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A Startup’s Guide to Instagram

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

From Basic to Business

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

Content Creation

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

Storytime

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

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

Caption Creativity

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

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

Stay Posted

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

Insights 

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

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

Paid Advertising

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

Keep Learning

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

 

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Which On-Campus Resource is the Right One for You

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

Programming

Entrepreneurship Forum Series

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

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

Cal Poly Entrepreneurs (CPE)

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

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

The Hatchery

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

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

Innovation Sandbox

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

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

 

Competitions

The Elevator Pitch Competition (EPC)

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

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

Innovation Quest (iQ)

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

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

Startup Weekend

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

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

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What’s in the SLO HotHouse: Incubator Program

By: Lauren Arendt

On any given day, the SLO HotHouse crawls with activity and energy. After walking passed the coworking space in the forefront, visitors come to a vibrant plethora of desks, whiteboards, banners, students and community members, or as the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) calls it, the incubator program.

The CIE  SLO HotHouse Incubator is a two-year, full-time program that includes everything needed for early-stage companies to develop into financially stable, high-growth enterprises by providing the tools needed to facilitate smarter, faster growth. Startups from Cal Poly and the community alike are encouraged to apply for the incubator program.

SLO HotHouse Incubator Program Perks

 

Every company in the incubator program receives a mentor and advisory board to help out with the difficult decisions and planning that go into the early stages of development. Whether incubators are confronted with legal struggles, financial challenges or other uncertainties, someone in the SLO HotHouse will be able to guide them through.

Furthermore, startups in the incubator program receive exclusive invitations to various entrepreneurial events in the community. These include pitch nights, forums and networking opportunities only accessible through the network provided by the CIE.

SLO HotHouse Resources

Members of the incubator program also have the vast resources of the SLO HotHouse at their disposal. This includes 24/7 office space located in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo equipped with multiple conference rooms, a full kitchen, and all of the coffee you can drink.

The SLO HotHouse offers more than office space. It serves as a hub for all entrepreneurial activities at Cal Poly and in the San Luis Obispo community. This creates one-of-a-kind networking opportunities for startups in the incubator program. From monthly peer-to-peer roundtable discussions to an invaluable network of fellow entrepreneurs, Cal Poly professors, esteemed alumni, and more.

Entrepreneurs interested in applying for the CIE SLO HotHouse Incubator program can get more information and find the application at https://cie.calpoly.edu/launch/hothouse-incubator/.

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The 10 Best Weekend Getaways for Entrepreneurs Around San Luis Obispo

By: Lauren Arendt

Everyone loves traveling, adventuring, relaxing and sightseeing, but taking the time off can be daunting. Between school, work and day-to-day responsibilities, finding the time to break routines simply isn’t a possibility for many.

Luckily for entrepreneurs living and working in San Luis Obispo, the central location of the city not only makes it possible to make the most of the weekend without compromising responsibilities but easy too. Whether you can only afford a day trip to relax and unwind, or would rather take a long weekend to go on an adventure, there is a perfect weekend getaway around San Luis Obispo for you. The endless opportunities to break everyday routines without breaking the budget or taking too much time away from the office or studying is one of the many perks of choosing San Luis Obispo to launch a startup.

1.Big Sur

Photo by Tyler Sams

Big Sur is one of the most awe-inspiring coastlines along the Highway 1. The road wraps and winds around sheer cliffs on one side, and lush mountains on the other. The southernmost entrance to Big Sur is only a scenic hour of driving away from Downtown San Luis Obispo. The farther you drive in, the more campsites, day hikes and backpacking trails appear.

The recent landslides made it a little tricker to enjoy Big Sur, but many adventures remain possible. For example, there are sites open to the public at the South entrance of Big Sur directly before the road closure that make for excellent day trips. Salmon Creek, only an hour away from Downtown San Luis Obispo, offers six miles of hiking trails, as well as an impressive 120-foot waterfall only about five minutes from the side of the road. For a long weekend camping trip, it is possible to drive up Highway 101 and access campgrounds via Nacimiento -Ferguson Road.

2. Yosemite National Park

Photo by Lauren Arendt

Everyone knows about Yosemite National Park, but a lot of people don’t realize how close it is to San Luis Obispo. In less than four hours, travelers coming from Downtown San Luis Obispo can make it all the way to the world-renowned National Park to enjoy the awe-inspiring cliffs, waterfalls, lakes, and wildlife.

With lots of low-cost camping opportunities, endless hiking trails, and climbing walls, and only a $30 entrance fee, Yosemite makes the perfect weekend getaway for anyone with an adventurous spirit.

3. Big Basin State Park

In only three hours, weekend warriors looking to explore the outdoors can make it to the lush Big Basin National Park. Visitors to the park can surround themselves with Red Woods, hunt for banana slugs, and explore more than 80 miles of hiking trails. Big Basin is California’s oldest National Park, offering historic landmarks including redwoods that date back to the Roman Empire.

At only $10 to enter, Big Basin National Park offers an affordable destination to enjoy sightseeing, hiking, backpacking, bicycling and camping, all within the span of a long weekend.

4. Montana de Oro State Park

Photo by Tyler Sams

Lucky for those living in San Luis Obispo, their beautiful home offers many “staycations.” Montana de Oro, renowned by many as the mini-Big Sur, is a coastal State Park located just minutes from Cal Poly campus. Offering a rugged coastline, serene beaches, and miles of hiking trails with views of Morro Bay, MDO makes for the perfect day-trip or camping location for those in San Luis Obispo that want a low-stress weekend getaway.

Entrance to the park, hiking trails, and beaches is free, but make sure to make a reservation in advance to go camping.

5. Oceano Dunes

Photo by Tyler Sams

The Oceano Dunes bring desert action sports to the San Luis Obispo coastline. From motocross to dune buggies, the State Park offers an ecologically and geologically unique playground for off-highway enthusiasts. People from all across the United States visit the Oceano Dunes every year, but luckily for those in San Luis Obispo County, the opportunities for off-roading, surfing, swimming, hiking and more are less than 40 minutes away.

6. Henry Coe State Park

Photo by Lauren Arendt

Dusted with wildflowers in the Spring and home to the largest array of open spaces in a State Park from Northern California, Henry Coe State Park makes for a serene weekend adventure only three hours from San Luis Obispo. The park is known for its varied, rugged and beautiful terrain of lofty ridges and steep canyons.

The rolling, green hills are open year-round to backpackers, hikers, car campers, mountain bikers and equestrians.

7. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Photo by Tyler Sams

With lush forests to explore in the warm months, and rugged, snow-covered winterscapes to snowshoe through in the winter, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks offer dramatic landscapes within three and a half hours of San Luis Obispo.

Whether travelers wish to car camp and day hike or backpack amongst the redwoods, these National Parks are sure to leave any visitor dazzled by the grandeur of the wildlife in the area.  

8. Hearst Castle

Yet another magical staycation is San Luis Obispo County, Hearst Castle offers travelers an opportunity to explore history in one of the most decadent, luxurious homes in the United States. Visitors to Hearst Castle have the opportunity to take tours all throughout the mansion, among the infamous gardens, and learn about the history of the Hearst family and their many heirlooms at every step of the way. In addition to the castle’s beauty, the views of the rolling hills and expansive ocean only add more sensation to the space. Only 45 minutes from the Cal Poly campus, Hearst Castle makes for an excellent day trip weekend getaway.  

9. Wine Tasting

From Paso Robles to Sea Canyon, San Luis Obispo County is home to many state-of-the-art wineries. For those who would rather spend their weekend enjoying the finer things in life than roughing it in the wilderness, wine tasting in SLO-local wineries may be the perfect weekend getaway option. Visit THIS article to create a game plan for visiting all of San Luis Obispo’s greatest wineries in only two days.

10. Avila Hot Springs

Another weekend getaway in San Luis Obispo County to help relax after a stressful work and school week is the Avila Hot Springs. This natural gem-turned-spa allows visitors to soak in the warm, mineral-laden water. Mineral water has been used therapeutically for hundreds of years and is said to be useful for a number of injuries and ailments. Better yet? The Avila Hot Springs are only minutes from the beach. Take a load off and rejuvenate, followed by a relaxing day sunbathing on the soft sands of Avila Beach.

In San Luis Obispo, entrepreneurs find it easy to work hard during the week and play hard during the weekend. With some of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world within only a few hours of the town and campus and many opportunities to relax and unwind in the county itself, there is no excuse not to get outside this weekend and every weekend. Let the weekend getaways commence!

If you are interested in starting a business in San Luis Obispo County, learning more about becoming an entrepreneur or just need help with an existing business, find out how the CIE can help you be successful by visiting www.cie.calpoly.edu.

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What’s on Campus: Innovation Sandbox

By: Lauren Arendt

The Innovation Sandbox offers Cal Poly students a shared workspace to experience the most cutting-edge prototyping and ideation tools, explore new subjects, develop technologies and share knowledge with peers. The use of the wide assortment of tools and technologies is included in each and every Cal Poly student’s tuition, making the work space a rare, yet forgiving opportunity to experience world-class equipment.

The learning possibilities provided by the Innovation Sandbox have the potency to benefit various majors from every college at Cal Poly. From state-of-the-art robotics and mechatronics equipment, to virtual reality programs for drawing and sculpting, the opportunities to experiment are truly endless.

The Technology

The technology found at the Innovation Sandbox truly speaks for itself. 3D printing, virtual reality and milling equipment, as well as a general tool box, all contribute to the potential power garnered from the space by those who utilize it.

Three types of 3D printers are available to students at the Innovation Sandbox: Ultimaker 2 Extended+ systems, Kudo3D Titan 2 SLA DLP printers, and Ultimaker 3 Extended systems. These printers aren’t only useful to engineers, but can be utilized in virtually every field. From aerospace to fashion, 3D printing is changing the way people make prototypes.  

All students need in order to complete their first 3D printed project is to provide the Innovation Sandbox with a .stl file along with their name and major–all for free.

Virtual reality serves just as many purposes as 3D printing. Whether interested students want to make use of the relaxing painting programs, improve their reflexes with exciting action games, or simply see what is new with VR, the Innovation Sandbox has it all, again, at no cost to students.

Specific virtual reality equipment offered includes the HTC Vive, Oculus DK2, and the Oculus Rift with controllers.

Milling is yet another resource offered by the Innovation Sandbox allowing students to create prototypes. Students can set out to make anything from circuit boards to props using the Innovation Sandbox’ technology.

The specific equipment available for free to students include an OtherMill prototype circuit board cutter, X-Carve CNC router system for wood, plastic and metal, and Universal Laser system for cutting and engraving custom parts.

The Innovation Sandbox additionally offers solutions for students in need of more “old-school” equipment. The tool bench is a place where students can access a large assortment of more traditional tools, including hammers, saws, fine jewelry files and dremels. The workbench is always open and always free for students to use.

More than Just a Work Space

Student Director Kirby Ransberger believes that the Innovation Sandbox is special for more than the technology it offers: “The Innovation Sandbox is different from every other student organization and club because we serve the students of the university,” Ransberger said.

Student mentors are available to assist peers in putting projects together, working through designs and prototyping faster and more efficiently, as well as to help students experimenting with the equipment to learn from their mistakes sooner. Promoting creativity is at the center of everything that the Innovation Sandbox does.  

Haley Pavone, Founder and CEO of Pashion Footwear utilized the team and tools at the Innovation Sandbox to create the first tangible, working model of her idea for a convertible heel shoe.

“We used the Innovation Sandbox to develop the first ever 3D printed prototype of our innovative high heel design, and do so within a startup budget,” said Pavone. “We were able to work with the knowledgeable Sandbox staff to create a great initial 3D model, iterate it as necessary, and print it to perfection – all for free.”

The Innovation Sandbox allows students to fully embrace the Learn by Doing motto. The resource offers students a chance to not only try new things, but fail with no strings attached. Students interested in trying out the equipment are encouraged to visit the Innovation Sandbox in the Bonderson Project Center (Building 197), Room 205, anytime from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

To learn more about the opportunities on campus to foster innovation, visit www.cie.calpoly.edu, or follow the CIE on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Watch the Video:

Did you know that Cal Poly OCOB now offers an entrepreneurship minor?!

This minor is open to all students! No matter your college, major or career goals, an entrepreneurship minor could be beneficial in growing your professional skill set. This minor encourages students to embrace the entrepreneur inside of each of us, as students learn to draw on dedication, teamwork, and grit to solve real-world problems and create sustainable businesses.

Watch the video to see for yourself why a minor in entrepreneurship could be the right choice for you! 

Coworking: A Startup’s Competitive Advantage

Michael Allen, CEO and co-founder of Imajize, made a company that provides customers with beautiful, sharp 360 degree images of their product, ready in no time. Their 360º viewer lets customers spin products virtually, online. They sell both 360 degree images and 360 degree image software.

With 360 degree photography being a relatively new industry, coworking at the SLO HotHouse has given Allen the resources he needs to be successful in the field and expand his business fast. Watch our video below to see how coworking at the SLO HotHouse is a great way for your startup to find its competitive advantage.

The CIE’s SBDC Can Help You Grow Your Business

The CIE’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is an amazing resource for both new and established businesses.  They offer no cost professional business consulting from industry experts, low-cost trainings, and many other innovative tools to help startups and small businesses succeed in San Luis Obispo County.

“Taking advantage of the resources SBDC offers has helped us grow fast and smart,” said Matt Maxwell, CEO of BoltAbout, Inc. “The quality of consultants and the mentorship we have received has helped us to avoid costly mistakes and some real pitfalls.”

Judy Mahan is the director of SBDC and the CIE incubator. Watch our vlog below as she explains all that SBDC offers, and how you can utilize these cost-effective resources to grow your company.

ObserVR is Changing the VR Industry

ObserVR is a virtual reality analytics platform.  The company provides data-driven insights to power truly immersive experiences. ObserVR’s analytics capture behavior, analyze engagement and fuel growth. They analyze consumer data in order to help VR companies improve in-app functions and keep users engaged.

Check out our video blog for the inside scoop on ObserVR. Click below to meet CEO, Lucas Toohey; COO, Justin Cellona and CTO, Jacob Copus; and learn how they are changing the VR industry.