THE CLICKING OF LAPTOPS in the quiet, urban-industrial office belies the frenetic pace of growth at Nui Foods LLC, the keto-friendly cookie enterprise founded in 2016 by Cal State Fullerton alumnus Victor Macias ’09 (B.A. business administration-entrepreneurship) and business partner Kristoffer Quiaoit.
Macias caught the entrepreneurial bug in kindergarten, when he bought bags of candy and resold individual pieces. “I’ve always wanted to be in control of my destiny,” he says.
He chose CSUF for its entrepreneurship program in Mihaylo College of Business and Economics, and quickly discovered a new world of opportunities through the college’s Center for Entrepreneurship — a hub that John B. Jackson, center director and lecturer in management, calls “an umbrella for all things entrepreneurial.”
The center connects students in the entrepreneurship major, minor or MBA concentration with expert faculty, alumni, companies and individuals who mentor or “hire” them for consulting projects. Students also engage with entrepreneurship-related student groups and residents in the CSUF Startup Incubators — off-campus workspaces with resources to help entrepreneurs launch their business concepts.
“Studying entrepreneurship at CSUF helped me get ready for new venture creation and gave me confidence,” says Macias.
“It connected the classroom with real life — especially the consulting projects.”
The center and entrepreneurship curriculum exposed Macias to people and ideas he’d never seen before, including the lean startup model — start small, collect data and scale — that he and Quiaoit are now using to build Nui.
Success From Scratch
The keto cookie was concocted in Quiaoit’s mom’s kitchen, the result of tinkering to create a sweet treat the entrepreneurs could eat on the keto diet they were both following. Thinking others might like it too, they posted a web page and decided that if they sold 15, it would be a viable idea.
They sold 30 and were on their way. Using customer feedback, they tweaked the recipe and added flavors; three years later, the almond-based, low-carb, low-sugar, gluten-free cookie is a sensation. The two got a deal on “Shark Tank” in November 2018; now they are scaling up and are on target to be a $3 million business in 2019.
Macias and Quiaoit are only two of the thousands who have benefited from the Center for Entrepreneurship since its inception in 2001. Roughly 200 students study entrepreneurship each semester.
“The center’s interaction with the local entrepreneurial community attracts great consulting talent to Mihaylo College,” explains Morteza Rahmatian, dean of the college. “Its work results in particularly beneficial relationships and interaction between these seasoned businesspeople and aspiring entrepreneurs launching new ventures.”
Charlesetta Medina ’10 (B.A. business administration-entrepreneurship), the center’s consulting entrepreneur-in-residence, secures these mentors and clients for the student consulting program that is key to the entrepreneurship curriculum. The program competes in the National Small Business Institute Consulting Project competition — it has won 12 national championships — and has served more than 2,280 Orange County firms.
Retired marketing executive Bob Godlasky has mentored students since 2008. He enjoys sharing what he’s learned in a lifetime of business and says that volunteering keeps him young.
“What’s special about the Center for Entrepreneurship is the integration that JJ (Jackson) brings to the ecosystem,” explains Godlasky. “Academia, business owners and business leaders are all part of this ecosystem and are available to support students.”
Sue Mehta ’07 (B.A. business administration-entrepreneurship), founder of One Realty Group, not only mentors but has used the student consulting services.
“I decided to mentor because I felt like I had something to contribute,” she explains. “I had started up a few successful companies and could give back. I’m making a living as an entrepreneur, and that is success in my mind.
“I became a client because I felt there was no better way to get assistance and also contribute to CSUF. The consultation got us thinking about changes we needed to make, and we ended up implementing one of the student recommendations.”
Pitching A Hit
The Center for Entrepreneurship is unique in its ability to support entrepreneurs at any stage of development.
Junior Kylie Toney arrived at CSUF with a prototype in hand — a helmet to help reduce youth concussions. Her struggle was balancing the thrill of entrepreneurship with the pressure to pursue a less risky career. Talking with Medina helped her clarify her career path.
Toney was accepted into the Titan Women Collective, a group focused on supporting and mentoring aspiring female entrepreneurs. She’s excited about receiving customized mentoring and learning how to maneuver effectively through the male-dominated entrepreneurial landscape.
“I’m a resource to all students who interact with the center in any way,” says Medina, who co-founded the collective. “I help students think through career options, and get them comfortable with the entrepreneurial mindset and selling the skill set they acquire from the degree.”
That skill set includes proficiency in all areas of business due to the program’s interdisciplinary nature. It consists of problem solving, leadership, teamwork and gaining self-awareness — skills that apply to any career. This is important, Jackson explains. “It’s rare that a student is ready for entrepreneurship right out of school.”
Senior Leo Gomez may be that exception. He recently pitched a dog toy concept to his entrepreneurship classmates; based on the positive response, he decided to apply for residency at the CSUF Startup Incubator.
“I chose to be part of the incubator because I wanted guidance,” Gomez explains. “I didn’t know if I had the right information on my own to make my idea a business. Connections, and getting advice from people who have done it many times, are other pluses of being in the incubator.”
Jackson established the incubator realizing that students needed more than classes and center resources to launch their businesses. The initial location in Placentia is managed by Travis Lindsay ’07 (B.A. economics and business administration-finance), and the expansion location in Irvine is run by Phillip Stinis ’11 (MBA entrepreneurship). Both provide residents with customized support for six months, including a mentor specific to their needs and a student consulting team, for a fee of $5,000. More than 50 startups have been helped to date.
Jackson knows there are entrepreneurial-minded students not just at Mihaylo but across campus. He is a strong advocate for cross-disciplinary programs and studies, and strives to have the Center for Entrepreneurship provide such opportunities. The “Starting and Managing a Professional Practice/Small Business” course is offered for students who are not entrepreneurship majors, and programs like the CSUF Startup Competition are open to students of all disciplines.
“Entrepreneurship is a way of thinking — it’s challenging the status quo,” says Jackson.
For more information about entrepreneurship at Cal State Fullerton, contact the Center for Entrepreneurship at firstname.lastname@example.org or (657) 278-3464.