The Largest Interdisciplinary Club at Cal Poly, Fully Ran by Students | Cal Poly Entrepreneurs

Cal Poly Entrepreneurs (CPE) embodies the ideal of interdisciplinary entrepreneurship. Already heralded as the largest interdisciplinary club, the new leaders of CPE are still consistently working toward further diversification of their membership makeup.

“You need people in liberal arts, people in design, people in engineering, people in business, etcetera,” explained co-president Tal Kornfeld. “Without diversity in background, you can’t really start a successful well-rounded business.”

Sarah Shaffer, co-president alongside Kornfeld, adds to this idea in that the CPE wants to work “to include all genders, all races, all ethnicities, all backgrounds, all majors and all ages to really give everyone an opportunity to be a part of the startup world.”

Since its conception in 2009, under the guidance of the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), CPE has evolved into a multi-faceted community that inspires self-motivation, innovation and tangible entrepreneurship involvement. The leaders of CPE, currently including two co-presidents and an officer board of 12 students, foster the club’s entrepreneurial mindset through weekly meetings, guest speakers, workshops, events, and tours to see successful startups in action.

VP of Tours Jack Pawela is in charge of planning the club’s tours of various company offices to give CPE members an up-close view of what running a startup is like. He explains that he sees this part of the club experience, and CPE as a whole, “as a really amazing way to dip your toes in the water and test [entrepreneurship] out to see if it’s right for you.”

“We recognize that sometimes this club and entrepreneurship, in general, can be a little intimidating and tech-heavy and confusing,” added Sophie Rothenberg, co-vice president of Membership Experience and Recruitment. “We are really just trying to show Cal Poly that anybody with any major is welcome and… we want this to be a warm welcoming experience where you can make friends, build your network and also learn.”

While CPE stands out amongst the club-community on campus for its high level of diversity in disciplines, the club is also special for its functioning as an entirely student-run organization. Kornfeld says that he is grateful for the help that CPE receives from advisors and from the Cal Poly CIE, but he is proud of the club’s internal functioning.

Between his time as a CPE member, CPE co-president, and the CIE Hatchery program participant, Kornfeld says he has learned that one of the key skills for these roles and for entrepreneurship at large is self-motivation.

“[Self-motivation] is one of those things that can’t be taught in the classroom. I think that is definitely one skill you need for either commitment because, at the end of the day, no one is forcing you to do anything,” he says. “You need to take it all into your own hands. Even if you have to make some sacrifices, it will be worth it in the end.”

Self-motivation, diverse networking, tangible experience, and a strong internal and external supportive community are all key components in the entrepreneurial world that can be gained through joining CPE.

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