Student Entrepreneurs Attend Class, Build Businesses, Find Success
By David Ogul
Sven-Anders Alwerud launched his business from a study room at Cal State San Marcos. Less than three years later, Jelly Skateboards are featured at some of San Diego County’s leading skate and surfboard shops. Revenue has more than tripled year over year, and Svens’ company has been valued at more than $400,000.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “I never thought any of this was possible.”
Sven is but one of many students in CSUSM’s College of Business Administration who have evolved into successful entrepreneurs by taking lessons learned in the classroom into tools helping them build their brand.
“We want our students to make an impact on this region, and to make an impact you have to do something,” said Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship Bennett Cherry. “We encourage our business students to take calculated risks and put into practice what they’ve learned in a classroom.”
Take, for example, Justin Valley. He invested his life savings into Sole Lab, an upscale urban clothing store in Oceanside that caters to a more mature clientele. There was just one problem. He didn’t know much about running a business when he started.
That changed after he enrolled at the School of Business Management at CSUSM and joined the co-ed professional business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi.
“The courses have broadened my horizons, expanded my connections and put me in touch with so many people who are willing to help me out,” said Justin.
Dr. Cherry’s course on entrepreneurship was vital.
“I didn’t have a specific vision until I took that class, really,” said Justin, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. Today, that vision—to become an integral part of the community—is spelled out clearly on the Sole Lab website.
“Our primary goal is to create a social atmosphere that combines music, art and life through fashion,” states the Sole Lab website. “We value every single customer by providing them with the highest quality of service and premium streetwear available. Come on by Sole Lab, where you can get the freshest streetwear, footwear and enjoy great company.”
Justin is also working with MainStreet Oceanside to promote its weekly Sunset Market in the heart of downtown. It’s all part of Valley’s Senior Experience project, a program incorporated into CSUSM’s graduation requirement for business majors that has resulted in more than 5,500 students netting more than 1.7 million hours on an estimated 1,300 projects ranging from crafting business plans to mapping out marketing campaigns for some 1,000 or more companies.
Brenda Anguiano is a mother of two who transferred from Riverside Community College to CSUSM’s Temecula campus last spring to study business, not long after buying a Charley’s Grilled Subs franchise at The Promenade Mall in Temecula. Her thinking?
“My business is thriving because of what I’m learning in the business program,” said Brenda.
What Brenda learned was that she was a micromanager. Now she is focusing on the bigger picture, on marketing, on how to make sure customers are satisfied and her employees motivated.
“I’ve learned to value my employees, to reward them, and they’re happier now. That results in better customer service. And that results in people coming back with their friends and family.”
Gross sales receipts are near the top in the mall’s food court. Satisfaction surveys are the highest for a Charley’s Grilled Subs franchise in the region.
She also learned to become part of the community by taking part in school fundraisers and mall promotions, offering free meals, for example, for students of the month to get new customers into her restaurant.
Sven became an entrepreneur by chance. When he was attending Great Oak High School, he and best buddy Cody Leuck were looking for something different in a skateboard. “So one day, we decided to make a clear board. My dad is a robotics engineer, and he suggested we use a bulletproof glass. We had no aspirations of starting a company. We were 15.”
When Sven began attending CSUSM a few years later, “I grabbed the clear-deck skateboard and started riding it around. People started asking me where I got that, asking if I could sell them.”
Sven and Cody decided to make two new, improved prototypes. “It was perfect. I started riding around and people were taking notice.”
He consulted with several CSUSM professors for tips on running a business and forming a corporation. Jelly Skateboards was born.
Boards are manufactured in Minnesota and the wheels are made in Oceanside. Sven puts them together in his coastal condo.
“It’s crazy,” he reflected. “At this moment, I have 400 boards in my living room.”
Said Cherry of his students: “They took a step off the edge and into the unknown of running their own business and selling their own product.”
“We want our students to make an impact on this region, and to make an impact you have to do something. We encourage our business students to take calculated risks and put into practice what they’ve learned in a classroom.