Entrepreneurship for All: The Manufacturing Engineer’s Perspective

The Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) hosts its annual Demo Day to showcase six startups Friday, Sept. 6, at the Fremont Theater in San Luis Obispo. Photo by Joe Johnston/University Photographer/Cal Poly 9-6-19

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 Let the CIE help you think like an entrepreneur so you can take your ideas to the next level.