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Tuesday, July 16th 2019

Lavin Entrepreneurship Center Community Newsletter

August, 2018



After continuous participation in cross-border projects between SDSU and CETYS Universidad, recent San Diego State University graduate and Lavin Entrepreneur, Stellan Christensen, is continuing his work south of the border, with the goal of exploring new entrepreneurial opportunities in untapped markets.

Christensen joined the 2016-2018 cohort of Lavin Entrepreneurs after transferring to SDSU to study economics. Last year, he participated in an exploratory trip to Baja California with Lavin Entrepreneurship Center Executive Director, Dr. Alex DeNoble, and other student entrepreneurs. During the trip, Christensen was able to connect with an incubator in Tijuana, Mexico called MINDHub which has helped him further the development of his own startup called Leash-less. “I’ve been able to meet so many people and make important connections, so once I develop enough skill and credibility, I think I’ll be able to execute on more projects,” he says.

Last spring, he presented his business model for Leash-less and took third place in SDSU’s Lavin VentureStart competition. His product and application aim to help pet owners track their pet’s health by allowing them to monitor their pet’s calories, heart rate variability, body temperature and more.

Christensen studied graphic design and Spanish/Western European studies before earning his degree in economics. He grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but also lived in Sweden for a year and is a dual-citizen. He says his interest in culture and language has influenced his desire to participate in international ventures and allows him to view people and relationships in a unique way.

Although it was still early in Christensen’s entrepreneurial journey, he started investing his own money when he first began college and eventually joined the investment society. “It’s where I learned a lot about what other people were doing and that’s really how I got into blockchain and cryptocurrency,” he says. His fascination with cryptocurrency eventually led him to co-found the Crypto Club at SDSU. “Most people join to make money, but we also try to focus on the educational aspect so that people can understand it better.”

He says that entrepreneurship was always an important part of his life and his goals, but that he didn’t know what it meant to be an entrepreneur, until he arrived at college. “I thought that I’d get good at graphic design and hopefully hire clients and start a firm, but I thought of myself more as an artist collaborating with other artists,” he says.

He is currently working with various startups to help them improve their digital marketing campaigns. One of the startups that Christensen has been involved with was created by his friend and newly admitted Lavin Entrepreneur, Chad Vargas, who has been collaborating with SDSU’s Zahn Innovation Platform Launchpad to launch his medical tech startup company. Another futuristic startup that Christensen has been working with aims to provide cryptocurrency traders with valuable content that will help them make better trades.

“Being in this network of classmates and entrepreneurs has provided so many unforeseen opportunities,” Christensen says. “All of the pitch events, networking events and all of my paid internships were through the Lavin Entrepreneur Program. It’s really up to you what you make it.”


New Lavin Students

San Diego State University professor and experienced venture capital entrepreneur, Kimberly King, recently returned from Tbilisi, Georgia, where she taught students and professionals from around the world about entrepreneurship. King traveled to Georgia as a part of an entrepreneurship training program awarded to the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center by the U.S. Embassy in Georgia, and implemented by Ilia State University in Tbilisi.

The program was made possible through ongoing collaborations between the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center’s directors, Bernhard Schroeder and Alex DeNoble, and their counterparts at Ilia State University. The program involves designing an entrepreneurship course and training workshop, led by King. She says that one of the main goals of the program is to spread entrepreneurship and teach people effective methodologies they can use to start businesses.

While in Tbilisi, King taught an entrepreneurship course that focused on developing viable startups. She also led an entrepreneurship training workshop that brought a mixture of students and professionals, of ages ranging from twenty to ninety-years-old.

She currently teaches a fundamentals of entrepreneurship course at SDSU and spent more than 20 years investing and mentoring startups and high growth companies before becoming involved in SDSU’s entrepreneurship education programs. “I really like being with students and helping them develop their ideas,” she says. “That’s kind of what you do with venture capital firms, so I get to do the same thing, at an earlier stage, and it’s really great to see their whole journey from students to business owners.”

She believes that aspiring business owners can benefit from experiencing new cultures and says she encourages her students to pursue those experiences. “If you’re going to study business, you have to know about other places and cultures because those different perspectives help you understand what problems people face in their lives and what solutions they need,” she says. “It’s amazing to see people from Morocco, South Africa, India and China all collaborating together. I think it’s an invaluable experience for students, and you learn we’re more the same than we are different.”



After recently graduating from San Diego State University, Lavin Entrepreneur Carlos Cortes is using his entrepreneurship and marketing skills to continue growing a comfy startup company that began at SDSU. Carlos graduated from SDSU last spring, with a bachelor’s degree in business management and a specialization in entrepreneurship. He met his two partners while the three of them were studying business management with specializations in entrepreneurship at SDSU. “We would always bounce ideas off of each other and eventually our partner, Tyler, came up with the idea of having a pocket at the bottom of a blanket and we went from there,” he says.

Eventually, the three student entrepreneurs put a twist on an age-old item and created their company, Bomfy B. “The idea sounded kind of funny, but we asked people, and they thought it was cool, so we continued to develop the prototype and the business,” he says.

Cortes brings his digital marketing experience to the team, as they work to grow their following and earn funding. He says that their team is currently working hard to earn capital to create new content and get their name out there. “We all work full time and any free time we have we are trying our best to get the brand out there,” he says.“We want it to be representative of us and our personalities.”

While studying entrepreneurship at SDSU, Cortes also served as an executive board member for SDSU’s Entrepreneurship Society. He says he was eager to take advantage of his opportunities and make an impact. “I just remember picking up a pamphlet for the Lavin Entrepreneur program and the idea of putting yourself into a position of owning your own business seemed so cool,” he says. “I remember saying in the interview that I wanted to be my own boss and not report to anyone and take ownership of my life and business.”

Cortes and his partners eventually took their startup idea to SDSU’s Zahn Innovation Platform Idea Lab where they would receive crucial support needed to grow their company. “Getting into the ZIP idea lab really helped us be accountable and set out our goals and how we’d accomplish them,” he says. “They helped us test the market and come with a prototype and they really lit a fire under us and got us out there.”

Cortes says he and his partners have big plans as they continue to grow their local startup, and that the Lavin Entrepreneur program helped him understand what it takes to be an entrepreneur. “The Lavin program helped a lot and gave us access to intimate experiences. We were a group of 15-20 kids, getting to tour actual companies and hear from CEOs,” he says. “Entrepreneurship at its core is solving a problem for people and I’ve really come to love that aspect of it. It’s awesome to hear people say, ‘I hate when that happens!’ and you’re there to provide a solution.”


Local Internship

Last month, international students involved in the Fulbright Scholars Program gathered at San Diego State University to participate in an entrepreneurship workshop led by director of programs at The Lavin Entrepreneurship Center, Bernhard Schroeder.

The Fulbright Scholars program was organized by the United States government in the 40’s and invites both graduate and undergraduate exchange students from countries around the world to explore new areas of endeavor here in the United States. Students who are chosen to take part in this competitive program are awarded grants or scholarships for their accomplishments and travel to cities across the U.S. to learn at universities, including SDSU.

During the last session, 30 international Fulbright students gathered at SDSU hear lectures involving topics such as politics and economics. The lectures included an entrepreneurship workshop led by Lavin Programs Director, Bernhard Schroeder, who says that he tries to give students actionable advice in a short time. “Not all of these students are specializing in business, but introducing them to entrepreneurship might allow them to look at their industry of interest and come up with an idea or solution,” says Schroeder.

Theresa Perales is an instructor at SDSU’s American Language Institute who has helped organize SDSU’s participation in the Fulbright program as well as the student orientation that takes places when international students arrive in San Diego. She says she chooses to include entrepreneurship in the student’s curriculum because it provides them with applicable knowledge based on their goals. “Because so many of them want to go back and make a difference in their countries and start businesses, it’s a good opportunity to get them exposed to entrepreneurship,” she says. “I really like Bernhard’s style. He’s candid and approachable and I really feel like the students enjoy meeting and hearing from him.”

Only a select group of students are chosen to participate in the Fulbright program. Many of them come from humble backgrounds and are hoping to learn skills they can take back to their countries so that they can make an impact at home. “These students are very intelligent and they are trying to make a difference in the world. Not everyone wants to do that--they want to make a positive impact in their countries,” Perales says.


Local Internship

Lavin Entrepreneurs will learn about business, relationships and life through the eyes of Carol Lavin Bernick, as they read through her new book, “Gather As You Go.”

Bernick is the daughter of Leonard H. Lavin, and has served on the Board of Directors of Northwestern Memorial Healthcare, one of the top ten healthcare systems in the country, and also served as past chair. During Bernick’s 37-year career with Alberto Culver Company, a global manufacturer of beauty and personal care products, she directed the company’s new product development, led its consumer products businesses and was elected executive chairman in 2004. She has also been recognized as “Working Mom of the Year” by the Moms in Business Network.

Her new book is a collection of more than 300 short stories and will be studied and analyzed as a part of this year’s Lavin Entrepreneur Program curriculum. In her book, Bernick describes stories from throughout her life and relays lessons learned. She writes about the 37 years she spent at Alberto Culver Company, the company’s cultural overhaul, the challenges in a family-dominated business, and the eventual sale of the consumer products business. In her book, she emphasizes the value of friendship and includes introductions to chapters written by close friends, according to their area of experience. She hopes that readers can learn from her experiences, find enjoyment in them and use them to conquer any obstacles in their own lives.

100% of the proceeds from “Gather As You Go” will support Enchanted Backpack, a 501(c)(3) organization started by Carol Bernick and her family in 2017. Their mission is to work with and empower teachers and principals, equipping schools with critically needed learning tools.

In addition to her new book, Bernick plans to create an online community of engagement through a “Gather As You Go” website and “Gather As You Go” Instagram and Facebook accounts. Her hope is that this online “Gather” community will enable people to share their own experiences and wisdom and learn from one another.

Another reading included in the Lavin Entrepreneur curriculum is “Winners Make It Happen,” by Leonard H. Lavin.

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Building the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

The Lavin Entrepreneurship Center at San Diego State University serves SDSU students, entrepreneurs and business leaders through entrepreneurial curriculum, workshops, internships, resources and events. For information browse the Programs section of our website, subscribe to the Lavin Center Calendar and sign up for the Center's Entrepreneurial Fuel Newsletter. Entrepreneur resources such as the Lavin Center resume guide, marketing and business planning tools and more can be found in the Resources section of our site.

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