More than three dozen students from Cal Poly Pomona and Western University of Health Sciences gathered in the Bronco Student Center for an intensive 72-hour entrepreneurial skills workshop. Sleep was optional.
The inaugural 3-Day Startup started on a Friday afternoon in the fall quarter with a brainstorming session, preliminary pitches and team formation around the best or most innovative ideas. Teams developed their business ideas that night.
The next morning, the students learned how to understand customers’ needs and concerns before going out to run their prospective business and product ideas by potential customers.
By mid-afternoon students were meeting with mentors and their business pitches were becoming more comprehensive. Mentors asked them about their business plans, market research, product details, barriers to market entry, pricing, product sourcing and operational issues. In return, the mentors offered advice about potential markets, pricing, branding, product differentiation, and strategies to start small and then grow the business.
Less than 24 hours later, the teams were making their final pitches to a panel of business professionals and entrepreneurs. Sadiq Shah, associate vice president for research, innovation and economic development at Cal Poly Pomona, also listened to the pitches, which included:
- Farm Cart, a mobile food stand at Cal Poly Pomona featuring fresh fruit with spices, veggie wraps and a small menu of smoothies to meet the demand for more healthy food options on campus
- Power Go, a service to rent pre-charged batteries for mobile phones and tablets from kiosks at large trade shows, conferences and convention centers
- Adventourist, a service that would connect travelers with vetted ambassadors in a variety of locations for advice about places to visit, possible itineraries and how to get around
- Vetted Meds, an online service that would work with veterinarians to provide wholesale pet medications to customers through online ordering, providing pet owners with lower costs and increased convenience
- Quickie A, a pay service that would match students looking for tutors with fellow students who have been vetted, taken the same courses and received high marks
- StartupU, an online platform with information about how to start and develop a business, which would also offer a discount for related professional services.
Jesse Rosales Jr., a communications student who pitched the fresh food cart idea during the early brainstorming session, knows he will start his own business.
“I’m here to learn the skills to start a business. I have a lot of ideas for businesses but the produce cart was the one that is most practical, easy to imagine and would benefit the whole campus,” Rosales says. “The workshop and talking to the mentors gave me confidence. They saw the idea as much of a reality as I did.”
For Jose Comi, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, collaborating with people outside his department was the most valuable aspect.
“Everyone on our team is very different, so I’m learning how they solve problems,” Comi says.
The purpose of the workshop was to teach participants entrepreneurial skills while giving them the courage to make their ideas a reality, says Olukemi Sawyerr, director of Student Innovation Idea Lab (iLab) and a professor in management and human resources.
“This is in line with the iLab’s goal of cultivating and supporting the development and maintenance of a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem on the Cal Poly Pomona campus,” Sawyerr says. “Many people have ideas, but don’t know what to do with their ideas. We hope that by participating in the workshop, the students have learned a framework for how to take a product from idea to the marketplace.”
The workshop was organized by the iLab, the university’s Collegiate Entrepreneur’s Organization, Western University of Health Sciences, Pomona Chamber of Commerce and the city of Pomona. The event was facilitated by Shayna Dunitz from 3 Day Startup, a national organization that seeks to “activate entrepreneurial potential in students of all kinds.” The iLab plans to hold another Startup Weekend workshop next year.