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Entrepreneurship Day showcases SDSU innovations

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Giovanni Reyes, Staff Writer

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As Entrepreneurship Week got underway, current students and alumni gathered on campus for Entrepreneurship Day, or “E-Day” to showcase their products and ideas. The Lavin Center coordinated the event, which took place on March 10 on Centennial Walkway.

One of the companies that attended the event was Pura Vida, a bracelet company with SDSU roots.

“The founders of Pura Vida went down to Costa Rica on a senior year surfing trip. They met two local artisans and brought back several hundred bracelets. They sold incredibly well here, so they contacted the artisans and decided to sell them stateside,” said junior environmental science major Justin Causey, sales representative for Pura Vida. SDSU alumni Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman launched the company several years ago.

The company’s target demographic is women and young girls between the ages of 10-25.

“We just established a new clothing line as well, building on our success with the female demographic. We do have a few male products though,” Causey said. Currently the company is in the process of expanding into new western markets like Canada and Italy.

Pura Vida also partakes in charity work. Since 2010, it has raised over $700,000. Charities that collaborate on unique designs receive one to five dollars per bracelet purchased. Some examples include “Saving the Dolphins” and “Recovery for Fukishima” for Japan in 2011.

In addition to apparel, other companies at E-Day offered products like iPhone apps and healthy food options. Shakesmart, a company that sells protein shakes and other healthy foods at SDSU also attended the event.

“When we founded Shakesmart, there was a very large void of healthy options here at San Diego State. We wanted to offer something unique that would meet that niche while still being within students’ budgets and lifestyles,” said 2012 alumnus Martin Reiman, founder and executive vice president.

Shakesmart’s strategy has been to target college students with an emphasis on a combination of taste, nutrition, and affordability.

“Now that strategy moving forward has been to appeal to universities and military bases because that is where we see demand for tasty, high quality, and low-cost healthy shakes to eat on the go,” Reiman said.

The Lavin Center has helped the company on the technical, business side of the process as well as getting it involved in business plan competitions that helped refine the materials that are required for expansion and financing.

Shakesmart differentiates itself by focusing on higher amounts of protein with a balance of other nutrients.

“With a smoothie, you are getting upwards of 80 grams of sugar,” Reiman said. “With us you get 30 grams of protein, and only a third of the grams of sugar from a typical smoothie,”

Other innovative food items were culturally themed.

“We wanted an authentic Hispanic flavor on campus. Rubio’s and Chipotle’s are not authentic in being representative of our culture,”  said junior international business major Joel Lopez, founder and CEO of Aye! Que Rico!

“Coming from Los Angeles, the dynamics are more diverse and rich. The inspiration from my grandmother helped, passing down family recipes.”

Lopez said Aye! Que Rico! first targeted the Hispanic population and found it was an idea that resonated across cultural lines to other demographics. Now as a catering company they target all student organizations. Currently, they are looking into expanding across the CSU system.

Many of the entrepreneurs discussed the challenges of founding a startup. “People say anybody can make bracelets, when in reality these are carefully handmade in Costa Rica” Causey said. “These are not your typical friendship bracelet, they are of such high and original quality, marketing this has proven a unique challenge.”

For others, it was knowing where to start.

“For us, it was how do we sell on a college campus as that dives into several categories,” Lopez said. “Thankfully, the Zahn Innovation Platform provided mentorship, milestones (and) guidance to help us (get to) where we are today.”

This is the seventh year the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center has hosted Entrepreneur Day. They will also be hosting the VentureStart Competition Finals at 4:15 p.m. on March 17 in the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union.

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