LMU Entrepreneurs: Alumni Success Stories
The LMU Entrepreneurship Program identifies the potential in all our students by encouraging talents and passions, developing essential business skills and teaching the fundamentals of starting, owning and successfully managing a new venture. Students work with outstanding faculty, take innovative courses, meet inspirational guest speakers and network with other entrepreneurs. So, what happens when our students enter the real world? Meet recent graduates as they share their inspiring journeys, their top lessons learned and how the LMU Entrepreneurship Program gave them the knowledge and skills to succeed on their own.
Graduation Year: 2003
Current Position: Founder and CEO, Kluge Interactive
Lesson Learned: Life never quite turns out how you first imagine it but it does end up making sense. Don't be afraid to be yourself, stay honest and move forward.
I started an online music magazine at LMU that took over my life at the time. I loved the fact that Dr. Kiesner and Dr. Choi readily encouraged my passion for it in its purity while also teaching me how to be strategic and business-driven. It was an honor to be their student. Under Dr. Choi's mentorship I was able to learn much about the world of consulting, and after some success in the business consulting world, today I run a digital design agency. We are 10 cross-functional team members trained to move business objectives forward with design.
We work with clients such as Deloitte, Downtown Santa Monica, the Diocese of Orange, the Department of Cultural Affairs and LA technology start-ups such as Telesign, AdColony and Silicon Beach Fest.
With digital expertise at core, we help our clients with design facilitation, branding, print and web design. We also host monthly design events and are actively involved in the LA technology community.
I love staying in touch with LMU and seeing new students pitch their ideas and new ventures. One of my favorite programs is the partnership between Otis design students and Dr. Choi's business students. Encouraging collaboration between business thinkers and designers in today's careers is spot on and transformative to their careers. Watching Dr. Choi's courses constantly be at the cutting edge of modern business processes is inspiring.
Graduation Year: BBA 2010
Current Position: Co-Founder and VP Marketing, Boombotix Inc.
Industry: Consumer Electronics
Lesson Learned: To create something that is genuinely new, you have to start again, and with great intent, disconnect from the past.
My two passions are outdoor action sports and consumer electronics, and Boombotix is a brand centered at the intersection of both. Boombotix was founded on the creation of an ultraportable speaker designed as an alternative to headphones. The Boombot was conceived by combining a Japanese vinyl toy, off-the-shelf speaker internals, and a walkie talkie clip. It was originally developed for biking, and we quickly realized that this product integrated perfectly with the surf-skate-snow lifestyles we live. With a focus on true portability and design, our speakers began turning heads on the streets and slopes of the west coast, and we’re stoked about that.
In the process, we pioneered a new segment of portable speakers- ultraportable, built for life in motion. We have grown our retail channels organically, originally seeding the product to surf-skate-snow retailers, and now we are proud to ship to Amazon, REI and Bestbuy.com. In addition, we are in over 27 countries worldwide, and have realized triple figure revenue growth each year since our inception. Earlier in 2012, we closed a Series A round led by Walden VC, and have built a team composed 8 young and hungry employees.
Today, we are working harder than ever. In our San Francisco headquarters in the vibrant Mission District, we feel the pulse the local street art scene and continue to pioneer the ultraportable speaker segment. Aside from brand management, sales hustle, and nearly every other aspect of business development, I spent the last year designing and developing the REX, a Bluetooth ultraportable speaker with great sound and a sophisticated design. The REX is going into mass production as I write this and will be available in small batches for the 2012 holiday.
LMU’s business program gave me the tools I needed as a structure for success. Dr. David Choi, as a true entrepreneur himself, offered unrivaled thought leadership and created a new product development and design class, which gave me a strong design foundation for the development of the REX. I wholeheartedly recommend LMU’s business program for entrepreneurs looking to lay the stepping stones for successful future ventures.
Graduation Year: BBA 2004
Current Position: Founder, React Mobile
Lesson Learned: Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks. Risks can lead to failure, but learning from your failures and having the ability to persevere until you succeed is the essence of entrepreneurship.
It was among like-minded students with a passion for putting ideas into action that my love for startups began. At the time of my enrollment, LMU was one of the initial universities with a structured entrepreneurship program, and as a student, I developed a passion for finding solutions to everyday needs. I started two businesses while attending LMU and one of them was based on a business plan that I wrote in Dr. Choi’s entrepreneurship class. Professors Fred Kiesner and David Choi helped give me the confidence to pursue my entrepreneurial endeavors. Since graduating from LMU, I’ve had the opportunity to work at a number of startups in various industries. While attending LMU, I launched a food, nightlife and event website and was one of the founders of an online social network targeting nonprofits. Prior to founding React Mobile, I served as marketing director for a software company marketing advanced networking and tactical emergency communications software to the Department of Defense (DoD) and to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Currently, I’m serving as the founder and CEO of React Mobile, a personal safety app for iPhone and Android that is helping to enhance the safety of our communities. React Mobile helps you turn your smartphone into a powerful lifeline. The app’s “Follow-me” feature allows you to have your friends and family track you in real-time whenever you’re concerned for your safety. With the push of a button, you can send an SOS alert containing your GPS coordinates to select emergency contacts via text message and email with an option for an alert to be posted on Facebook and Twitter. Once the SOS alert is activated, you’re automatically prompted to dial the authorities. Throughout my career I’ve worked exclusively at startups in many industries. The lessons learned and experience gained has been unmatched and I continue to set goals, learn and grow. Overcoming the challenges associated with running my own business and achieving my goals is what drives me everyday.
Graduation Year: BBA 2010
Current Position: Co-Founder & CEO, Liquid I.V.
Lesson Learned: My parents were always right. If your dreams don't scare you, they are not big enough.
I was almost entirely focused on my golf career for the first three years of college at LMU. When I finally decided to give thought to my post-grad career, I went to Dr. David Choi to see if he would let me into one of his most coveted entrepreneurship classes. He told me I didn’t have the prerequisites needed for the class but I pleaded with him to give me an opportunity to prove myself. Finally, Dr. Choi gave in as long as I promised not to let him down. Fast forward 8 months, I was fortunate enough to be awarded Social Entrepreneur of the Year by Dr. Choi, Professor Elisa Grossman, and the rest of the entrepreneurship program for a project where we broke a Guinness Book World Record to raise money and meals for child victims of the 2010 Haiti Earthquake. What we were able to do on a social level with the support of the LMU Entrepreneurship Program was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
The skills I gained from this program gave me the confidence to start Liquid I.V. a few years after graduating college. Along with my two best friends who are also LMU grads, Hayden Fulstone and Cameron Killeen, we saw a void in the marketplace for a truly healthy and effective hydration product as opposed to traditional sugar and chemical-filled sports drinks. Our first investor in the company was another Lion who played baseball at LMU and is now the third baseman for the Colorado Rockies. We now have over 100 professional athletes utilizing Liquid I.V. on a daily basis. Since launching in July of 2013, we have over 125 college ambassadors pushing the product out at 15 universities, we are carried in over 50 local gyms and markets, and we are finalizing a partnership with one of the largest all-natural retailers in the country and a Las Vegas hotel chain.
The LMU Business Incubator played a huge roll in the infancy stages of the company and really helped us launch quickly and virally into the market. The overwhelming support from the LMU community from the very beginning has been absolutely incredible and we would not be where we are today without this program.
Graduation Year: MBA 2010
Current Position: Founder & COO, BUYSTAND.COM; Principal at 8 Rivers Capital
Industry: E-Commerce, Technology, Venture Capital and Private Equity
Lesson Learned: Think Big.
My life is identifying big problems and commercializing disruptive technologies that solve them. I figure out what my audience wants and build something that resonates with them. If they want a red suit, I don’t try to sell them a blue one. If I have an idea, I voice it and see where it takes me.
Recently, I co-founded BUYSTAND, an ECN platform for consumer goods. It matches consumers’ “willingness-to-pay” with retailers’ “willingness-to-sell” in an anonymous buyer-driven marketplace. It functions like an ad-exchange with consumers and retailers instead of advertisers and publishers. Instead of using markdowns to move product, BUYSTAND allows retailers to accept offers at any point on the demand curve that works for them yielding higher margins and faster inventory turn. This also allows brands to maintain their brand equity in a way previously unattainable.
Think big. I mean $billion big, and start with the problem. That is what I learned at LMU. If you have the opportunity to take Fred Kiesner’s entrepreneurship class or even speak with him, do it. It will change your perception on entrepreneurship and life in general. You will need the strongest knowledgebase, so take as many classes from David Choi and Elissa Grossman as possible. Remember that you are in school to learn so keep learning. Make it a habit to read something unrelated to what you are working on every day. It will spark creativity. If you haven’t been to a library or bookstore in a while, go. Put yourself out there and be present in life, and don’t be afraid to fail. That is how we learn.
Graduation Year: BBA 2001, MBA 2004
Current Position: CEO & Founder, Red Butler; CEO & Founder, Ghost Media
Industry: Technology, Hospitality and Marketing
Lesson Learned: There are no obstacles.
I remember falling in love with technology at a very young age. I'd buy anything that was small and did something cool. I started my first online business when I was in high school. During my time at LMU, my interests were refined, augmented and promoted. When I graduated, I set out to create products and services designed to meet the needs of professionals and leaders navigating an increasingly interconnected global culture.
In 2005, I launched Red Butler, a subscription-based virtual concierge and assistant service (think Centurion card meets SIRI). Today we help thousands of professionals, Fortune 500 company employees and lifestyle enthusiasts with everything from organizing flights to booking that impossible dinner reservation. We also launched the Red Butler Privilege Card, which activates perks like room upgrades, priority seating and other benefits at hotels, restaurants and businesses around the globe. Red Butler built out its own proprietary technologies for both mobile and web environments, which are today utilized and licensed by several companies in similar marketplaces.
In working with numerous restaurants and hotel partners via Red Butler, I quickly identified a huge void in the marketplace for social media services. Marketing is no longer about convincing people to do things, it's about having your customers trust your brand or product. Businesses can build that trust by personifying their service or product using social media. Ghost Post helps businesses build, manage and establish their social identities.
At LMU I received the support and encouragement that I needed to ignite that entrepreneurial fire. I relied on a well-rounded and balanced education, fusing technology, science, philosophy, history and business, which have all helped me grow both professionally and spiritually. Go Cubs, Go Lions.
Graduation Year: MBA 2010
Current Position: Director of Partnerships, Tapjoy
Industry: Mobile Apps and Mobile Advertising
Lesson Learned: There is no "easy" way. Only the hard way.
After graduating from LMU with my MBA, I moved to the SF bay area, joined the Corporate Development arm of SK Telecom, where I worked on a strategic investment in a mobile payments startup. I parlayed that into investment banking at Morgan Keegan Technology Group (now Raymond James). I was more excited by the mobile startups I was analyzing, so I joined Tapjoy who was top in the mobile apps space. We went from 30 to 300+ employees and now I’m the Director of Partnerships, focusing on strategy. I also helped build our APAC business units, lead LatAm expansion, and play a leadership role on our APAC team.
The MBA gives you the foundation and polish to start a strong career, where you have a basic understanding of the “big picture.” Dr. Choi is one of the best mentors I’ve had the pleasure to learn from and work with. He’s a realist, a comedian and uniquely understands private industry new ventures. If you’re not absorbing every single thing he says, plus asking for more, you’re wasting your time.
Graduation Year: BBA 2006
Current Position: President, Olivera Trading
Industry: Specialty Food Distribution and Food Manufacturing
Lesson Learned: Work smart and be a risk taker.
Starting and running my own business is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. I love the thrill of creating something from nothing and watching it grow. I set a goal to run my own business before the age of 30 and reached that goal by the tender age of 25. I started my career at an investment bank and then joined a venture capital firm.
LMU’s entrepreneurship program gave me the tools I needed to set myself up for greatness. I credit the Distinguished Entrepreneur Speaker Series put on by Professors Fred Kiesner and David Choi as a major motivator. The series brought successful entrepreneurs to campus and created the spark I needed to go after what I was passionate about. Additionally, the entrepreneurship classes at LMU were conducive to the entrepreneurial mindset. I learned how to research an industry, develop a business plan and set up a successful business venture.
Graduation Year: BBA 2009
Current Position: Principal, Growth Factor Bioventures
Industry: Venture & Investing
Lesson Learned: Business is blunt, brutal and unforgiving. Deal with it and keep going because success in business is as simple as setting a goal, finding a way to get there and executing.
I currently work as a member of a strategic planning team to evaluate business direction and develop long-term sustainability for Rigo International. My role is to increase operational efficiency within the company and leverage current resources to meet demands. While importing apparel and manufacturing are our core business, I also play a significant role in alternative ventures such as real estate development by utilizing my evaluation, management, operations and strategic planning skills.
While at LMU, I was fortunate to obtain a technical and strategic education by majoring in both accounting and entrepreneurship. Both skillsets are extremely important and valuable in my career. The entrepreneurial side allows me to look at a business opportunistically while the accounting side lets me justify and support the decisions I make with concrete data.
LMU’s entrepreneurship program prepared me to think more like a leader and less like a student. The curriculum opened my eyes to the real world through classes, competitions and projects. The lessons learned and advice received from Professors Fred Kiesner and David Choi gave me the confidence and capability to converse and operate at a level of business comparable to graduates from the best schools in the nation.
Graduation Year: BBA 2011
Current Position: Founder & CEO, WhiteyBoard
Lesson Learned: There will always be problems. Act on them sooner rather than later.
While studying at LMU, I developed a preference for study rooms on campus that were equipped with wall-to-wall whiteboards that allowed me to display my ideas. The problem was these rooms were in demand and hard to reserve during exam periods. When I decided to buy a whiteboard for home use, I experienced “sticker shock” – finding that most traditional 4x6 whiteboards cost $250 before shipping and installation.
That’s when my partner and I came up with the idea of WhiteyBoard, a multi-use, stick-on whiteboard that sold approximately $16,000 worth in the first week alone. We used the proceeds to pay for our first batch of inventory. Total capital invested in WhiteyBoard was only $1,000 and our first year gross revenue totaled $172,000. WhiteyBoard has emerged as an innovative, inexpensive, and eco-friendly alternative to the more expensive traditional whiteboards and has been featured in The New York Times and Inc. magazine, among others.
LMU’s entrepreneurship program taught me several lessons on how to launch a product you truly believe in: invest, don’t speculate; you don’t have to diversify; the stock market is there to serve you, not to instruct you; allocate capital efficiently; don’t go into debt; think independently; and time is a good business’ best friend.
Graduation Year: BBA 2008
Current Position: Business Development Manager, Docstoc.com
Industry: Technology/Digital Media
Lesson Learned: Relationships are your most important asset. Make building and fostering your connections a main priority.
I was hired as an online marketing director at a prominent dot-com start-up right after graduating from LMU. After the company went under, I launched my own online marketing consulting business to help small- to mid-sized businesses generate customers through pay-per-click marketing. Last summer, I was offered and accepted a business development position at Docstoc.com, an online company that offers a wide selection of documents to small businesses and professionals. Thanks to the company’s small size, I’ve been able to work directly with the vice president and CEO to create partnerships and manage relationships.
LMU’s entrepreneurship program really helped me launch my career. I learned a lot about the process of raising money for a new venture and had the opportunity to hone my business presentation and pitching skills at a national competition my senior year. While at school, I also met a lot of really smart people who I am still in touch with today. LMU gave me connections that led to an internship with the Tech Coast Angels, the largest start-up investment network in Southern California. Through the people I met there, I came in contact with the CEO of the company I’m currently working for. I would whole-heartedly recommend LMU's entrepreneurship program to anyone interested in launching a business or working for a start-up.
Graduation Year: BBA 2009
Current Position: Systems Integration, Design & Technology Analyst, Accenture
Industry: Technology Consulting
Lesson Learned: Not every day is going to be easy, but every day does present new opportunities to create the life you want to live.
Immediately after graduating from LMU, I started a boutique advertising and communications company focused on group text messaging, direct-mail marketing and printing. The group text message portion of the business was a new technology at the time and the possibilities felt endless: distributing mobile coupons, sending out event reminders, keeping in touch with suppliers/wholesalers, providing instant home listing, etc. I successfully sold the company about one year after starting it.
I also had the opportunity to join an alternative energy start-up as interim CFO where I worked on the company’s financial models and investment prospectus. Both endeavors were personally and professionally rewarding and were excellent opportunities for learning and growth. Currently, I am a technology consultant at Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company.
LMU’s entrepreneurship program really prepared me for the real world by simulating situations that business leaders encounter outside of the classroom. I learned many invaluable skills from the semester-long business plan project in Professor David Choi's class and had the unique opportunity to present my ideas to a panel of esteemed business professionals and entrepreneurs. That class really taught me how to think critically and encouraged me to make my own work even stronger.
Graduation Year: BBA 2007
Current Position: Financial Analyst Manager, All Smiles Dental Centers
Industry: Medical/Private Equity
Lesson Learned: I can't do it all myself. I need to team with people who have strengths in areas where I have weaknesses.
Shortly after graduating from LMU, moving cross country and getting married, I realized I was financially savvy from a business perspective, but not from a personal perspective. As a result, I founded www.youngandfrugal.com, a website dedicated to teaching business and personal finance to Generation Y. Up to this point, my entrepreneurial ventures have all been side projects, but I believe my next venture, a restaurant concept in Dallas, will turn me into a full-fledged entrepreneur.
Since graduating, I’ve held an entry-level finance position in a Fortune 500 company, an upper management position in an Inc. 500 company and a senior management position in a private equity-backed chain of dental centers. The role I'm in now is highly entrepreneurial and has me involved in every aspect of the business. I love it, but hope to venture out on my own in the next couple of years.
Some people say you can't teach entrepreneurship, but they’re wrong. Teaching entrepreneurship is about changing the way people think. The entrepreneurship program at LMU helped me harness my passion into something productive and taught me how to capitalize on it. Most importantly it taught me how to work effectively toward my dreams.
Graduation Year: BBA 2007
Current Position: Account Manager, Facebook
Industry: Online Advertising
Lesson Learned: Slightly understaff. A lean work environment keeps people hungry and reduces the need to be territorial over projects.
A year after graduating, I started working at the Rubicon Project under serial entrepreneur Frank Addante. I knew nothing about online advertising, but after two years of "in the trenches" training, I acquired the skills I needed to get my job at Facebook, the 'Best Place to Work' according to Glassdoor.com. Life at a start-up demands a scrappy mentality. There is no training manual on your first day, but that freedom pushed me to think outside the box, find new solutions and make an immediate impact.
The entrepreneur program at LMU fostered the sink-or-swim attitude needed for taking big risks. In Professor David Choi’s entrepreneurship class, our grade for the semester was determined the last week and was based on a presentation to a panel of venture capitalists. It perfectly simulated real life. There was no opportunity for extra credit or a chance to do it over again. We had one shot and we had to make the most of it.
Graduation Year: BBA 2007
Current Position: Director of Retail Marketing, TOMS Shoes
Industry: Apparel & Fashion/Consumer Products
Lesson Learned: It's amazing how far your passions can take you. You can help people and build a great business.
I was one of the first employees to join TOMS Shoes and have developed my career with a company whose cause and people I truly love. For every pair of shoes that’s purchased, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. I have been fortunate to see the company grow from an idea into a global brand that positively impacts so many lives.
LMU helped with every aspect of my development as a business professional and entrepreneur. Professor Fred Kiesner took me under his wing and mentored me for four years. Professor David Choi gave me the technical skills I needed and pushed me with tough love. Both professors helped me start a media company that I experimented with during my studies at LMU.
I learned some important lessons at LMU: it’s amazing how far a good attitude will take you even if you don’t have all the technical skills at first; also, no matter what people say, you can be successful and ethical at the same time.
Toni Lee Jimenez
Graduation Year: BBA 2003
Current Position: Founder/Publisher, ChicaGirl Magazine
Lesson Learned: With hard work and dedication, you really can do what you put your mind to.
ChicaGirl is a content-driven magazine that displays real girls (i.e., no celebrities) as cover girls. We publish motivational stories and have awarded over hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship money.
I always knew I wanted to own a business, but right after I started the magazine and before I launched the first online issue in 2007, I was sued by a large publisher. I was involved in the lawsuit in federal court for a year and half. It would have been so easy to give up, but I refused. I was lucky to have the support of my family and during this time I realized who I was as a business person. I saved all the money I could while I had a job in politics to start the magazine. I initially performed every job in the company including writing, and even graphic design. In January 2012, we published our first print edition of ChicaGirl. I hope to expand the magazine’s reach to other outlets and regions with a high Latina population and continue to build the ChicaGirl brand nationwide.
When I was at LMU, I remember Dr. Kiesner and Dr. Hess always being very supportive. And after graduating, I've received more support from them. It's been a blessing to have them support my passion and my dream to "inspire girls one page at a time" with ChicaGirl Magazine!