Cal Poly students shine at entrepreneurial conference, embracing Cal Poly’s core value ‘Learn By Doing.’
Four Cal Poly students attended the 40th annual Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO) Global Conference & Pitch Competition held in Tampa, Florida, immersing themselves in Cal Poly’s practical learning approach known as ‘Learn By Doing.’ CEO is a global network for collegiate entrepreneurs and innovators with more than 250 college and university chapters; they support and inspire the growth of any student that seeks to be entrepreneurial.
Out of the 600 startup teams that applied, Cal Poly business administration seniors Benjamin Arts and Mathew Reis made it to the top 25 as finalists with their startup Té Piña.
Té Piña is a pineapple-based beverage that provides consumers with a healthier alternative to energy drinks.
Arts attended the CEO event in 2022 as a spectator, having been recommended by faculty as a student who would effectively represent the Cal Poly entrepreneurship program. This year, after feeling confident in their startup, Arts and Reis decided to apply to the competition.
Prior to the CEO event, Arts and Reis participated in the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Summer Accelerator, a three-month program that provides Cal Poly students and recent graduates with the resources needed to turn their startups into real, scalable businesses.
“During the Summer Accelerator, every Friday you are pitching and receiving constructive criticism. After going through an experience of 12 weeks of pitching, it’s really hard to be put in a scenario where you’re not ready to go under fire,” said Reis.
Because of their involvement with the Summer Accelerator, Arts and Reis felt more equipped talking about their business than other teams pitching, Arts said.
“With general pitching and answering certain questions, it showed that we have [pitched our business] 100 times,” Arts explained.
Joining Arts and Reis were the President and Vice President of Cal Poly Entrepreneurs (CPE) Michelle Wu and Jacob Boyd who are both business administration sophomores. CPE is a student-run club that unifies entrepreneurs on campus.
Each year the CEO organizers invite the President and Vice President of entrepreneurship chapters in their organization to enjoy the event as spectators.
The CEO conference was a great opportunity to network and get more involved in the startup culture, Boyd said.
“Seeing other leaders involved and being so passionate about what they’re doing motivates me as well,” Wu explained. “It’s a reminder that we are all in this together.”
Going into the conference, Boyd was concerned that compared to other entrepreneurship chapters, CPE would be lacking as a club. To his surprise, members of other chapters came to CPE for advice and “being able to help them out was pretty cool,” he said.
Reis, Arts, Boyd and Wu all found the CEO event to be invaluable in terms of meeting mentors, participating in workshops, expanding their network and taking advice from keynote speakers, they said.
“The whole experience was ‘Learn By Doing’ and it showed us what it is like to be a real entrepreneur,” Wu said. “I’m grateful to have experiences like this coming out of Cal Poly.”