plain text - Welcome to California State University_ Fresno by fionan

VIEWS: 8 PAGES: 13

									Lyles Center holds annual $10K Business Plan and Elevator Pitch Competitions

Fresno State and partnering community college students had the opportunity to compete for $10,000 in
the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s annual Business Plan Competition. This year’s
competition drew 13 entries which were cut down to just three teams during the semi-final round on
April 18. Those three teams competed against each other on May 3 at Fresno State.

An Elevator Pitch Competition was held in conjunction with the $10K Competition. “Elevator Pitch”
literally means “tell me about your business in the time it takes to ride up an elevator.” Contestants had
90 seconds to explain their ideas to a panel of judges.

Although the winners of each competition have very different business ideas, they have one thing in
common—a desire to grow their business and a passion to succeed.

The team with an idea and business plan for the website HealthSitter.com claimed first place in the $10K
Competition. The team was awarded $6,500, as well as an office space in the Lyles Center’s Hatchery
and a scholarship to attend the E-Myth Leadership Intensive Seminar, a two-day event valued at $1,500.
In addition, the team will be automatically entered into the Draper Fisher Jurvetson $250K Venture
Challenge.

The team’s website will allow people concerned with health issues and various traditional,
contemporary or alternative treatments, to talk to one another. Alastair Macleod was inspired to create
such a web site because he has struggled with health issues and believes such a site would have helped
him. The site is divided into social networks so that the users can talk with others who are going through
the same things as they are. “I wanted to create a web site that people could understand and didn’t just
contain a lot of medical talk,” Macleod said. “The concept is something that if it took off, it could really
help a lot of people.

The team continues to work on their business and is moving into their hatchery space at the Lyles
Center. Macleod said his team is excited about their new place to conduct business as well as the many
resources and people they will have access to.

The team that claimed second place is working on a business called Tomorrow’s Music. They received
$2,500 and will also move their business into a hatchery space at the Lyles Center. Although they are not
automatically entered, the team is bidding to be entered into the Draper Fisher Jurvetson $250K
Venture Challenge as a wildcard entry.

Tomorrow’s Music is a web site with multiple internet radio stations that focus only on new classical
music. Like HealthSitter.com, Tomorrow’s Music organizes user’s interests by social networks. Users will
be able to listen for free and download songs or albums. Tomorrow’s Music is unlike any other web site
because it gives half of the proceeds to the artist and gives 10 percent back to the user in the form of
credits that they can apply toward future purchases.
The team is planning on entering more business plan competitions to try to get as many resources as
possible to help their idea succeed. “We want to take our idea on tour,” said Corey Whitehead, a music
teacher at Fresno State University who also serves as the team’s faculty advisor.

The third place team, who received $1,000, created and presented a business plan that they created for
a class assignment. The team derived their name, ODAK Technologies, from their first initials. They
invented a microphone that utilizes MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems) Technology. Their
improved design allows for the best technology in the smallest package at an affordable price.

David Huynh is not sure if he and his team will continue with their business but he said this competition
has given him the confidence he needs to push forward with other entrepreneurship endeavors of his
own. “This was kind of a turning point for me and I am looking forward to doing more things with
entrepreneurship in the future,” Huynh said.

Preceding the $10K Competition, fifteen people participated in the Elevator Pitch Competition. Timothy
Snyder, who took first place and won $300, already sells snowboards from his garage. The idea that he
pitched to the judges involves creating an actual store with an attached skate park so he can host
events. It also encompasses a website where customers can communicate over a discussion board about
the products and then go directly to Snyder’s online store to purchase them. Second and third place
winners were rewarded $200 and $100 respectively.

Although the contestants were supposed to complete an entry form to participate, some of those who
had signed up did not end up attending. This gave one lucky onlooker, Mike Stewart the chance to pitch
his idea. He received sixth place and one of three $50 runner-up prizes.

The winners from both competitions are excited to receive any money to help them push their ideas or
existing businesses in a positive direction and are looking forward to the next step and more
involvement with the Lyles Center. “We are very excited to be in the Lyles Center because we want to
use all of the incredible resources they have to offer. We are truly honored to be a part of it all,”
Whitehead said.

Community College Entrepreneurial Pathway off to successful start

The Community College Entrepreneurial Pathway Program, which is funded by the Coleman Foundation
and directed by the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Fresno State, is off to a
successful start.

 The project is designed to partner community colleges with the Lyles Center in an effort to build
curricula, classroom content and community support for students interested in entrepreneurship. The
program will work closely with the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Central
Valley Business Incubator (CVBI). The ultimate goal of the grant is to produce a higher yield of successful
business start-ups in the Central Valley. The initiative hopes to do so by encouraging cooperation and
collaboration between the various educational institutions in the area.
During the first year, five Coleman Scholars were chosen: Brent Calvin from the College of the Sequoias
in Visalia, Monte Paden from West Hills College in Lemoore, Ida Ponder from Colombia College in
Sonora, Eric Nasalroad from Reedley College and Alex Brandenburg from Porterville Community College.
The program provides extensive resources and support to the scholars as well as education on
entrepreneurship.

The scholars, who are faculty members at the various community colleges, are the driving forces behind
the development of entrepreneurship programs on their respective campuses. They are laying the
foundation for courses and programs with the goal of forming a consistent pathway for students to
launch their businesses and continue onto four-year universities.

In order to help accomplish these goals, the scholars will receive numerous benefits throughout the
three year initiative including a yearly stipend for their efforts.

During the initial year, the program has worked toward developing curriculum and running nine
workshops that focus on development and coaching. During the first year, the scholars attended the
National Foundation for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) annual convention in San
Antonio, TX. The conference gave them the necessary skills to implement entrepreneurial courses and
programs on their campuses. The scholars also attended intensive training conducted by the National
Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and participated in several of the nine workshops at
Fresno State. The scholars have begun aligning future introductory entrepreneurship courses between
the community colleges and Fresno State.

In addition, they are making progress toward creating several chapters of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs
Organization (CEO) on the various campuses. In November, some of the scholars and their students
attended the CEO annual convention in Chicago, which was attended by more than 1,200 students from
across the country.

In the program’s second year, five additional Coleman Scholars will be chosen from five more
community colleges in the Central Valley. The program hopes to offer introductory courses on the
original five campuses as well as work toward developing new curriculum. The scholars hope to
establish business incubators on the primary campuses. The scholars will continue to attend NFTE and
NACCE trainings and conferences and continue to attend the workshops offered at Fresno State.

During the third and final year of the initiative, introductory entrepreneurship classes will be offered and
more incubators and CEO chapters will be established. The main outcomes that the initiative hopes to
attain on all 10 campuses by the end of the three years are significant enrollment numbers in the
courses, knowledge gained by the students and considerable amounts of business start-ups and
matriculations to four-year universities.

Because this initiative is the first of its kind, the Central Valley will serve as a model that can be
implemented in other areas.
The program is open to all community college campuses throughout the San Joaquin Valley and is now
accepting applications for the 2008/2009 year.

CEO Club members take time to mentor local students

Members of CEO (Collegiate Entrepreneurship Organization) at California State University, Fresno invest
their time and energy on a regular basis to help young entrepreneurs throughout the community.

Their efforts to begin junior CEO programs have begun at Tenaya Middle School as a club that meets
once a week during the students’ lunch hour. The inspiration to begin the program came from within
CEO. Many of the entrepreneurs felt this type of assistance would have benefited them at a younger age
and wanted to offer it to students in the community.

At the TEO (Tenaya Entrepreneurship Organization) meetings, which are hosted by CEO members, the
middle school students run through entrepreneurial scenarios and conduct brainstorming activities. The
club has about 13 members who voluntarily give up their lunch time to be part of the organization.

“The idea behind the program is to instill the idea of entrepreneurship in young kids,” Michael Biondo,
President of CEO, said. “We try to bring entrepreneurship down to a level that they can understand.”

Aurora Arevalo, Marketing Director of CEO oversees the program at Tenaya Middle School. She says she
tries to teach entrepreneurship to the students in creative and interesting ways.

The program at Tenaya Middle School is in the second semester of its first year. Biondo said that it will
serve as a blueprint for future similar programs at other middle schools in Fresno. The goal of the
program is to have students begin their entrepreneurship endeavors in middle school and continue
them throughout their education and careers. “We hope they will ride the wave through middle school,
high school, college and beyond,” Biondo said.

CEO members are there to help students along the way. Some CEO members volunteer to mentor high
school students in collaboration with NFTE’s (National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship)
classroom business plan competition. Through the NFTE program, which is run through the Lyles Center
for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Fresno State University, students create their own business
plans.

At both the middle school and high school levels, the students rely on the college students for business
and entrepreneurship advice, however, they also serve as role models because the students are able to
see young people who have created their own businesses. “We show them the mentality that if I can do
it, you can do it,” Biondo said. Arevelo said that many times the students view business owners as older,
and not as students. “We show them that these ideas can become a reality. They see that we have
businesses and that they can as well.”

While helping the young entrepreneurs in the community, the CEO members also benefit. “If you teach
something, you learn it twice as well,” Biondo said. “The CEO members learn entrepreneurship concepts
better by teaching them to the students. They are also able to learn how to manage and motivate
people, a highly necessary skill.” Arevalo said “Sometimes I know I am supposed to be teaching but I feel
more as if I am learning.”

By building the club at an early age, CEO hopes to sustain their own membership by encouraging
entrepreneurship throughout the students’ education, which eventually includes joining CEO at the
collegiate level.

Along with mentoring middle school and high school students, some CEO members work with Kids
Invent!, an after school program, also offered through the Lyles Center. Kids Invent! introduces
entrepreneurship and enforces creativity along with math and science concepts through fun and
inventive projects.

CEO is also in the developmental phase of another community outreach program to teach
entrepreneurship to young people. The program involves CEO members visiting elementary schools to
lecture on business and entrepreneurship, a program that is in other parts of California but has not yet
come to Fresno.

By giving back to the community, CEO is able to share their passion for entrepreneurship and inspire the
younger community to embark on things they did not know were possible.

CEO is supported by the Lyles Center through its involvement with Kids Invent! and NFTE. The Lyles
Center faculty also serves as advisors to the CEO members and provides valuable tools to help them
accomplish their goals and spread entrepreneurships throughout the community. “The Lyles Center
supports everything that we do and I know that they will always try to help us,” Arevalo said.

For more information on CEO, please visit www.ceofresno.com.

Toying with ideas? Be ready

Even with a novel idea, marketing a new invention can be tough sell.

FRESNO, Calif. — When a Fresno mother-and-daughter duo’s idea for a hide-and-seek doll made it onto
the shelves of one of the nation’s largest toy stores, they felt like they had won the lottery.

Shelly Conte and her mother, Cindy Reichman, were riding high. Their patented Hide-N-Seek Hayley doll
was being sold at Toys “R” Us stores nationwide, becoming a top seller during the 2005 holiday season.

“I remember someone telling us that we were going to be millionaires,” said Shelly Conte. “And I was
thinking about it, no doubt.”

But Conte and Reichman’s dreams of fame and fortune began to unravel about a year later when a
major player in the industry put a new spin on its popular Care Bear by introducing a hide-and-seek
version. It soon edged out Hide-N-Seek Hayley, whose sales began to plummet.

Business experts say that in a fiercely competitive market for new products, copycats and timing all play
a part in whether a new product stays on a store’s shelves or is relegated to the bargain bin. And to
survive, they say, an entrepreneur must be market savvy, develop brand loyalty and “sleep with one eye
open.”

“This can be a very tough business, and knockoff products are commonplace,” said Tim Walsh, a Florida-
based toy inventor and author of “Timeless Toys,” a book that looks at classic toys and the people who
created them. “The problem is that success often prompts others to want in on what you are doing.”

Inventors say they never rest easy: The possibility of a much larger competitor taking them out is always
a chief concern.

“I know I could wake up one day, and it could all be gone,” said Kathleen Whitehurst, co-inventor of
DaysAgo, a digital day-counter that attaches to food containers and measures freshness of refrigerated
products. “It is a cruel world out there, and that’s why you have to cover all your bases.”

Rookie inventors Reichman and Conte said their tumble from Toys “R” Us taught them many hard
lessons, the most sobering being that patents don’t always protect you from copycats.

Shocked and frustrated by their abrupt sales slide, Conte and Reichman terminated their contract last
year with Hayley’s manufacturer, the Kid-riffic toy company in St. Louis, which they fault for a lack of
promotion.

Kid-riffic CEO Michael Roberts could not be reached to comment.

Reichman and Conte considered suing Play Along, the Florida-based Care Bear makers, but backed off
after a lawyer specializing in such cases advised that they didn’t have a strong enough case. And even
so, experts say, defending a patent can cost thousands of dollars in legal fees.

A spokeswoman for Play Along’s parent company, JAKKS Pacific, stood by the company’s decision to
create the hide-and-seek Care Bear. Genna Rosenberg of JAKKS Pacific said the owners of Hide-N-Seek
Hayley would only have a case for trademark infringement if Play Along gave its bear a similar name to
the Hayley toy.

The daughter-mom inventor team’s patent attorney, Richard Ryan of Fresno, agreed, saying Play Along
was careful not to copy the name “Hayley” or the specific technology used by the doll to play hide and
seek.

Hayley, a soft 15-inch doll, comes with a hand-held radio device that offers clues to where she’s hiding.
Depending on the distance, the walkie-talkie will tell a child whether he or she is getting closer or
farther.

“Realistically, their competitor is doing it differently — and frankly not as unique as the Hayley doll,”
Ryan said. “But it is not unfair competition, it is just competition.”

Mike Summers, director of technology development and commercialization at California State
University, Fresno’s Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said bringing an idea to the
marketplace can be daunting for inventors who lack the experience and knowledge.
The center works with inventors to sift through their rough ideas and find the one that can be made and
sold in the marketplace.

Summers said merely having a patent does not guarantee success.

“People think that once they get their patent, that it’s their ticket,” Summers said. “And while it may be
a good idea, it may only be incrementally better than what is already out there” and could flop.

Summers, an inventor himself, developed a lifesaving device that inflates when hurled into water. But
rather than compete head-to-head with much larger companies that also produce lifesaving devices, he
approached the No. 2 player in the market. After some negotiation, that company agreed to buy his
idea.

“Sometimes the collaborative route is the easier route to take,” Summers said. “It’s kind of like joining
who you think your enemy is, but may indeed be your best friend.”

Reichman and Conte have made calls to toy companies and placed ads in industry magazines hoping to
find a new manufacturer—all with no luck.

Although Hide-N-Seek Hayley didn’t make millions as Conte and Reichman dreamed of, it did bring in
about $100,000, which the pair split and used to pay bills. Conte also bought a couch and a washer and
dryer.

Still, the pair is not giving up. They want Hayley and a companion toy, a hide-and-seek dog named
Sammie, on store shelves and they’re also hoping to enlist the help of Congress, the general public, even
Oprah Winfrey, to push for tougher protections for small inventors and against copycats

http://www.vindy.com/news/2008/mar/02/toying-with-ideas-be-ready/

Published: Sunday, March 2, 2008 | MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS

Kids Invent! Gears up for creative summer camps

Kids Invent! will offer elementary and middle school children creative, inventive and unique camps this
summer. The program is comprised of four different week-long camps. The camps are non-residential
and take place at California State University, Fresno.

Each Kids Invent! summer camp encourages engaging and entertaining learning through hand-on
activities and teambuilding. “The camps allow the students to discover technology, science and business
in a positive and fun environment,” said Program Director Diane Phakonekham. Each camp is designed
to inspire its participants to apply their creativity and gain life-long learning tools while empowering
them with skills necessary for future success. The participants learn vocabulary and take quizzes during
the camps, but “they don’t even realize they are learning because they are having so much fun doing it,”
Phakonekham said. “They learn math and science while they are being creative and having fun, which
often times they don’t do at school.”
During the Kids Invent! Toys camp, participants design and invent toys, present their concepts to a
hypothetical management team and build, test and improve their inventions. They also conduct
research at a local toy store, build a web-page to promote their product, write a short business plan and
participate in a public “Toy Fair.”

Kids Invent! Robots camp helps children with no background in robots to build several electric models
while they work up to build their own robots. The participants design the base, cut the wood and add
motors, a circuit board and components. They then figure out how to program their project. At the end
of the week they will compete in a robot wrestling match.

The Kids Invent! Digital Videos camp allows children to learn how to shoot and edit their own digital
video projects. Participants learn basic photography and computer editing techniques to start and by the
end of the week are able to create titles and add special effects. Students work individually and in
groups to produce six videos. They will attend an academy awards style movie premier where each
group showcases their work.

Student who enjoy this camp have the opportunity to participate in Kids Invent! Advanced Digital Videos
camp—which is only offered to those who have taken the first digital videos camp. This camp takes
participants to a more advanced level, where they learn to make black and white movies and silent
films.

In addition to innovation, creativity and learning, Kids! Invent summer camps promote healthy eating
through partnerships with Whole Foods and Save Mart Supermarkets that provide healthy snacks
throughout the week.

Phakonekham said “the camps will be a great experience for everyone involved. We are very excited and
know the summer will be successful!”

Kids Invent! Toys camp will be held June 16-20, Digital Videos will be held June 23-27, Robotics will be
held July 7-11 and Advanced Digital Videos will be held July 21-25.

For more information or to register for the camps, please visit www.lylescenter.com or call
559.294.2045.

Entrepreneur Mentorship Program continues to help students

The Entrepreneur Mentorship Program, a three-unit class offered through the Lyles Center for
Innovation and Entrepreneurship, continues to help direct student entrepreneurs.

The program, led by Lyles Center Director Timothy Stearns, is designed to give aspiring entrepreneurship
students a chance to interact directly with some of the Central Valley’s leading entrepreneurs. “The
mentor program provides opportunities to meet business people from our community. I gain
experiences that I would not be able to get anywhere else,” Angela Cardona, a student in the program,
said.
Through the program, students are matched one-on-one with a mentor that suits their area of interest.
Rather than revolving around time in the classroom, homework and tests, the class focuses on seminars,
social gatherings, field trips and interaction with the student’s individual mentors. “I learn leadership
and networking skills. I am able to learn real-life experiences that I would not be able to learn in a
regular classroom,” Cardona said.

Tom Jones, a local entrepreneur with extensive experience, is just one of the mentors involved in the
program. He said that he liked to meet with his mentee, Aurora Arevalo, as frequently as possible. He
often takes her to lunch, where they discuss their business plans and exchange ideas. They also
communicate through emails and the phone regularly. “I always learn so much from him,” Arevalo said.
“He makes me think of things and asks me questions that I wouldn’t think or ask on my own.”

Although the mentors offer their insight and advice, they also benefit from the program.

“He always tells me that they are old people learning from young kids,” Arevalo said. Jones said “the
program is a mutual aspiration.”

The main goal of the program is to help students develop the skills they need to become successful
entrepreneurs with the guidance and expertise of their mentors. Arevalo said, “The most valuable things
our mentors provide is their support. You just know that they’ll always be there for you.”

Lyles Center brings National Entrepreneur Week to Fresno State

The Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship brought a nationally recognized event to Fresno
State during the last week of February. The 2nd Annual National Entrepreneurship Week featured
special events offered to Fresno State students. The purpose of the events was to celebrate the national
affair, which is sponsored by the Consortium for Entrepreneur Education. The week aimed to recognize
the value of entrepreneurs to the American economy and to encourage the growth of entrepreneurship
education as a lifelong learning process. By hosting these events for Fresno State students, the Lyles
Center supported the national mission and encouraged entrepreneurship across the campus.

“The Lyles Center is pleased to continue its participation in National Entrepreneur Week by providing
students with engaging and innovative forums that promote and encourage entrepreneurial behaviors,”
said Executive Director Dr. Timothy Stearns.

The week began with a “Welcome to Entrepreneurship Breakfast” with Stearns and the
entrepreneurship faculty. The conversation focused on entrepreneurship and the possibilities the
program opens for students.

Mike Summers filled a room in the student union on “Technology Tuesday.” He held an open forum
where people were able to ask questions and have their creative ideas assessed. Although their ideas
were mostly intellectual at the time, participants had questions regarding commercialization and
patents, Summers said. Summers spoke about his successes and failures, as well as current projects and
technologies that he is working on. The next step the participants face is getting their idea explained on
paper along with financial hurdles. They must also consider the overall potential of their idea by asking
themselves, “Does someone really want or need it?” Summers said.

On Wednesday Dr. George Vozikis discussed joining the Institute for Family Business at the “Assessing
Your Family Firm” event.

The closing event to National Entrepreneurship Week was “Hop on the Idea Elevator,” hosted by Craig
Scharton, CEO of the Central Valley Business Incubator. Although senior entrepreneurship major David
Hoff was the only participant at this event, his efforts above other entrepreneurs proved worthwhile.

Hoff had one minute to present his idea for a user-generated web site called “collegeguides.com,” which
will help students transition from college life to adulthood. He explained his web site as more
sophisticated than a social-networking site, but with features similar to Craigslist where students can sell
items such as textbooks.

“His business idea seemed very feasible,” Scharton said.

Because he won the event, Hoff now has the opportunity to attend two classes of his choosing offered
at the Central Valley Business Incubator free of charge. The classes will help him establish his idea and
grow it into a business.

Scharton said the most important aspect of a new entrepreneur with a fresh idea is a clear vision, a well
developed plan, and the ability to execute. Scharton said that Hoff seems to have the ability to think
things through.

Throughout the week “students benefited from sharing ideas with presenters, learning how they can get
involved and building a base of support for their own entrepreneurial success,” Stearns said.

Be sure to put February 21-28, 2009 on your calendar to celebrate the 3rd Annual National Entrepreneur
Week 2009.

Local Business leaders lend a hand to aspiring student entrepreneurs

Young entrepreneurs involved with programs and services offered through the Lyles Center for
Innovation and Entrepreneurship competing received advice and guidance from local entrepreneurs and
business specialists at workshops throughout the spring 2008 semester. The four workshops, which
were held at the Lyles Center, focused on how to write a winning business plan, legal issues to starting a
business, financing your business and presentation skills.

“If you’re going to launch a business, have a plan,” Travis Sheridan, of the Central Valley Business
Incubator, said at the “Writing a Winning Business Plan” workshop. He advised the students that it is
important that they write their own business plans. “If it’s your business plan—take ownership for it,”
he said. He also informed them that “a plan does not guarantee success, but a lack of a plan creates a
greater likelihood of failure.”
At the “Legal Issues to Starting a Business” workshop, Walter Riley discussed the types of legal
structures entrepreneurs should consider when starting a business and the pitfalls from not doing so
correctly. Mirroring the advice of Sheridan, Riley advised students on the usefulness of a business plan.
“If you end in failure or success, you need to have a plan,” he said.

Walter said that he thinks it is important and valuable for new entrepreneurs with limited business
experience to buy a couple hours of legal counsel to know and understand where the problem areas are.
He enforced the fact that students have numerous resources available to them that they should utilize.
“Avail yourself to all available resources, he said. “There are many experienced business people and
professionals that want to help you. Don’t do it alone.”

Students learned about the use of equity financing from Tracewell Hanrahan of Pacific Community
Ventures at the “Financing your Business” workshop. She stressed the idea that an investor needs to
believe in and trust what they are investing in. “An entrepreneur may have the greatest idea or product
but if they are not open to outside advice or are not able to work well with the potential investor, the
investor will choose another one of the many potential decisions out there,” Hanrahan told the
participants.

Like the other workshop leaders, Hanrahan echoed the same advice by telling the participants to seek
advice if they need to. “Some entrepreneurs don’t have the financial experience they need and that is
perfectly okay,” she said.

The last workshop, “Presenting Like a Champ,” was held by Betsy Hays who owns and manages her own
company that specializes in PR writing and counsel. She had a simple answer when the participants
asked what they should wear when presenting—”what looks good and what fits.” When no one asks a
question, she told them to ask one themselves. As far as being nervous, Hays said to avoid eye contact.
“Look at noses instead. Eyes are scary, noses aren’t!” Her best advice, although traditional, is always
helpful—prepare and practice.

The workshops allowed young entrepreneurs to receive practical advice that will help them with their
business plans or in general with their entrepreneurial endeavors. One participant, Aurora Arevalo, said
that the workshops are very helpful and teach her things she does not learn in her classes. Alastair
Macleod, who was head of the team that won the $10K Business Plan Competition, said that they
workshops he attended were beneficial in writing and approving his business plan and formulating
ideas. “I can always learn more,” he said. “The workshops are helpful and open doors to many other
resources.”

Fresno State Entrepreneurs help high school students create business plans

Fresno State entrepreneurship students give back to the community by being mentors to high school
students participating in NFTE’s classroom business plan competition.

NFTE, National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, allowed five area high schools to participate
in this year’s competition. They are Fresno, Hoover, Roosevelt, W.E.B. Dubois and Carter G. Woodson
High Schools. Each student that participates in the program learns business concepts and skills through
the process of creating their own business plans.

The students must be able to feasibly manage their businesses at present and creating the plans can
seem overwhelming to young entrepreneurs who have little or no business experience. To help them
with the task, the college mentors visit the schools on a weekly basis to answer any questions the
students have along the way.

The mentors, who volunteer their time, became involved with the program for different reasons. Dalitso
Ruwe, a junior majoring in psychology with a minor in entrepreneurship said he became involved so that
he could learn from the students. “Working with them often reminds me of some of the stumbling
blocks I have encountered,” he said “Their imagination is exciting to be around. I am hoping it will rub
off on me.”

The mentors oversee and help the students in any way they can. Many of the students need help with
the technical aspects of their plans. “For me, the concepts are so basic but for them it is hard and they
need help,” mentor Angela Cardona, a senior entrepreneurship major, said.

Pa Yang, 18, is a junior at Roosevelt High School. Her non-profit company is called “Tutoring Knowledge”
and focuses on tutoring high school students in math, history and American culture. She said the
mentors have been especially helpful with the economics and math of the project; two things she says
she often struggles with.

Julia Lee, 17, is a senior at the same high school. She says the most difficult part of the project was
coming up with the initial idea. With help from the mentors and a love for beads, she was inspired to
start her own jewelry company, “Rockstar Beads.”

The mentors see the students form their ideas and support them throughout the project and their
presentations. Some of the mentors also act as judges in the preliminary round, which can be a comfort
for many of the participants.

“While the students present, they are able to make eye contact with someone who has been helping
them all along,” said Program Coordinator AJ Johnston. Yang and Lee said they are nervous to present
their business plans and do not always enjoy public speaking but will do what is necessary to help their
businesses. “If I have to do it, I’ll do it,” Lee said.

It is important for the mentors to assist with the business aspects of the program, but they have also
served as mentors in other areas. “The students love the idea that someone young is helping them. It is
one thing if a teacher tells them something, but it is different if a student helps them,” Cardona said.

Keith Smith, a senior majoring in business management, said he feels like he has been a mentor in other
areas. “They ask me a lot of questions about what college is like and what I think they should do,” he
said.
Like all entrepreneurs, the high school students come across challenges, however, theirs are not the
typical problems most business owners face. Yang said the most difficult part of this project has been
balancing her AP classes with her business but she knows that she will have to balance her
responsibilities throughout her life and said that this is good preparation and practice. The mentors,
who are students themselves, are able to assist the students with problems such as these, while they
help them put their business plan together.

Although the mentors significantly help the high school students, they have found that they also receive
great benefits from the program. “The most rewarding experience is watching them find different ways
to work smarter, persist to create something worthwhile and actually believe in their creation,” Ruwe
said. “I tell them they can do this right now. Seeing them happy and helping them realize that it is
something they can do is the most rewarding part,” Cardona said. Another mentor, Aurora Arevalo, said
the greatest reward is seeing a student truly excited about his/her business. “I really enjoy making a
difference,” she said.

The mentors help the young entrepreneurs with their business plans but more importantly offer support
and inspiration. Cardona tells them “You can do this! I will be there to help you with anything you need.”

								
To top