Category Archives: CSUF Entrepreneurship Community

CSUF Startup wins Pasadena Angels Competition

Alan Cerna and Branden Wells First Place in CSUF Startup Competition

Fresh off their win at the CSUF Startup Competition Alan Cerna (left) and Branden Wells (right) have gone on to win a pitch competition hosted by the Pasadena Angels. Well done guys!

Fresh off their win at the CSUF Startup Competition Alan Cerna and Branden Wells have gone on to win a pitch competition hosted by the Pasadena Angels. Their philanthropic startup Apprentice Builds’ mission of getting at-risk youth off the street and into auto shop won over a field of a dozen other startups.

What was special about this win, and shows the character of these two, is that there were no financial awards or promises of any kind. I firmly believe that one of the key things that separates entrepreneurs who go on to accomplish great things and those that don’t is the ability to show up and take advantage of opportunities that others overlook. Alan and Branden certainly have done this time and again.

Even though they did not take home any cash prizes they did, as Alan pointed out, get exposure for their business and contacts with the Pasadena Angels community that can help them out in the future. Alan summed up the experience of pitching to the Pasadena Angels by saying “It’s about the value you bring to the table and the impact that your idea will [have] on others.”

Alan and Branden will next be at the Road to a Better Future car show this Saturday where they will meet with potential sponsors of Apprentice Builds. This event is at the Segerstrom High School in Santa Ana and is open to the public. If you’re a fan of hot rods or just want to meet these two CSUF entrepreneurs I hope you can attend this event.

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Use Design Thinking to Have a Full Classroom

This one is for all the professors at Cal State Fullerton!

On April 18 and 19 (it’s one seminar that is being offered on both of these dates), SINC will be hosting a seminar on “How to Always Have a Full Classroom By Using Design Thinking to Create and Continuously Innovate Your Teaching Curriculum.” For more information, please go here (you may be asked to sign into your CSUF account).

SINC, Student Innovation Collective, was founded in 2016 by CSUF Students. They are a multidisciplinary group of students working together to tackle social issues that we all care about through design innovation. They have worked with companies and organizations like: Google, Stanford University, and the OC Register.

SINC Flyer

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Come see CSUF Startup Competition Winners at Road to a Better Future Car Show

On Saturday, April 21, you can come out and support the winners of the CSUF Startup Competition. Alan Cerna and Branden Wells, creators of Apprentice Builds, will be there promoting their nonprofit that aims to give teenagers a leg up in the world by providing them with the opportunity to learn critically important skills by working on hot rods. If you’re in the area and like cars at all, or just want to meet Alan and Branden, then you should absolutely consider attending this event.

Event details below.

Apprentice Builds at Road to a Better Future Car Show

Come see CSUF Entrepreneurship student nonprofit Apprentice Builds at Road to a Better Future Car Show

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CSUF Entrepreneurship Students Working on Philanthropic Startup Interviewed by VoyageLA

Alan Cerna and Branden Wells Apprentice Builds CSUF Startup Competition Semifinals

Branden Wells (left) and Alan Cerna at the CSUF Startup Competition Semifinals. They and their business, Apprentice Builds, were recently covered in VoyageLA and you can see them on Friday, April 6 at the CSUF Startup Competition Finals as they vie for a share of the more than $10,000 in scholarships and in-kind services.

We tell people this all the time: Entrepreneurship is rarely about raising millions of dollars and launching a tech company. Rather, entrepreneurship is about innovating and working on solutions that will make the world a better place and that is exactly why two of our Entrepreneurship students, Branden Wells and Alan Cerna, were recently interviewed by VoyageLA.

Pictured above, Branden and Alan have been working on the launch of their startup, Apprentice Builds, since last fall both in the classroom and at the CSUF Startup Incubator. Apprentice Builds’ mission is to teach teenagers the skills and responsibilities that come along with working on cars, especially hot rods. As you probably already know all too well, most schools have been dropping classes like the ones that Apprentice Builds are creating for decades now and that has left a hole in the educational fabric.

You can see Branden and Alan compete in the upcoming CSUF Startup Competition Finals on April 6 as they vie for a share in the more than $10,000 in scholarships and in-kind services available to the finalists.

Here’s a small bit from the article, I strongly recommend that you read the remainder on the VoyageLA website:

Apprentice Builds is a non-profit organization program that serves all high students in the low income or at-risk areas by providing knowledge and an opportunity to participate in an apprenticeship. Apprentice Builds works to reduce gang membership, drug use, and dropout rates by providing an outlet where the youth can learn valuable skills needed in today’s workforce. Students gain hands on skills building hot rods with experience mechanics and fabricators.

What makes the organization unique is not only the fact that students get to work on cool hot rods and cars but are taught responsibility taking the apprenticeship as a job and not a program anyone can be a part of. One of the biggest goals of the organization is to help these students leave the program with a second chance at knowing they’re better people than what they’re taught to be. With a mentor by their side, every student will have the proper guidance to stay on track with their life goals.

Branden and Alan continue to diligently work on Apprentice Builds and, as a reminder, you can see them at the CSUF Startup Competition Finals on Friday, April 6 from 1pm to 4pm at the Titan Student Union. There, they will be vying for a portion of the more than $10,000 in scholarships and in-kind services with their Apprentice Builds concept.

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6 Things Our Business School Teaches Students About Entrepreneurship

CSUF Startup Competition Semifinals Vanessa Ganaden and Rachel Herzog

Two CSUF Entrepreneurship students, Vanessa Ganaden (left) and Rachel Herzog (right), pitching their concept at the recent CSUF Startup Competition Semifinals. They are advancing to the Finals of the competition where they stand to win part of the more than $10,000 in scholarships and in-kind services!

We were recently sent an article titled 6 Things Business School Won’t Teach You About Entrepreneurship by Corey Ferreira that we largely agree with and completely disagree with at the same time. Mr. Ferreira’s contention is that business schools do not teach entrepreneurship in a way that is actionable for most people. He goes on to list six areas where business schools are deficient. We largely agree with his view of entrepreneurship and how for most of us entrepreneurship is about hustling and getting things done with limited resources.

But we have to disagree with his contention that business schools, especially the business school at Cal State Fullerton, do not prepare students well enough for this reality. At Cal State Fullerton we teach students many of the lessons Mr. Ferreira outlines in his article and we build on that through the CSUF Startup Incubator, entrepreneurial student clubs, and competitions like the upcoming CSUF Startup Competition. Below are my responses to the six areas Mr. Ferreira identified in his article.

A business can be scrappy

Our curriculum and our students embody scrappiness. We teach our students what it means to bootstrap a business and bolster those teachings with many guest speakers who have been there, done that. Mr. Ferreira rightly notes that many startups have to embrace a scrappy ethic in order to launch their business and we inculcate our students with hard won lessons on how to do that.

For example, central to much of our teaching is the need to create a minimum viable product (MVP) because that way you can test your hypothesis about what your customers want without having to create a finished product out of the gate. Buttressing the MVP is market research that involves actually getting out of the building and talking with potential customers. This process gives entrepreneurs with limited resources the best opportunity for success because they will inevitably find out so much valuable information from interviewing customers, launching an MVP, and iterating off of their results.

In a bygone era the formula was to come up with an idea, raise money, and launch at scale. Those days aren’t completely gone but for the vast majority of businesses those days aren’t around anymore. So, we agree on the necessity of launching with a lean business model but I cannot agree with his contention that business schools, at least ours, don’t teach realistic business practices.

Plans aren’t the most important thing

In the CSUF entrepreneurship program, we agree that plans aren’t the most important thing. They’re important as far as they go; they help to crystallize the entrepreneur’s vision and helps him think through the process of launching a business but, as we teach all of our students, plans should be written in pencil. Changes will inevitability happen when faced with results that do not meet the entrepreneur’s hypothesis about any facet of his business.

In the classroom, we give supremacy to the creation of a lean business model canvas, which is a one page document that succinctly lays out the nine most important factors that determine a business’ success. That’s right, a one page document. Yes, we do have the students go through the process of filling out those key hypotheses found in the lean model in a full business plan but we stress the necessity of creating a plan that must be updated frequently and having an entrepreneurial mindset that embraces nimbleness and the ability to change. As Mr. Ferreira notes, these are called pivots and this is a concept that is very familiar to all of our students.

How to set goals

Mr. Ferreira states that: “So many entrepreneurs know what they want to do, but they don’t really  know how to do it. Setting goals makes it easier to determine the path  since you can reverse-engineer from where you want to be.”

We can quibble on this. In the CSUF Entrepreneurship program we favor the ground up approach to planning and then setting goals that are hard to achieve but not impossible. Goal setting done right is a skill that must be learned by doing and we have a program that stresses doing. Every one of our entrepreneurship students works on a startup with the goal being to go from concept to launch. These businesses are incubated in the classroom over the course of two semesters with the guidance of faculty and mentors (our mentor pool of over 600 people includes professionals from all disciplines and many entrepreneurs).

Goal setting is also baked into our curriculum through the processes already discussed in this post as part of the process of iterating from MVP to a final product. We believe and teach our students that what isn’t measured doesn’t improve and it is goals that are measured.

Marketing in the 21st century

Mr. Ferreira accurately describes the ephemeral nature of marketing today. Social media, by design, is geared towards the creation of content that has a very short lifespan. Glance at a Tweet, move on. Read a Facebook post, move on. Watch a video on YouTube, move on. The staccato nature of today’s media is ever changing and keeping up with everything is impossible.

And yet, we do teach how to thrive in this atmosphere by drawing on many of the same lessons that are applicable in other parts of our entrepreneurial curriculum. By discovering and knowing who your customers are and experimenting on how to effectively communicate with them you can set yourself up for success. All of our professors draw on their academic research or professional experiences to teach modern marketing techniques to our students.

How to be creative

The ineffable qualities of creativity are hard to teach, says Mr. Ferreira, and he’s pretty much right about that. But there are ways to teach students so that they can maximize the creative gifts that they already posses. At CSUF Entrepreneurship we view creativity as if it were a muscle, the more you work at it the stronger your creative muscle becomes.

While there isn’t a formula for creativity we have developed our curriculum so that our students have many opportunities to work out their creative muscles. All students majoring in entrepreneurship at Cal State Fullerton get the opportunity to do consulting working for actual businesses. Our CSUF Consulting program enables students to put into practice the lessons that they have learned in the classroom and that is an extremely creative process. Figuring out ways to create winning strategies for clients in a wide range of areas (including: marketing, operations, leadership, and finance) is a fantastic way to develop a student’s creativity.


The CSUF Entrepreneurship program has a somewhat more nuanced view of risk taking than Mr. Ferreira has. The way we see it, all risks are not equal. Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to build an app that you think the market wants is certainly a risk but it is not a good risk.

We teach our students to take small, containable risks that can be used as stepping stones towards creating products and services that the market actually wants. At its core, entrepreneurship is about trailblazing but it’s not about the kind of Leroy Jenkins-style trailblazing that almost always ends in doom and despair.

In the classroom, we do teach our students that failure is a fundamentally healthy part of entrepreneurship. This can be seen in everything that we teach: every decision is not carved in stone but, rather, an experiment to see what works and what doesn’t. Our whole lean startup approach is predicated on this belief.

If Mr. Ferreira is game, we would happily extend him the offer to sit in on some of our classes because we’re confident that he will see that the CSUF Entrepreneurship program is not like the business schools he describes in his article.

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SINC’ing Out Loud: Design Thinking Event


SINC’ing Out Loud “SOL” is a meetup focused on bringing together smart like-minded creatives for a day of several immersive learning activities focused on the principles of design thinking. SOL is a one day annual event organized by Student Innovation Collective (SINC) to promote innovative practices in Orange County. SINC’s purpose is to create 10,000 change agents working on 1,000 projects within the next 10 years. If you are radically open minded, independent thinker looking for a transformation event… this might just be for you.

During the event, attendees will participate in experiential workshops and topics that focus on harnessing their inner creativity, improving problem solving and critical thinking skills. Participants will also hear from a variety of student and faculty speakers, as well as engage with leaders in academia and the industry to promote collaboration and promotion of ideas.

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3rd Annual Fork ‘N’ Bottle

Cal Poly Fork N Bottle FundraiserOur friends at Cal Poly will be hosting a fundraising event this Thursday to raise funds for scholarships for bright students that I think you should attend. For the price of a ticket you will get a sumptuous dinner, meet some great people, and support the next generation of leaders within our community. Click here to register and more details about the event are below:

Save the date and spread the word about our most exciting event of the year!

The Cal Poly Alumni – Orange County Chapter is excited to host our 3rd Annual Fork ‘N’ Bottle Scholarship Fundraiser at the impressive Marconi Automotive Museum in Tustin.

Your palate will be pleased as you sample from a fantastic mix of over 30 SLO and OC restaurants, breweries, wineries, distilleries (see below), while bidding on $20,000 of exclusive silent auction items to raise scholarship funds for current Cal Poly students from the Orange County area. We hope you’ll take advantage of this opportunity to help a young student pursue a dream you once shared – to attend Cal Poly!

If you’re unable to attend you can still support the OC Scholarship Fund by making a tax-deductible contribution by clicking HERE and selecting CPAA – Orange County Scholarship. With a $20,000 goal, no donation is too small! Feeling generous? Donate $20 or more with your ticket and you will receive a Cal Poly Proud pin at check-in AND be entered into a surprise drawing.

This is a 21+ event, Cal Poly alumni, friends, family and colleagues are encouraged to attend.


Early Bird – $60 (until Feb 22 – purchase to be entered into our Magic Castle drawing for four)

Advance Purchase – $75 (on sale through March 21)

Cal Poly Pair (2 tickets) – $130 (until March 15 – purchase to be entered into our Magic Castle drawing for four)

At the Door Ticket – $90

Valet parking is included with your ticket. Business casual attire is recommended.


Breweries: Ace Premium Cider, Cismontane Brewing Co., Bootleggers Brewery, Docent Brewing, El Segundo Brewery, Evans Brewery, Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Gunwhale Ales, Oggi’s Brewery, Preston’s Ginger Beer, SLO Brew, The Bruery, Towne Park Brewery, Unsung

Restaurants: Lazy Dog Cafe, Luna Grill, Mendocino Farms, Mustache Mike’s Italian Ice, Oggi’s Pizza and Brewery, Ready Fit Go, Simmzy’s, Stonefire Grill, The Fifth, The Melting Pot, The Public House, Wahoo’s Fish Tacos

Wineries, Distilleries, Spirits: Edna Valley Vineyards, Hi Time Cellars, Green Bar Distillery, St Supery Winery, Hope Family Winery, PRP Wine International, Wild Horse, Spindrift


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Attend one of our events for entrepreneurs or sign up for a free mentoring session:

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