Category Archives: Success Stories

CSUF Business Plan Competition Winner Profile: Piano With Jonny

Yannick Lambrecht and Jonny May at CSUF Business Plan Competition Finals

Yannick Lambrecht (left) and Jonny May (right) at the CSUF Business Plan Competition Finals sponsored by the Center for Entrepreneurship

As you know from reading the recap of the CSUF Business Plan Competition hosted by the Center for Entrepreneurship the first place winner of the compeitition was Piano With Jonny. Presented by Cal State Fullerton students Jonny May, Reuben Ponce De Leon, and Sylvia Dang along with co-founder Yannick Lambrecht, Piano With Jonny is well on its way to shaking up the music education industry by using technology to help thousands of people learn how to become better pianists from an accomplished piano player: Jonny May.

“I’m thrilled to have won the Business Plan Competition!  It was awesome, scary, and exhilarating at the same time! …Going into to it, I really didn’t know if I would win.  I had some amazing competitors with great ideas and strong execution strategies…I highly recommend the CSUF Business Plan Competition to any student with a business idea!” states Jonny.

Piano With Jonny is a web-based business that sells digital piano educational content that enables students to learn music online without the hassle of having to travel or pay hourly fees. On the website, students follow along on the recorded video as Jonny explains and demonstrates a particular genre ranging from blues to jazz to rock to many other genres. In other words, this isn’t your prototypical piano teacher.

The website also offers lessons from learning how to play a particular song to learning one particular technique at a time. The site also offers sheet music through SoundSlice.

Piano With Jonny earns business in two ways: 1. Through individual product sales and 2. Through membership dues. These useful products include in-depth video tutorials with an easy to see overhead display of Jonny playing the piano as the keys light up, as well as interactive sheet music for customers to play along with as fast or slow as they like.

Launched in September 2015, the membership program on Piano With Jonny gives users full access to all products online for only $40 a month (the monthly charge goes down if you prepay), as well as interactive assistance on the exclusive member Facebook page.

Much of Jonny’s audience has been derived from his YouTube channel, with over 15 million views and over 100,000 subscribers. Here’s a recent video he posted to celebrate his 100,000 YouTube subscribers.

What’s different about Piano With Jonny in comparison to other online tutorial services is that it focuses on teaching the piano to intermediate level piano players and not the beginner level, like most online services target. Additionally, the website specifically targets teen and adult piano players that want to learn non-classical styles. These are people who are dedicated to honing their craft as piano players.

Jonny expects his company to be an $8M company by 2020 and his current goal is to reach about 10,000 subscribers.

Written by Traci Muldoon


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An Actor and an Entrepreneur – CSUF Entrepreneurship Success Story Ryan David Tsang ’13

Ryan David Tsang '13 - CSUF Entrepreneurship Success Story

Ryan David Tsang ’13 – CSUF Entrepreneurship Success Story

When deciding to create a business, an entrepreneurial student must first examine the market in order to see if their idea is feasible. By comparing their idea to others and seeing how they can make an impact in the market, students begin to understand how much work will be needed in order to make their future business a success.

However, for the students who choose to press forward by adapting to the challenges they often end up far more successful than they could have imagined. For Cal State Fullerton alumni and entrepreneur Ryan David Tsang, his journey as a business owner has led him to flourish not only in the world of entrepreneurs but also in that of film and television.

While originally an entrepreneur major, Ryan took a break during his sophomore and junior years of college to explore the world of film and television. Working in the field enabled Ryan to hone his craft as an actor and eventually led to him to enroll under the Radio-TV-Film major. As a student with a double major, Ryan decided to create a business that would reflect both of his majors. In 2011, Black Canvas Entertainment was founded by Ryan and his business associate Justin Lee. This first step into the world of entrepreneurship would prove crucial for Ryan as he continued his career after college.

Upon graduating from Cal State Fullerton in 2013 Ryan began to expand upon his acting career where he was featured in a multitude of different shows and commercials. Working with the companies that hired him, Ryan was able to make connections that would not only help him expand his portfolio but would also lead to more clients for his business.

Interestingly enough, the use of Ryan’s entrepreneurial skills worked well with those of his acting skills. While both fields are different, the similarities they shared in terms of networking, communication, and developing skills proved to be a perfect fulcrum in which Ryan could use to help him become a better business owner as well as actor.

One valuable lesson that Ryan learnt early in his career was that networking was king when trying to expand his horizons. As a firm believer of not limiting himself, Ryan would attend events even if it meant not knowing any of the people in the room. To many, this situation would be something that they would be instantly uncomfortable with. However, by branching out and speaking with new people, Ryan was able to land several successful contacts that later led him to being referred to work because of the connections he had made.

Another valuable lesson that many students often ignore during networking events is to not go with the intention of landing a job. While seemingly nonsensical at first, students who only attend networking events with this mission give off a different vibe than those who go just to interact and speak with one another. By getting to know a person with no ulterior motive, people feel that a person is less needy and therefore more willing to refer them in the future.

Ryan also quickly learned that Facebook makes following up with people a perfect tool in cultivating a professional relationship after initially making contact. By learning these lessons early on, Ryan was able to adapt to the rigors of working in Hollywood and flourish as an actor.

In terms of his business, Ryan began to realize that while passion and dedication proved to be great concepts to work off of, reasoning and logic are just as valuable. This proved to be true when Ryan began examining his schedule and noted that he was working well over a hundred hours every week. Realizing that he was getting too caught up in his work, Ryan began making changes in order for him to experience life and be happy again.

With his schedule adjusted and more time allocated for things he wanted to accomplish, Ryan once more was able to grow and become stronger in his fields. Currently Ryan is helping to give back to the school that enabled him to be so successful. By working as a mentor in the classroom, Ryan has helped in the creation of a platform that will allow actors to connect and find jobs. While there are currently only 2-3 sites that use this concept, Ryan’s connections and skills as an entrepreneur will aid him as he works to create an even better site that expands on the concepts already in use.

Ultimately, Ryan’s dual career path has helped him climb the ranks as an actor while helping him to grow and succeed as a business owner. It is clear to see that the skills and knowledge from both of his majors played a large role in helping him not only become a successful actor, but also a business owner.

While Ryan’s path may not portray the typical entrepreneurial story of creating a business, his journey makes him unique among entrepreneurs due to his dedication and passion for the things he loves. This kind of journey is one that illustrates to students that nothing is impossible if students have the motivation and drive to follow their dreams.

We also reached out to Ryan to get his thoughts about the one piece of advice he would give to current CSUF students. Here’s what he had to say:

ADVICE: Change your mindset from “What can I get?” to “What can I give?”

As an aspiring Producer, I wanted to get my foot in the door and make connections at Fox Studios, so I accepted a 4 week temporary position as an Assistant in Legal & Television Distribution. First day on the job, working in a quiet, gray cubicle, I thought this was not a good fit for me. So, I plugged in my earbuds, completed my assigned tasks, and went home. However, the next morning and each day afterwards I went into work with a totally different mindset – “what if I take every single opportunity to do something positive while I’m here?” From the moment I parked my car, I would talk to strangers in the elevator, hold doors open for the morning rush, learn what my co-workers love and care about, buy donuts for the office, pick up trash in the bathroom and clean up someone else’s coffee spill in the break room.

The result was beyond expectations: I looked forward to each day of opportunities. I made lifelong friends. My supervisor even gave me a thank you card with a gift card inside. As my term neared its end, 7 employees at Fox helped me look for a permanent position. Two directors on my floor gave me direct referrals to a job opportunity that wasn’t even listed! I got an interview the next week and was offered the job the following day.

Now, I’m utilizing my Producer skills to coordinate a department responsible for overseeing every single film Fox releases outside of North America, which represents 2/3 of all Box Office revenue!

This story was written by Kevin Emery. Photo credit: Ryan David Tsang.


For more details on CSUF Entrepreneurship:

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CSUF Student’s Passion Leads to Good Works in DC Internship

Rachel Herzog Cal State Fullerton student interning in Washington DC

CSUF student Rachel Herzog at the 2017 Presidential Inauguration. Rachel is in DC to do an internship that aides sufferers of mental illnesses and their families. She is also taking classes focusing on political issues while interning there as part of the California State DC Scholars Program.

Interning is a rite of passage for many college students and some internships have a profound impact on students by shaping the way they view the world and their place in it. One Cal State Fullerton student, Rachel Herzog, is currently doing one of those internships and is having an experience of a lifetime in our nation’s capital.

Rachel’s search for a consequential internship led her to the California State DC Scholars Program, where she found an internship she loves and it has enabled her to attend school in Washington, DC for the spring 2017 semester. In this program, Rachel is currently interning for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), an organization that provides education, support groups, and courses about mental illness across the country. NAMI also has a team that advocates for individuals with mental illnesses.

Rachel’s tasks for NAMI consist of working in the call center where she counsels individuals in distress and their loved ones. It’s not an easy job but Rachel is the kind of person that loves to take on challenges.

Rachel has thoroughly enjoyed her experience at NAMI, “[Working at NAMI] is dynamic because every call is different and every person has their own situation.” The experience has also been one she is quite passionate about, as obstacles she has once gone through are “struggles that are being used to help others.” If possible, Rachel would like to align her interests in mental health issues and entrepreneurship to improve the care in that industry.

Rachel also has been able to enjoy some of DC’s historic and must-see sights, including the presidential inauguration, “I have a list outlining everything I want to do and see while I’m living in DC, including museums, memorials, historic restaurants, cultural events, and heritage trails, and I have a goal to check at least seven items off every week.”

Checking those seven items off every week can be a difficult task because Rachel interns during the day until 4 p.m., and then attends class in the evenings. Per the requirements of the California State DC Scholars Program, Rachel is taking a variety of political science classes; ones that have challenged her with a unique selection of topics and advanced discussions.

While the classes are challenging, Rachel wouldn’t have it any other way: “It’s unique, unlike anything I’ve done before. It’s opened my eyes to a lot of new things. There are topics I’ve never learned about before and this program allows me to do that in a special way…. The insights I’m gathering are relevant to more than just my education or career, but actually to all of life.”

Upon returning to California after the spring semester, Rachel looks forward to spending more time working and staying involved on the Cal State Fullerton campus. She will also continue to work with CSUF Startup Incubator graduate Aidtree by helping it launch its philanthropically inspired service in and around Cal State Fullerton. While uncertain about post-graduation plans, Rachel is passionate about working in travel, e-commerce, and mental health-related fields, and also plans to pursue her Master’s degree in the near future.

Rachel enthusiastically recommends the California State DC Scholars Program to prospective and current students who are looking to step out of their comfort zone and gain real life experience before graduating. “It isn’t necessarily for everyone, as the nature of living in DC is to be immersed in a very political environment, but the rich history of the United States that is so well preserved and accessible makes it a wonderful, unique experience… Participation has made available for me copious exciting resources and a brilliant network, as well as the experience of a lifetime!”

Way to go Rachel!

Written by Traci Muldoon. Edited by Travis Lindsay.


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CSUF Startup Incubator Resident Launches Insurance Comparison Shopping Platform

Harvey Kong Launches Goodfetch with help of CSUF Startup Incubator

Harvey Kong, left, launched insurance comparison shopping site Goodfetch with the help of the CSUF Startup Incubator

When it comes to anything insurance related, just the thought of it can stress almost anyone out. Lets face it, while the simple signing on the dotted line is easy, “shopping” for the right insurance can often be very difficult and sometimes overwhelming. But don’t sweat it – entrepreneur Harvey Kong has come up with a new alternative that will change the way we shop for insurance.

Last year, Harvey joined the CSUF Startup Incubator as a resident to help him launch his business. At the start of his time at the CSUF Startup Incubator, he sat down with staff and his startup coach to develop a custom roadmap for his launch that would position his business for success. After frequent meetings with his advisors, he was able to develop and enact a startup plan that he still uses today even though he has graduated from the CSUF Startup Incubator.

Harvey has fine-tuned his concept to launch Goodfetch, an online platform that compares home and auto insurance quotes for the consumer at just the click of a mouse. According Harvey, “Goodfetch addresses the pertinent issue of shopping [for insurance], not merely buying. Buying insurance is easy, but shopping for it remains too tedious a process.” Similar to websites such as, which compares airfare and hotel rates, Goodfetch provides comparisons of home and auto insurance quotes “from a wide selection of insurance companies.”

This is how it works: The consumer submits a single form online to request insurance quotes. Then insurance companies or their agents input their quotes based on information submitted. Based on the consumer’s preference and insurance companies’ competitiveness, Goodfetch’s proprietary algorithm lists a few quotes for the consumer in a side-by-side format for easy comparison. The consumer and the agent will be connected only if the consumer is interested in buying.

Harvey’s inspiration for developing Goodfeth came from his 25 years of experience as an insurance agent, where he noticed that “Consumers don’t shop for auto/home insurance because it’s one of the worst shopping experience. I want to make it easy for the consumer to compare insurance quotes, and at the same time, also enable the agent to run his business more efficiently, without hard selling tactics.”

Even though this company is new we see a lot of potential in it. If all goes according to plan, Goodfetch will change how consumers shop for insurance. If you wish to find out which insurance company offers you the best deal, why not start a search at Goodfetch? It can save you time and a lot of money.

Written by: Traci Muldoon

Edited by: Travis Lindsay


For more details on CSUF Entrepreneurship:

For more details on how we help people become entrepreneurs:

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

Vincent Yancoskie ’13 – CSUF Entrepreneurship Success Story

Next Level Entrepreneurship: Breaking into the Mobile App and Web Design Markets

Vincent Yancoskie '13

Vincent Yancoskie ’13

At Cal State Fullerton, I never imagined I would have the opportunity to delve into the video game industry. The possibility arose when my friend approached me with an idea for a mobile game for the iOS platform and an offer for partnership in the game once it was released. My job consisted of creating most of the graphics interface and marketing the product once it was in the App Store. I immediately jumped on the project in late 2011 and began teaching myself to create graphics in Photoshop.

Meanwhile, I opted to take an Entrepreneurship class which involved a student consulting project. Professor John Bradley Jackson’s “Marketing for Entrepreneurs” class brought on a fresh perspective as to how I could take the business further once the game launched in the app store. Through various presentations and projects, the class raised my levels of awareness as to how I could leverage various avenues to promote the app.

One of the most significant projects in the class opened the door for me to analyze a local business with a team of students in a sophisticated student consulting project. The semester-long project permitted me to garner real-world business experience that later gave me several valuable tools to market the app and also begin contract work designing websites for two consulting groups and a doctor.

The entrepreneurship class challenged me to apply the vast majority of my marketing skills and provided me with a clear vision of drive, passion and the conviction that it takes to start a new business. It also served to invigorate my motivation to finish developing the iOS game and release it to the market.

As the last weeks of the entrepreneurship course began to draw to a close, the iPhone game, officially titled “Lightning Assault” cleared Apple’s approval process and was officially released to the world on the app store. My feelings of accomplishment and excitement when Lightning Assault launched on December 3rd, 2012 were indescribable.

Then came the challenge of marketing the game. Naturally, the first approach was getting all my friends to download the app, a resource that quickly exhausted itself. Within a few weeks of the game’s launch, I had the website up and running, as well as several social media channels in an attempt to push traffic towards the website and collect downloads.

However, it was soon evident that I needed to go beyond the most obvious methods of raising awareness for our game. I decided to contact a friend in the journalism industry. She sent my name out, and I soon had an interview scheduled with the OC Register, which resulted in the following article.

Today, Lightning Assault maintains a small yet steady growth in downloads. There is still much room for experimentation in aggressive promotion techniques, yet it has been stated that the game holds potential for massive popularity. Above all, it stands as a beacon of the accomplishments of the three person team that created it, and as an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Joanne Vo ’11 – CSUF Entrepreneurship Success Story

Joanne Vo

Joanne Vo ’11

I have nothing but great words for the Center for Entrepreneurship. The program was phenomenal and was played a substantial role in my self-growth as the entrepreneur that I am today.

Shortly after graduating in 2011, like all my peers, I was in search of what to do and pondered on what career path I was going to take. During my college career, I struggled between deciding what major to commit to. I jumped from Business Administration to Marketing and then to Finance; all of which I never felt fulfilled in. It wasn’t until I stumbled into my business counselor’s office and discovered the Entrepreneur Major that I subconsciously coveted.

In between juggling a full-time workload of school, I have always been very active in diving into the workplace for experience. I have always been into fashion and have held internships from different spectrums of the industry. I did sales at a fashion buying agency, then at a small independent fashion brand in downtown Los Angeles, a fashion PR company and then as an intern to an established fashion stylist.

At each one of my positions, I was able to excel greatly and make substantial impressions because of the knowledge I had gained while working on the consulting projects and the course work at CSUF. I was able to contribute ideas and solutions to problems that I have worked on with small business owners from our consulting projects. These consulting projects gave me a hands on approach and challenged me to seek more than what was shown. It taught me the most valuable lesson of all: what the essence of an entrepreneurial spirit is.

I am currently a co-founder and co-owner of Shop D∧J, an online women’s retailer specializing in street chic fashion apparel and accessories. We launched in December 2012 and have slowly been progressing and expanding as we are fulfilling a niche and manifesting a permanent and respectable place in this industry. I feel so blessed and grateful for the opportunity and the support thus far.

I owe a lot of what I know and what I have done on my own to the Center for Entrepreneurship. They gave me the tools to be able to pave my own path and follow my dreams. Everything I learned has been my guiding foundation as I set forth on this journey to push this company to a level where it becomes a positive and influential impact to girls all around world.

Joanne Vo, CSUF Entrepreneurship Graduate 2011


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Phillip Stinis ’11 – CSUF Entrepreneurship Success Story


Phillip Stinis ’11

“I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed.” – Booker T. Washington

As a child, my father told me inspirational stories of my grandfather – an immigrant who came to America with nothing and built an empire as an inventor and entrepreneur. He invented Sky Typing, a process that utilizes five skywriters to “puff” out the World’s Largest Billboard in a dot-matrix format; he grew that company to be an internationally recognized advertising media company that is still in operation after 50 years. I knew at that point that I wanted to be successful like him and started to ask myself: “If he could do it, could anybody be a success?”

Like my grandfather, I enjoyed coming up with outside-the-box solutions and was passionate about seeing them come to fruition. In 2000, I graduated with an Electrical Engineering degree and worked for Boeing designing military satellite power amplifiers. All throughout my life I envisioned how things could work better and while I was able to save my employer millions of dollars through innovation in engineering, I still felt my creativity was stifled. I wanted to find a way for my own ideas to reach the public domain and concluded that I needed to learn how to start a business so that I could bring my own ideas to life.

I looked at the best schools for Entrepreneurship and when I found out California State University, Fullerton was both the largest business school in California and provided a world-class education, I was definitely intrigued. Since I went to USC for my Master’s degree in Engineering, I wanted my MBA experience to be comparable. I was sold when I found out I would be the first class to start in the new state-of-the-art Steven G. Mihaylo school of Business and it had the hands on curriculum that would provide me the resources I needed to be successful.

Immediately from the start of the program I grew close to my advisors and the successful business mentors who helped me in my projects, especially during the Venture Creation and Venture Launch courses. While I had many ideas and didn’t know exactly what business I wanted to start at first, I did gain a better understanding of what would succeed and what wouldn’t so I was able to refine my thinking.

Halfway through my program and specifically in my queuing theory class, the mathematical study of wait times; I came up with the idea of ordering drinks through a mobile device to “skip the wait.” In that class I met my business partner who persuaded me to consider including restaurants and introduced me to his friend and our soon to be programmer who later created our iPad and iPhone app. After flushing out the idea for a couple semesters, I then refined our business plan and launched immediately after graduation.

The first six months I literally went door to door talking with hundreds of restaurant owners and they had no interest in changing the way they did business. While we knew wireless ordering would increase table turnaround and profitability, owners were too afraid of the change and I felt a pivot was needed in order to get our solution in the door. I started from the ground up, looking at what restaurants were interested in learning about when I stumbled upon a term called “menu engineering” and learned that people order food based on where their eye looks at the menu. I then noticed our iPad app interface was different from our competitors in the way that we had an array of photos vs. listing items. I felt people would choose the most appetizing photos, especially based on placement from menu engineering, therefore increasing sales on the items restaurant owners wanted to feature on our iPad menu.

This led me to build marketing strategies around our distinct product and sell our system as “menu optimization” software. It was at this time I went back to CSUF and asked my former advisor, John Jackson (JJ), for advice. He had me discuss my plan with his students for feedback and leads and shortly after he found some restaurant clients who had hired the CSUF entrepreneur classes for strategic advances in their businesses and thought they might be interested. One restaurateur in particular told me “no” when I was going door-to-door, then changed his mind and said “yes, I trust JJ’s recommendations and would be happy to try it out.”

That fine dining restaurant was my first beta test and using our menu optimization software, my team and I were able to improve sales for a stellar performing server by 24% and 36% for an underperforming server. In that environment, I personally introduced our digital menu to over 500 end-users (restaurant guests), all which gave me positive feedback, most notably how our menu was easy to use and see in the dim lit restaurants without putting on reading glasses.

In my next beta test, the owners of a casual dining restaurant recorded samples from 125 random customers – they reported to me they received an average increase in guest checks (sales) of 21.3% throughout the month. My next proof of concept came when a restaurant using our system told me their Margarita Pizza sales were slow and wanted our help. I asked them what was wrong and they told me their Margarita Pizza wasn’t selling because it wasn’t on my iPad menu system – this told me items on my menu system were selling more than items solely on their paper menus. Within 5 minutes of them sending me a photo of their pizza, I was able to have it remotely synced up and placed on their iPad menu. After a week, they told me the Margarita Pizza sales went up 225%!

These were the proofs of concept I needed and with the help of the CSUF staff and mentors who had decades of restaurant consulting experience, they helped me create marketing material that got restaurant owners’ attention. With renewed confidence, I started creating channel partnerships with restaurant influencers. These partnerships became our sales channels which allowed us to reach into international markets and expand Tap Tap Order.


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