David Chamberlain is one of those students that you knew would do great things. He is currently the VP of Sales and Marketing at Creative Outdoor Distributor and is getting ready to launch his first business, Interact, which will help families find the best service providers for their special needs children. In addition to being a Cal State Fullerton graduate, David is a resident at the CSUF Startup Incubator where we are helping him launching his business. What follows is a short interview with David.
Center for Entrepreneurship: Tell us a little bit about your background. Why did you want to become an entrepreneur? Why did you decide to launch Interact, which helps families find quality services for their kids with special needs?
David Chamberlain ’14: My professional background is in eCommerce, but growing up I had some great role models who were also entrepreneurs themselves. From my mom’s boss, who had opened his own law firm and a human resources management company, to my best friend in elementary school who’s dad had opened up his own software development company, I’ve been surrounded by passionate business leaders all my life.
The friend I mentioned, Luke, from elementary school is the same friend who connected me to the special needs community. As a means of giving back to the community, and to keep Luke and I occupied during our summer breaks, Luke’s mom signed us up as teacher assistants for a local special needs home school group. This group is where I became familiar with the difficulty parents have finding reliable services and resources for their children when they have a cognitive, developmental, or physical disability.
The difficulty in finding services and resources stuck with me as I finished my Entrepreneurship degree at CSUF and moved on to start my career in eCommerce. After a couple of years working in eCommerce, I got the itch to start a company of my own but wanted to be sure that whatever I started would actually benefit the community. With the memory of the pain that special needs parents were experiencing trying to find local businesses and resources that could truly benefit their family, the idea that developed into Interact was born.
How does Interact work?
First and foremost, Interact is free for both users looking for local businesses and resources and the businesses listed within Interact can manage their listings for free. On the user side of things, Interact works similarly to Yelp; users log on and they can then search for local businesses based on their distance from the user, the category they’re in (Activities, Education, Healthcare or Services) and their star ratings. Each business listing has location and contact information, links to their website and social media pages, and photos. On the business side of things, businesses listed on Interact can manage their listings and have the option to pay for native advertising.
How will it help families find the right services for their children?
With Interact’s focus of serving the special needs community, we’re only gathering feedback and reviews for businesses from the special needs community. By focusing on the community, we’re providing those with special needs with a voice in their local community and providing those just entering the community (parents of newly diagnosed children) with a tool to find local businesses and resources in a time that’s normally fraught with fear and uncertainty. But to truly help the community and those families trying to find the right services for their children, if you’re a part of the special needs community (or help a family member or friend that is), (1) download Interact from your app store (Google Play – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=how.interact.app , Apple App Store – https://apps.apple.com/us/app/interact-local-activities/id1281773652), (2) register, and (3) start leaving reviews for businesses that you’re familiar with to help every member of the community better navigate the service providers in their area.
What do businesses need to do in order to be listed on Interact?
To get a business listed on Interact, the business has to either already be listed in the database or submitted by an Interact user. The easiest way for a business owner to get their business on Interact would be to (1) register as a user, (2) click the options button on the Interact app homepage and then (3) click Add a Provider. From there, you’ll be able to add all of the contact information and location information for your business and submit to the Interact team for approval. Once a business is approved, the owner will be able to manage the listing for free!
How did your CSUF education help you with your startup?
CSUF provided me with real world experience (through the consulting projects) which I leaned on to both get my first professional job and recalled while going through the motions of getting Interact off the ground. Without it, I wouldn’t have had the knowledge necessary to have the confidence to take the plunge and start my business.
How did the CSUF Startup Incubator help you?
The CSUF Startup Incubator connected me with Dr. Deborah Ferber, an amazing mentor who’s guided me through the process of securing capital by bringing a passionate investor on to the team and assisted me in finding interns to help balance the workload as I continue to work full time and manage Interact, just to name a couple of examples. Additionally, John Jackson and Travis Lindsay have supported me in growing my network by facilitating introductions to local officials and providing means for marketing and promotional support to further grow my company. I was hesitant to join the incubator in the beginning, but I think it’s been the best decision I’ve made.
What advice would you give to current CSUF students who are thinking about starting a business?
Definitely take time to review the market you’re looking to move into. If you truly believe there’s a way too compete, go straight to the CSUF Startup Incubator to polish your idea into an actionable plan for a venture.
We are dedicated to helping the next generation of entrepreneurs develop the skills that they need to compete locally and globally. The CSUF Entrepreneurship program does many things,