Center for Entrepreneurship Awards Event 2013

More than 120 students, professors, mentors, board members, clients, staff and others connected to the CSUF Entrepreneurship Program attended an event to celebrate the end of the 11th year for the Center for Entrepreneurship. This event took place at the amazing Ember Café in Anaheim (the space was graciously donated to us by the Taormina family, who are great benefactors of the CSUF Entrepreneurship Program) and it was a huge success!

Super Student Volunteer, Thomas Nghiem, getting recognition from Center for Entrepreneurship Director John Bradley Jackson


Lasting a little more than two hours, the event started off with some networking time for everyone. It was a valuable opportunity for people to catch up with each other and to strengthen professional bonds as well. Entrepreneurship is more than creating the right widget to sell; it is also about people.

After everyone was all caught up, the official ceremony started. Center for Entrepreneurship Director, John Bradley Jackson, was the MC for this event and he started the festivities by going over some of the impressive statistics about the CSUF Entrepreneurship Program. For example:

  • There are 190 full time CSUF Entrepreneurship Undergraduates enrolled
  • There are 53 CSUF Entrepreneurship Minors enrolled
  • We have 10 CSUF MBA Candidates who have an Entrepreneurship Concentration
  • Founded in 2001, the CSUF Center for Entrepreneurship is one of the oldest CSUF Centers for Excellence
  • The Center for Entrepreneurship is a self-sustaining entity deriving its funding from program fees through the Student Consulting Program, individual donations and corporate sponsorships

Director Jackson proceeded on from this point to individually recognize all of our Board Members by name; and they are:

  • Dr. Michael Ames – Chairman of the Board for the CSUF Center for Entrepreneurship; Professor Emeritus at CSUF; Founder of the Center for Entrepreneurship; Judge at the CSUF New Venture Panels and much more
  • Art P. Villa – President of Breakthrough Business Solutions, Inc.
  • Alan Mannason – SCORE
  • Ken Guchereau ’74 – Guchereau Company
  • Kristen Llorente – Llorente SIU
  • Marty Burbank, Esq. – Family Business Attorney
  • Raj Manek ’94 – Vice President of Vesuki, Inc.
  • William C. Taormina – CEO of Clean City, Inc.
  • Laurie Resnick – CEO of Associated Group
  • Ron Stein – Vice President of PTS Staffing
  • Michael Sawitz – Chief Enthusiasm Officer of FastStart.studio

Our Board Members are crucial to the ongoing success of the Center for Entrepreneurship. Twice a year, we meet with them to plot out a course for the future of the CSUF Entrepreneurship Program and we are regularly in touch with each member for client recruitment purposes and for our mentor program. Without their leadership this program would not be the same.

Arisa Rodkumnord took this photo of the crowd in Ember Cafe for the Center for Entrepreneurship Award Event 2013

Next, Director Jackson retold the history of the Center, which dates back a couple of decades before the official opening of the Center for Entrepreneurship. Nearly four decades ago, in 1974, the CSUF Small Business Institute was formed to develop what has become the strongest University Student Consulting Program in America. Over the years, CSUF students have consulted with over 2,000 real business clients and the program has grown to such an extent that we now service over 150 clients every school year.

From this pool of Student Consulting Projects we pick the best Undergraduate and MBA reports and enter them into the National SBI Project of the Year Competition. This competition includes some of the largest and most prestigious universities in America and our teams usually do very well. In fact, CSUF has 10 National SBI Project of the Year champions over the last 22 years! Additionally, our teams have finished in the Top 10 in their respective categories 26 times since 1991.

Director Jackson honored the two SBI teams that placed in the National SBI Project of the Year Competition for 2012. Coached by Professor Barbara Samara, the MBA Student Consulting Team consisted of MBA candidates:

  • Ojan Azizi
  • Bill Wojciak
  • Girina Pandit
  • Nisha Patel
  • Arisa Rodkumnord
  • Paula Martinez

Director Jackson was the professor for the Undergraduate team that took third place in the National SBI Project of the Year Competition. The team was coached by Michael Sawitz (much more on him later) and the student team consisted of:

  • Michale Mose
  • Amanda Newton
  • David Beltran
  • Aaron Aslin
  • Erica Riley
  • Jesus Vizcaino

Each of the student team members dedicated a great deal of time to their respective projects and all those efforts showed through with how well they did in the competition. For more information about these projects please go here.

Every CSUF Entrepreneurship Major must complete four of these consulting projects and two semesters of new venture creation/launch. Since these projects are very rigorous, it necessitates a good deal of time and effort from our students and professors. Fortunately, we have a strong group of mentors (local entrepreneurs and professionals) who selflessly give their time to help coach every undergraduate team and some MBA student teams as well. Our group of mentors is over 200 strong and they really boost the overall quality of our program. Director Jackson made sure to recognize our longest serving mentors and they are:

  • Bernie Spear – 13 years
  • Alan Mannason – 12 years
  • Ken Guchereau – 12 years
  • Curtis Chan – 11 years
  • Jerry Conrey – 11 years

Jerry Conrey is not only one of our amazing mentors but his company, Conrey Insurance Brokers and Risk Managers, has sponsored a $3,000 scholarship for entrepreneurship students for more than half a decade now. Jerry, along with his wife Vicki, presented the Conrey Insurance Brokers and Risk Managers Entrepreneurial Scholarship to Robert Gates, a very deserving student with boundless energy.

Robert was an officer for the Entrepreneurship Society and is a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity. He also works with at-risk youths in a gang resistance program and is always looking for his next venture.

Robert Gates receives his Scholarship Certificate from donors Vicki and Jerry Conrey

Dr. David Obstfeld is one of our gifted entrepreneurship professors who is bringing new ideas into the program like the Lean Startup framework and who will be launching a very interesting program for one of our classes in the fall in conjunction with Michael Sawitz’ business incubator FastStart.studio. David presented the State Farm scholarship but, unfortunately, the winner of this scholarship, Megan Baptista, could not attend this event.

Megan is actively involved with various student health initiatives and is one of the leaders of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority. Megan plans on becoming a dentist after she completes her schooling at CSUF but she is an entrepreneur at heart and the sky is the limit for her.

Up next was the awarding of an amazing round of scholarships for tuition in FastStart.studio. Michael Sawitz, who has already been mentioned a couple of times in this post, is the owner of FastStart.studio, which is a business incubator that helps entrepreneurs realize their dreams of launching a successful new venture. Michael isn’t only generous, he’s also a good speaker and what he had to say is best left unedited.

“FastStart.studio is a mixed-use business incubator that actually can trace its birthplace to the Center for Entrepreneurship. While still the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of AIM Mail Centers franchise system I engaged a student consulting team to assist me in creating a social media strategy for my company. When that project had concluded, Professor Jackson recruited me as a coach and Entrepreneur in Residence. Thursday evenings quickly became the best part of my work week. So much so, that I sold my company and channeled all my efforts into assisting startup companies in launching.

“As a way of saying thank you to Professor Jackson, Dr. Ames and the Center for Entrepreneurship for the guidance and support I have received, we have created a scholarship program for tuition in FastStart.studio where budding entrepreneurs can receive post-graduation assistance in bringing their concepts to life.”

The assistance that Michael Sawitz is talking about includes:

  • Office space
  • Use of facilities (such as phones, internet, etc.)
  • Ability to work in a collaborative environment with other entrepreneurs
  • Attend workshops with successful entrepreneurs
  • And more

The third place team, winners of $10,000 worth of tuition in FastStart.studios, went to Thomas Hoyt and Christopher Aaron of Kaizen Motors. Kaizen Motors is a company that plans on building open wheel race cars for the consumer market.

Second place went to Nick Ajlani who is in the process of launching NixFix Chasers, whose product is a powder you can mix with water to drink along with alcohol. The benefits of this powder are that it tastes good and there are also some health benefits that could lessen the severity of hangovers. Nick also took second place in the CSUF Business Plan Competition 2013 and his FastStart.studio scholarship is worth $20,000 in tuition.

John Chi accepting first place scholarship for FastStart.studio from Michael Sawitz

John Chi’s Synova Life Sciences proved to be too much once again. After taking home the top prize (and a couple others) in the CSUF Business Plan Competition 2013, Synova Life Sciences will now be able to launch out of the FastStart.studio offices. John is the recipient of $40,000 worth of tuition in FastStart.studios and that should go a long way towards aiding John in launching his stem cell therapy business.

Those are amazing prizes and we hope that they help our Entrepreneurship students realize their dreams.

One of our alumni, Phillip Stinis, is working hard at making his new venture, TapTapOrder, a success. He was at the event and presented his product to many interested people in attendance. For a full description of what TapTapOrder is all about please go here but, in short, TapTapOrder utilizes an iPad interface as a means to present digital menus to restaurant patrons. Phillip’s service has been shown to increase sales substantially and Director Jackson acknowledged his achievements at the ceremony.

Thomas Nghiem, who is perhaps the greatest student supporter the Center for Entrepreneurship has ever had, was recognized for all his tireless efforts over the years. Thomas will be moving back to Vietnam to help out his family’s coffee business and we definitely wish him all the best. It is sad to see him go but we are sure he will be successful in whatever he does.

The professors were recognized next and were warmly received by the crowd. For the 2012-13 school year the Entrepreneurship Professors included:

  • John Bradley Jackson
  • David Obstfeld
  • Atul Teckchandani
  • Robert Kovacev
  • Zack Dafallaah
  • Tom Miller
  • Barbara Samara
  • Dave Burt

The Center for Entrepreneurship staff was recognized for their contributions to the program. Charlesetta Medina is the Field Case Coordinator for the Center and she is responsible for acquiring and coordinating the Student Consulting clients. Travis Lindsay does most of the administrative duties at the Center and coordinates the volunteer program.

Last, but definitely not least, the Entrepreneurship Society was recognized for all of their efforts at this event along with all the other events they have helped at over the course of this school year. Being able to count on a group of student volunteers to help out at these events is absolutely crucial and without their service the events would not have gone nearly as well.

After the recognition part of the afternoon concluded the participants mingled for a while longer. Those who won prizes were able to pick up their certificates, which were graciously supplied to us by Chad Morgan, who is on the staff of Assemblyman Allan Mansoor.

Over the next couple of weeks we will be going into more details about certain aspects of the program that were highlighted in this post. So, please, check back regularly to stay current on the latest CSUF Entrepreneurship news. And if you are going to post anything on social media about the CSUF Entrepreneurship Program use the hashtag #CSUFEntrepreneur so we can find you!

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