take to get through the tumultuous startup world? According to Sobrero, it requires a lot of passion and risk-taking.

“It’s a lot of work, it’s really hard and it’s high risk,” he explained. “But anyone can do it, if they have the passion and the will to do it. You don’t have to be any certain major.”

While entrepreneurship can be high risk, it can also lead to high rewards, especially if you’re creating something you’re enthusiastic about. When it comes to passion, Sobrero emphasizes that an entrepreneur absolutely needs to love what they’re doing.

“There’s definitely a lot of times as an entrepreneur where you lose a little bit of motivation or you don’t get the validation that you wanted,” he says. “But what keeps me motivated to continue with Ropegun is my obsession with climbing and how much I truly care about the climbing community.”

Want to let your passions run wild? No matter your skill set, the entrepreneurial journey might be for you. Visit https://cie.calpoly.edu/launch/hothouse-accelerator/ to learn how you can turn your interests into a career of your own with our HotHouse Summer Accelerator program.

Comments are off for this post

Entrepreneurship for All: The Manufacturing Engineer’s Perspective

For many entrepreneurs, knowing how to run a business isn’t what they learn in class. Sometimes entrepreneurs are the ones with the manufacturing ability. That’s the way CEO and co-founder of Armadillo Designs, Sam Hunt, sees it.

“Throughout my life, I’ve always been a tinkerer and loved to create things,” Hunt said. “Here at Cal Poly, I was able to learn how to really take that to the next level and turn that into a company or just a product that people could really benefit from.”

Now a third-year student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Hunt is studying manufacturing engineering while growing his startup with co-founder Fabian Araujo in the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) HotHouse Incubator. While he’s pursuing his degree and his company, he is also working to refine his CEO skills.

“I definitely don’t have a business mindset or business background,” he explained. “I have been working to develop entrepreneurship as a mindset and to understand the business behind what we’re doing, and I’ve been able to do that through the CIE and the Cal Poly programs.”

As the engineer of the company, Hunt wants to make sure he still understands the how-to when it comes to running the business. However, he knows there’s value in the specialized manufacturing knowledge he offers to Armadillo Designs.

“Having a diverse team is definitely something super crucial to growing a company,” he explained. “A lot of times you’re told as an entrepreneur that ‘you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.’ The idea there is that you can create whatever you want, but you’ll need a team to do it because you can’t always focus on all sides of a company.”

Building interdisciplinary teams is something that the CIE encourages, always looking for students from any major to join programs such as the on-campus Hatchery program. Like Hunt believes, entrepreneurship is not just for business majors. Instead, entrepreneurship is for the people with the will to make an innovative dream a successful reality.

“What defines an entrepreneur is the ability to get after what you’re interested in and bring an idea to life,” Hunt said. “I think anyone can do that. Everyone has ideas and so really it comes down to you. If you have the drive to get after what you want, then CIE is here to support you.”

Hunt also stresses that there is no negative side to building an entrepreneurial mindset, regardless of where you decide to take your skills post-grad. He says that even if his future doesn’t involve working for his own company, he knows he can be of value anywhere by bringing entrepreneurial knowledge and thinking to the job.

Because the entrepreneurial mindset is applicable in all fields of work, anyone can benefit by learning how to think like an entrepreneur. When more people adopt that critical thinking, problem-solving and determined mindset, innovative ideas can begin spurring from a more diverse set of minds.

“The great thing about entrepreneurship is that it’s really open to anybody regardless of their background or major,” Hunt said. “So, if you have a big idea or even a small idea that you’re passionate about getting after, I really encourage it.”

Basically, he, along with the CIE, wants to make sure that anyone with a great idea and motivation to do something big feel supported to go after their dreams.

As Hunt says, “The world has many problems and as an entrepreneur you can be the one who solves them.”

If you are ready to solve a problem with your innovative ideas in an energetic and flexible environment, head to https://cie.calpoly.edu/prepare/hatchery/. Let the CIE help you think like an entrepreneur so you can take your ideas to the next level.

Comments are off for this post

Entrepreneurship for All: The Architect’s Perspective

Jess Corr is the Chief Operations Officer of Ethic, but she’s better known as “The Architect” within her team. This is the tile she gained by being an architecture major, one area of study that is often overlooked in the startup world. 

“I really love architecture, I’m passionate about real estate and property, and I’m also super passionate about entrepreneurship,” said Corr.

When it comes to entrepreneurship, people tend to assume it’s a career reserved for business or engineering students. What they overlook is the fact that startups need teams of diverse backgrounds in order to find entrepreneurial success. Corr says that she has even learned the most important lessons and tips from entrepreneurs of unexpected majors.

She believes that it’s not what you study that makes you an entrepreneur, but rather it’s about passion, drive and putting your area of study to use in the startup setting.

“Architecture has had a huge role in helping me figure out who I am in regards to entrepreneurship,” she explained. “We do a lot of group projects in architecture, we have a lot of late nights, we’re constantly kind of collaborating with other people. I slowly started to realize what I enjoyed the most was collaborating with others and leading projects.”

Corr recognizes that being an entrepreneur, especially while in college can be challenging. However, she also notes that there are benefits to match the struggles.

“It’s definitely a juggle, being a student and entrepreneur, but I think that’s kind of what makes my day really exciting,” she said. “You’re getting new challenges thrown at you all the time which is exhausting and stressful, but also really fun, and you know that you’re constantly growing into the kind of person that you want to be.”

What surprised her the most, though, is the fact that her entrepreneurial spirit came out almost unexpectedly. Corr says she went on a whim to the 2018 Cal Poly Entrepreneurs Startup Weekend, now known as Startup Marathon, where Ethic co-founder Garret Perkins pitched the idea for a sustainable shopping platform.

“I think I’ve always been an entrepreneur and I didn’t really know it,” Corr began. “I heard about Ethic and just felt really connected to the vision and the passion that the people involved had for it. When I joined the team, I was like, ‘Whoa, this world’s for me.’”

Since then, the duo has taken their startup through the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Hatchery and HotHouse Accelerator programs. Now, Ethic is a HotHouse Incubator company, officially launched with a running site full of ethical and sustainable-focused products for sale. 

“As being one of the youngest people, one of the only females and being an architecture major having no business background, I definitely felt somewhat intimidated going into it,” Corr said of her entrepreneurship experience. “It was just really nice to have different mentors within the CIE and all of the introductions they made for us, allowing me to have different people to go to when I was unsure about something within our own business.”

Corr sees entering the entrepreneurial world as a valuable experience, even if her pursuits will change in the future.

“I want to be doing something that I love everyday and I know that’s going to involve entrepreneurship in some way, whether it’s in architecture, real estate, Ethic or something completely different,” she said. “If you have a passion for something, you need to put it somewhere and let other people share in that.”

If you have a passion for something innovative, but never thought it was your place to pursue it, find out how you can make your dream business happen through the CIE’s Hatchery program at https://cie.calpoly.edu/prepare/hatchery/. Not the right program for you? Contact us and we’ll help you find your best fit for success.

Comments are off for this post