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Thursday, December 13th 2018

Lavin Entrepreneurship Center Community Newsletter

December, 2018

Two Lavin Alumni Named to Forbes 30 Under 30

Two Lavin Entrepreneur alumni from the Lavin Entrepreneur Program were recognized in Forbes’ “30 under 30” 2019 for the success of their innovative companies that they have created. CEO and co-founder of Shake Smart Kevin Gelfand, made the list through the “Food & Drink” category, which recognizes those redefining the way we eat, drink and think about food . Another notable recognition to mention goes to CEO and founder of CourseKey Luke Sophinos, who made the list through the “Education” category. The education category recognizes notable figures that bring access and opportunity to the classroom and beyond. The Lavin Entrepreneurship Center would like to congratulate both Gelfand and Sophinos for making a difference in today’s world and being notable figures within the industries that they are involved in.
Launched in 2011, the “30 under 30” list is created annually by Forbes Magazine to acknowledge top entrepreneurs and young business owners under 30 years old. In the American list, 600 businesses and industry figures are recognized, with 30 selected in twenty categories each.

Not Just Another Shake...a ShakeSmart.

ShakeSmart A San Diego State University and Lavin Entrepreneur Program alum decided to change the lifestyle of college students one shake at a time. Graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s in business management with an emphasis in entrepreneurship, Shake Smart CEO and co-founder Kevin Gelfand, found his entrepreneurial calling during his time at the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center.

He first heard about the Lavin Center from a friend of his who recommended him to look into the resource. “I looked into it a little further, met with Bernhard Schroeder and then decided that I wanted to do it during my sophomore year,” Gelfand said. “I wanted to take that career pathway and wanted to find any opportunity to enhance my knowledge of entrepreneurship to set me up for when it comes to starting a business.”

Shake Smart came about during Gelfand’s time in the Lavin Entrepreur Program. “I experimented with a few other businesses while trying to finish with school as well,” he said. “I wanted to start a hybrid-taxi service, an alcohol delivery service and my third idea was Shake Smart. I wasn’t 21 at the time, so starting the alcohol delivery service business would have been pretty hard to do.”

Gelfand’s success comes from his mindset that he has set for both himself and his company. “You have to consult with people, know how to learn and adapt and realize that you are going to have a lot of downfalls and you must get back up and keep trying. Those were some of the things that I would constantly try and do to prepare myself for those downfalls. I heard from a lot of people about how important persistence was so I think I just naturally have the grind factor that it takes to push forward each and every day.”

The Key to Better Managed Courses: CourseKey.

CourseKey Lavin Entrepreneur Program and Zahn Innovation Platform (ZIP) Launchpad alum and communications major Luke Sophinos, successfully funded a young and innovative technology company with the goal of helping students cross the finish line. Sophinos took a leave of absence from his academic studies for the last two years to work on his business and to pursue a fellowship of $100,000 funded by co-founder of PayPal, Peter Thiel.

“I had not graduated yet and left with two units and I’m actually taking an online community college course right now so I will graduate in December,” Sophinos said. “I founded my company CourseKey when I was a sophomore at SDSU. Seeing teachers fighting against student devices because they were seen as a distraction is a reason as to why CourseKey exists. We wanted to make the classroom exciting and engaging for the students and teachers. We enable features to turn student devices into learning tools and we basically take the data collected and enable institutions to act on it.”

CourseKey launched in January of 2016 and is currently used across 40 college campuses and has a reach of close to 100,000 students since launch day. “We have a 100 percent enterprise retention and our main model is selling to schools,” Sophinos said. “I think what we are doing is exciting and our mission is more of getting students across the finish line. The impact that we have seen is motivating us to continue putting in the hours and work hard every day. Our goal is to get to 50 different enterprises in the next few years. At that point, we expect to be valued at close to $150 million.”

Luke states that “you have to be relentless and work your tail off as much as you can since your personal life and your business life in a startup can put you on a roller coaster ride. There are high highs and very low lows, but you have to celebrate the wins and battle the low points in life. You can’t give up.”

Skating to a Brighter Light: ShredLights.

ShredLights It’s time to shred, but without shredding a bone. That’s exactly the goal that CEO and co-founder of ShredLights Eric Birkmeier, envisioned. ShredLights offers skateboarders enhanced vision of cracks, rocks, and other obstacles at night. ShredLights also enhances the appearance of skateboarders by motorists and pedestrians, greatly reducing the chance of an accident.

Having graduated in fall 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in television, film and new media, Birkmeier’s entrepreneurial endeavors were a result of him integrating himself into campus life. He found it important to get involved on campus and decided to join the Entrepreneurship Society, the ZIP Launchpad and then eventually the Lavin Entrepreneur program. “I joined the team during my freshman year in 2013 and became the CEO in 2016 when another student founder decided to step back from the team,” he said. “While I did not start ShredLights as a Lavin student, much of the early design work and customer research was done while I was in both the Lavin Entrepreneur Program and the ZIP Launchpad.

He did not know much about the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center, but it was executive director of the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center Alex DeNoble, who introduced Birkmeier to the program.

“I met some of my life long friends here who also have businesses, so we can relate a lot and it was cool to meet kids just like me,” Birkmeier said. “The mentors that were a part of the program were also super helpful and supportive. Overall, the network that you receive from the program is great because it gives you a circle of people just like you that you can connect with.”

Birkmeier’s ultimate goal that kept him motivated to pursue his company was freedom. “Now, I just go into the office when I want to, I work about 50 to 60 hours a week, yet I don’t feel like I’m working at all,” he said. “I am the most active team member engaging with target customers and deciding steps we can take to build our brand around them. I also run all of our social media channels, design and maintain our website, create all of our content, and am our lead salesman for new business. During the early stages of my company, I dealt with the challenges and downfalls by asking for advice and had people I could go to such as Lavin Entrepreneur alum Griffin Thall, who is the CEO of Pura Vida, a bracelet company.”

Birkmeier said that his company is looking forward to expansion of their product in the near future. “I’m excited to bring skate solutions in providing high quality lights,” he said. “We are looking to expand out of skateboards and bring the technology to any personal electric vehicle that people choose to commute on.”

Michael Morris Keynote Speaker for 2019 Conference

Michael Morris The SDSU Lavin Entrepreneurship Center has recently selected Michael Morris as a keynote speaker for our forthcoming 6th Annual California Entrepreneurship Educators Conference to be held in April 2019. This year our theme is “Transforming the Field of Entrepreneurship Education,” where we will discuss how to keep students not only engaged in school but also excited in their field.

Dr. Michael H. Morris is a pioneer in curricular innovation and experiential learning. He has built top-ranked entrepreneurship programs at three major universities. He has also published 12 books and over 180 scholarly research publications. A former Fulbright Scholar, he was selected as one of the top twenty entrepreneurship professors in the U.S. by Fortune Small Business. Dr. Morris has been awarded the Edwin & Gloria Appel Prize for contributions to entrepreneurship, received the Leavey Award from the Freedoms

Foundation for impacting private enterprise education, and the Dedication to Entrepreneurship Award from the Academy of Management. We welcome Michael as one of our keynote speakers in what is sure to be an engaging and enlightening conference.

To register for our next conference please click on the link below!

Cheers to a Happy and Prosperous 2019!

The Lavin Entrepreneurship Center thanks you for being a part of our story that we have written in 2018. We are thankful for having you be a part of our extended family. We wish you happy holidays and cheers for a prosperous new year!


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Transforming Entrepreneurship

California Entrepreneurship Educators Conference 2019
April 11-13, 2019


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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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