Category Archives: Student Consulting

Success Story – Rance’s Chicago Pizza

Success Story Rance's Chicago PizzaCSUF alumni Aaron Tofani ’06 was gracious enough to write the following post about how he and his business partner, Rance Ruiz, embraced their entrepreneurial spirits and opened one of the most successful pizza restaurants in Southern California, Rance’s Chicago Pizza.

Owning a business with one of my best friends is a truly rewarding experience. Growing up I watched Rance develop an expertise for making delicious Chicago deep dish pizza pies. When he asked me to join him in opening a restaurant, I drew from my education at Cal State University, Fullerton to evaluate the opportunity and build the business.

Rance's Chicago Pizza LogoIn 2012 we opened Rance’s Chicago Pizza in Costa Mesa, CA and have since been awarded Top 30 Restaurants in Orange County by the OC Food List, voted Best Pizza in OC on the 2013 Hot List and featured in OC Weekly, Daily Pilot, OC Register, many other articles, foodie blogs, and great reviews on Yelp. We’ve hosted a Tap Take-Over with fellow CSUF Success Story Bootlegger’s Brewery and countless pizza parties for friends and family. Our business is consistently improving and we are having a blast working together.

In writing this story I decided to reflect specifically on how my undergrad studies at CSUF contributed to the opening and subsequent success of Rance’s Chicago Pizza. Here are my top five. Continue reading

CSUF Business Consulting – THRA Client Testimonial

Lary Smith is the owner and founder of the Horse Race Authority

Lary Smith is the owner and founder of The Horse Race Advantage

After leaving careers in the US Navy and aerospace industry and closing an aerospace engineering business that I was plank owner of (that’s Navy talk for one of the founding members, more or less) after twelve years of operation, I was left with a legacy spinoff called The Horse Race Advantage. How did this happen? Well, to cut a long story short, our CEO, Eleonora (El) Gianoulis, is an extraordinary mathematician, aerospace software analyst and thoroughbred race handicapper. It was under her tutelage that our aerospace software engineers developed this “thoroughbred horse race ranking algorithm” that we have grown into a real business.

We were able to make the algorithm into a service that provides subscribers handicapping and rankings for all of the races for all of the major tracks in North America every racing day. The demonstrated effectiveness of our Handicapping by El has been 70%+ in the money since our website launch in July 2012.

In spinning out the “horsey business” from the engineering small business we were challenged to learn its intricacies. We found out that the web subscription service development and maintenance requires daily content updates, technical maintenance and customer support. After a couple of costly learning experiences in website development, we were eventually successful in creating and launching the current website and getting past residual technical issues. Our company, headquartered in Columbia, Kentucky is operated with our domain expert in Eubank, Kentucky and technical support through Incite Support Services, LLC located in the Fullerton area.

Just short of divine intervention, we have been most fortunate by the appearance of our current webmaster, Mr. Kent Behrends, of BEHR Consulting International. Mr. Behrends, a CSUF alumni, is eager to help small business startups as an aside to his very successful consulting service for computing networks and web-based internet technology.

After our website launched in July 2012 we were eager to find out if we would be successful in getting to our market; would being a credible handicapping service for all major thoroughbred tracks in North America be enough for people?!?! At first we ran a few banner ads and we set up Facebook and Twitter accounts linked to our home page along with email campaigns. We also had Google Analytics on all of our pages and we were focusing on Search Engine Optimization.

In the fall of 2013 it became clear that we were not reaching customers and that we needed cutting edge eCommerce marketing expertise and an effective overall marketing plan. Even with an exciting subject like horseracing after a year of operating our gross revenues were just one-third of our gross costs.

The Horse Race AdvantageAnd then came the Center for Entrepreneurship from California State University, Fullerton. After a short application process in early 2014, a CSUF team of seven students and a mentor from the private sector, all under the supervision of Professor John Bradley Jackson, created and negotiated a Letter of Engagement with my company that outlined a specific plan of what the team would do for my company.

In part, the team was tasked with looking at certain aspects of marketing for my business. The team was very well organized and would look at my Team Development, Business Development, Current Market/Customer Retention, Potential Markets/Market Expansion, Competitor Analysis, Website Development and Social Media and Advertisement Development.

The team began with a kickoff meeting followed by numerous other meetings throughout the semester where they sat down with me and they also interacted with my team members through email and phone calls. These meetings helped immerse the team in the inner workings of my business and that really gave them a sense of where my company was and where I wanted to take it.

In order to really understand the product, every person on the team subscribed to our service and undertook a crash course on how to bet on horse racing. Additionally, the student team conducted multiple interviews at local racing tracks and these interviews were constructed to discern what gamblers were looking for in a handicapping service. This extra effort was instrumental in their producing a quality strategic vision for my company.

At the conclusion of the semester the team had two crucial deliverables that they made. The first one was a presentation to my staff and myself that focused on the highlights of their results and the team laid out a comprehensive marketing strategy for my company to follow. After the presentation the team leader presented me with their written report that went into great detail about the strategy we needed to follow to energize our marketing efforts.

The written report is the gem of the project. It is well-written and it contains very useful information telling me key things that I am not doing to effectively market In addition to the key things that I should be doing they included a detailed list of all of the intermediary steps I need to take as well. All of their recommendations are supported by copious amounts of studies and data.

If I were to summarize in three sentence what I thought of my company’s experience with a CSUF Student-led Business Consulting Team I would say:

  1. The CSUF Student-led Business Consulting Project was a wonderful learning experience for all involved and very gratifying as well.
  2. The report produced by the team is factual, strategic in scope and is chock full of helpful insights and perspectives that I could not see before the students started researching my business.
  3. If my business achieves future success I will directly attribute that success to the experience that I have had with the team from Cal State Fullerton and the strategy that they laid out for my company.

I am extremely happy that I had the opportunity to work with a CSUF Student-led Business Consulting Team and I plan on engaging them in another project once I look to take the Horse Race Advantage to the next level!

If you would like more information about the CSUF Student-led Business Consulting Program please click here

CSUF Entrepreneurship Mentor: Jerry Conrey

Jerry Conrey has been an integral part of the CSUF Entrepreneurship Program since 2002 when he first became a mentor. Jerry still serves as a mentor to our student-entrepreneurs and he also has funded the Conrey Insurance Brokers and Risk Managers Entrepreneurial Scholarship for many years, participated as a panelist at a seminar on Patent Trolls and has served on special committees in support of the Center for Entrepreneurship over the years. We recently had the chance to ask him a few questions about his time with our program and, as you can see below, he was gracious enough to give us some very thoughtful answers.

Center for Entrepreneurship: “How has the program evolved during your tenure?”

Jerry Conrey: “The program has become more prolific, with many more students and class offerings since my initial involvement. It has matured into a perennial national contender at the annual Student-led Business Consulting Project of the Year Competition. The professors and lecturers have evolved over the years into being a great fit for the program.”

CFE: “What drives you to volunteer?”

JC: “My interest in giving back is the number one driver. The ancillary drivers include maintaining my own relevance as a business owner, exposure to other businesses, the students, and the curriculum provide ample opportunity for me to take personal and corporate inventory of my own business – so even though I mentor, I also become a student of the process and perfect my own operation with what I learn.”

For many years, Jerry Conrey (left) has supported the Conrey Insurance Brokers & Risk Managers Entrepreneurial Scholarship. This year, the scholarship went to Sam Cisneros (right).

For many years, Jerry Conrey (left) has supported the Conrey Insurance Brokers & Risk Managers Entrepreneurial Scholarship. This year, the scholarship went to Sam Cisneros (right).

CFE: “Tell us about your involvement in student projects.” Continue reading

CSUF Entrepreneurship School Year in Review: 2013-14

Another wonderful school year has come to a close and we couldn’t be prouder. This year we have accomplished many things and our students have exceeded all expectations. Recently, we hosted an Awards Celebration and I would like to take the time to give you an overview of everyone who was recognized.

Since 2011, Michael Sawitz and his incubator,, has supported CSUF student-entrepreneurs by providing full tuition to multiple student startups each year. This year, Michael (pictured right), awarded two such scholarships, one to Andre Conde’s (pictured center) White Light Medical and Quinn Royston’s Cordomi Rentals.

Michael Sawitz graciously supported two scholarships that will pay for all the tuition costs to his business incubator, Each of these scholarships is valued at $25,000 and each of the winners, incidentally, were top three finishers in this year’s CSUF Business Plan Competition.

Andre Conde’s White Light Medical was one of the recipients for this prize. White Light Medical has developed a device that will aid in spinal surgery by cutting down on the risks and time needed for this type of surgery. Continue reading

How can a CSUF MBA Consulting Team Help Your Business?

CSUF Business Consulting Team that won National Small Business Institute Project of the Year Competition!

For more than two decades, CSUF MBAs have been helping business owners like you develop successful business strategies that have improved profits. We have an extraordinary record of success winning many awards and producing results for our clients.

As a client you will be matched with a student consulting team and instructor. The objective of the team’s consulting project is to help you make lasting improvements to your business. By trusting us, and participating in our consulting process, you will have the opportunity to:

  1. Conduct a full strategic review of your firm including finance, operations, human resources and marketing.
  2. Receive practical recommendations for improving your venture.
  3. Obtain a fresh, independent view of your venture and new ideas on how to enhance your business.

To be considered please complete our Request for Consulting Application. The deadline to apply is Friday, May 23 for consideration in our Summer 2014 period. Client involvement will begin early June. Please contact Ms. Charlesetta Medina, Field Case Coordinator, at 657 278 8243 or by email at

CSUF Student-led Business Consulting Success Story – HCP National

Several years ago we engaged with the CSUF Student-led Business Consulting Program led by Professor John Bradley Jackson for advisement on our marketing. We wanted new ideas for our insurance brokerage, which specializes in health care, with an emphasis in Medical Malpractice.

The CSUF Student-led Business Consulting group that we hired came up with a very impressive marketing plan; there were several great ideas that we implemented. One of them involved our client retention program, which allowed us to graphically show how much our clients have saved from working with our company over the years. This has been a valuable tool to remind some of our clients the value of a long term relationship with our firm. Continue reading

CSUF Entrepreneurship Update – 1st Quarter 2014

2014 has already been an exciting year for us but we have a lot more planned. For starters, we were just honored with our 11th National Championship at the Small Business Institute’s Project of the Year Competition! Not only did our undergraduates bring home the national championship in their division but our MBA’s came in second place in theirs!

Speaking of our Student-led Business Consulting Program, we are already looking for clients for our MBA Summer Program which begins in late May. If you or a company you know of could benefit from our MBA students’ expertise, please contact Ms. Charlesetta Medina at or 657-278-8243.

(2013 SBI National Champion Undergraduate Student-led Business Consulting team from CSUF Entrepreneurship)

We are also in the midst of running the 2014 CSUF Business Plan Competition as well. The Finals for this competition are set for Friday, April 11th in the Titan Student Union and, based off of the submissions we have reviewed so far, it looks like this year’s finals will be very exciting! Of course, we are always looking for more sponsors for this competition (for student awards and to pay for the cost of running the event itself) and if you are interested in supporting CSUF student-entrepreneurs please reply to this email and we will help you out (or go to our Donation Page to give via credit card online).

(Students who competed in the 2014 CSUF Fast Pitch Business Competition)

Thanks to your support we have already accomplished a lot in 2014:

  • We ran the first-ever CSUF Fast Pitch Business Competition. With over 60 participants and approximately 150 people in attendance, this event was a huge success. And, to top it all off, our very own John Chi took home the second place prize!
  • Gayle and Phil Tauber, the founders of Kashi, were gracious enough to come on campus to give a talk to our students, faculty and staff about their shared entrepreneurial journey.
  • We hosted the Patent Troll and other IP-related Threats Seminar and the FULL VIDEO is up now. At this seminar, panelists Roger N. Behle (IP litigator at Foley, Bezek, Behle & Curtis, LLP), Jerry Conrey (Principal at Conrey Insurance Brokers) and Dr. Robert Kovacev (Professor of Finance at CSUF) discussed how business can identify these potentially bad actors and how best to deal with them.

Also, Dr. Michael Ames, Chairman of the Board for the Center for Entrepreneurship, recently published an eBook titled “Your Entrepreneurial Journey”, which focuses on developing guiding principles for businesses. It is an excellent book that I collaborated on with Dr. Ames and I believe it can help every business develop truly important goals. The eBook is reasonably priced and can be found on Amazon; also, all proceeds of the book go to support the Center for Entrepreneurship and its students.

CSUF Student-led Business Consulting Program Wins National Competition

CSUF Undergrad Team takes first prize in National Small Business Institute Competition for their Student-led Business Consulting Project for The Ticket Group.

Congratulations are in order for two of our hardworking Student-led Business Consulting Teams! Professor John Bradley Jackson’s Undergraduate team took home the national title and Dr. David Leibsohn’s MBA team took home second place in their respective categories at the Small Business Institute‘s National Project of the Year Competition. To put this into perspective, these teams beat out the other 125 or so consulting projects that were completed by CSUF teams last year as well as a commensurate number from dozens of other schools. Doing some rough math, the odds of winning, or even being in the Top 10, are very small; close to zero actually.

Professor Jackson’s Undergraduate team did their consulting report for The Ticket Group. The Ticket Group is an online destination for people looking for tickets to large events. Working on this project were Heather Annette Castner, Erica Nicole Saunders, Zach Turner, Kayla Donohue, Max Lubliner and Rex Noreen.

2013 SBI National Champion Undergraduate Student-led Business Consulting Team from California State University, Fullerton

Dr. Leibsohn’s MBA team worked on a consulting project for Loutech, a company that does CNC machining for many industries in Southern California. Working on this project were MBA candidates Omar Besiso, Simona Crisan, Jennifer Davalos, Erik Hayes and Silvia Liu.

CSUF MBA team takes second place in the Small Business Institute’s National Project of the Year Competition for their work in their Student-led Business Consulting Project for Loutech, Inc.

For those of you who are uninitiated in our Student-led Business Consulting Program, let me give you a brief overview. Every semester CSUF students taking Entrepreneurship classes in Operations, Marketing, Finance, Human Relations and in a select number of MBA courses take on a semester-long business consulting report. These reports are not based off of cases taken from a book but, rather, based off of the real life situations that our clients (real businesses) are facing.

Throughout the semester, each team meets with their client at least half a dozen times in person and more so through phone calls and email. At the end of the semester our Student-led Business Consulting Teams present their clients with a substantial strategy report accompanied with a lengthy presentation outlining actions that the team believes their client should take. In turn, our clients implement our teams’ strategies as they see fit. Our students are making real decisions that can have a real impact on the health and growth of a business.

These projects are not for the faint of heart as the written reports regularly exceed 100 pages in length and the number of hours spent developing a unified strategy can number 500 hours or more over the course of the semester. Sure, each team has four to six members but that is still a great deal of effort that these students are putting forward.

Twenty-eight CSUF Student-led Business Consulting Teams have placed in the Top 10 in this competition over the last 22 years, including 11 National Championships. This was the first National Champion since back-to-back wins in 2010 and 2011.

For information on how to become a client of this award winning program please check out this page to find out how you can benefit from our services.

For some background on what the CSUF Student-led Business Consulting Program is about please watch the video below.

Rance’s Chicago Pizza

Rance’s Chicago Pizza, one of our amazing clients in our Student-led Business Consulting Program, was recently featured on the show California’s Best. Here’s the segment:

(Problems viewing? Go here)

If you are interested in becoming a client in our program please visit our website and fill out a Request for Consulting document. If you’d rather talk about the opportunities we have please get in touch with Ms. Charlesetta Medina at or (657) 278-8243.

Let a CSUF Organizational Audit help your Business Reach new Heights!

Employees are a company’s most important asset but all too often they aren’t treated as such. Over the last couple of years our program – which has been in operation for more than two decades and has a strong record of helping clients – has developed a comprehensive Organizational Audit consulting service that helps our clients increase the effectiveness of its most important asset: its people.

The audit starts with the work that your employees need to do in order to achieve the organization’s goals and then asks:

1. Are the right people in place to get this work done successfully?

Our students can recommend changes to the current hiring and training processes to ensure that your people have the right skills and abilities to get the job done.

2. Are the policies and procedures that have been put in place helping the staff work more effectively?

Our students can recommend changes to improve the flow of communication within the organization and increase employee motivation.

3. Is the culture enhancing or hindering organizational performance?

The secret-sauce of an effective organization is its culture. When employees strongly agree with the organization’s values, they are much more energized to help the organization achieve its goals. Our students can recommend ways to create a culture that helps your organization gain a unique competitive advantage that is almost impossible to imitate.

Each CSUF Student-led Business Consulting team that will be performing these comprehensive Organizational Audits are supervised by a PhD faculty member and are mentored by a qualified professional from the private sector. By the end of the semester, the CSUF Undergraduate Juniors and Seniors will develop and present to their clients a plan that will address all the above issues with recommendations about how to make improvements.

Our Student Consulting Program has won 26 awards from the nationally renowned Small Business Institute for having some of the best, if not the best, student consulting projects. Please click on the picture below to see a video describing our Student Consulting Program:

CSUF’s “Organizational Audit” is a top notch tool for any company. Please call Ms. Charlesetta Medina at (657) 278-8243 or send her an email to for more information about our award-winning Student Consulting Program.

Why Human Resource Practices are Important

While it is fairly obvious how marketing, sales, product development and manufacturing contribute to an organization’s success, the link between human resources and firm success has been much more ambiguous. Measuring how the sales department affects a firm’s revenues is quite simple. But it’s much harder to measure the effects of changes in hiring, training, performance appraisal and information sharing processes.

The most conclusive proof of value of human resources came via a paper published last year in the Academy of Management Journal. The authors used meta-analysis techniques to provide strong evidence for the concrete benefits to firms when they take care of their people. (Meta-analysis is a fancy word for a methodology that allows researchers to combine results from many different studies to look for broader patterns.)

Examining 116 articles published between 1985 and 2011, the authors found that an organization’s human resource policies improve employee motivation and build a strong pool of talent. These two factors, in turn, lead to reduced employee turnover and better operational outcomes such as productivity, product or service quality, and rate of innovation. And, when the organization’s employees are productive, innovative and committed to delivering high-quality products and services to its customers, the organization will see increased revenues.

How can an organization improve its bottom line by taking care of its people? The authors suggest three basic strategies:

  1. Create recruiting, hiring and training processes that ensure that employees have the right skills to get the job done.
  2. Design rewards and career development programs so that they enhance employee motivation.
  3. Provide employees with opportunities to grow their skills and abilities in a manner that also achieves the organization’s objectives. Some examples include giving workers a fair degree of autonomy in how they do their jobs and allowing them to have a say in matters that affect them.

Let’s face it, many of us think of HR as the place we go to when we want to change our benefits or our paycheck doesn’t look right. This study provides the most convincing evidence yet of the true value provided by HR.

If you are interested in improving your company’s Human Resource Practices please get in touch with Charlesetta Medina by sending her an email to or by giving her a call at (657) 278-3464. Our award winning Student-led Business Consulting program accepts new clients during both the spring and fall semesters but space is limited so plan ahead.

Written by Dr. Atul Teckchandani who is an Assistant Professor of Management at the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics, California State University, Fullerton. He teaches courses in entrepreneurship, provides student advising and is involved with the Center for Entrepreneurship within Mihaylo College. He has a PhD in Business Administration (Management of Organizations) from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as an MBA from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, Austin.

CSUF Student-led Business Consulting Accepting Applications for Fall 2013

If you are ready to improve your business with the assistance of a CSUF Student-led Business Consulting group fill out an application now!

Download Consulting Application

Our Undergraduate Student-led Business Consulting Groups operate under the supervision of their professor and a mentor with a proven track record in the private sector. Together, these teams can help your business improve in Leadership/Human Resources. Each Consulting Group meets with their client multiple times throughout the semester and develops a report outlining recommendations to improve their client’s business and each Consulting Group presents this report at the end of the semester to their client.


These projects are priceless learning experiences for our students but they are also professional-grade consulting reports; take a look at what our past clients have to say.

For a fraction of what it would cost to hire a business consultant in the private sector, you can receive top-notch consulting services from an organization you know and trust: Cal State Fullerton. Give us a call to see how we can help you achieve your goals.

If you have any questions please contact Charlesetta Medina at (657) 278-3464 or for additional information.

Does your Organization need a Tune Up?

If your business could benefit from an Organizational Audit, complete our application TODAY! The application does not obligate you to participate it provides us with basic information about your business. What can an Organizational Audit help you identify?

What can an Organizational Audit help you identify?

  • Little commitment or motivation among employees
  • Low productivity or innovativeness
  • Conflict or tension among employee groups
  • Poorly defined or organized tasks
  • Inadequate training or socialization
  • Weaknesses of a new management program or organizational design
  • Problems managing the transition from an entrepreneurial organization to a mature one

A Student-led Business Consulting Team from Cal State Fullerton can help your business make meaningful changes to how your business operates. California State University, Fullerton’s Center for Entrepreneurship is accepting applications for the Fall 2013 Student-led Business Consulting Projects.

These projects have been recognized for excellence on the national level and past companies who have taken part in this program have had very productive experiences with the consulting teams. Consulting projects span the course of a semester and conclude with the presentation of a comprehensive report outlining a set of recommendations.

Student-led Business Consulting Teams, under the dual supervision of their professor and an experienced mentor from the private sector, develop these recommendations after hundreds of hours of intensive study of their client’s organizational structure.

One satisfied client had this to say about the program: “They were thorough and right on target. Having already referred several of my friends and customers to the CSUF program, I will continue to endorse [their] efforts at the college.”   Our advisement process begins in September and the deadline for the application is September 5th.

Please apply today because we only have a limited number of spaces available for the fall semester. If you have any questions regarding placement, time constraints, or costs, contact Ms. Charlesetta Medina at, call her at (657) 278-3464, or you can visit our website. We look forward to improving your business!


John Bradley Jackson
Director, Center for Entrepreneurship
Professor, Entrepreneurship and Marketing
California State University, Fullerton  

Center for Entrepreneurship Director Jackson talks with local Chinese Media

Recently, Director John Bradley Jackson and Field Case Coordinator Charlesetta Medina did a press event for a group of Chinese media and businesspeople. The purpose of the event is to spread the word about California State University, Fullerton’s Business Consulting Program. Fortunately, the press event went very well and it looks like the Center for Entrepreneurship and CSUF as a whole has a lot more friends in the community.

CSUF Center for Entrepreneurship Director John Bradley Jackson and Field Case Coordinator Charlesetta Medina pose for a picture with Chinese media and businesspeople after a successful press event.

Center Director Jackson also recently did an interview with a local Chinese language news station. The video is below.

For more information about CSUF Business Consulting please click this link.

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

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 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 Michael Sawitz, who has already been mentioned a couple of times in this post, is the owner of, 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.

“ 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 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 scholarship is worth $20,000 in tuition.

John Chi accepting first place scholarship for 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 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!