Dog poo – that is the commodity in which Jon Tucker ('09, marketing) built his first profitable business when he was still in high school.
The Simi Valley, Calif. native entered into the world of entrepreneurship before he'd even graduated high school. The first business to turn a profit was a pet-sitting service that continued operations even after he left town to attend San Diego State. "I ended up having a crew of three high school students did pet waste cleanup," said Tucker. "Yes, it was a bit of a crazy business, but it made good money. There have been national franchises built using the same concept, so maybe I wasn't crazy."
Tucker left Simi Valley to come to SDSU based on a vacation his family took to San Diego when he was in middle school. "We stayed with a friend's family at the beach," remembered Tucker. "I surfed for a week and I absolutely loved it, so I knew this is where I wanted to be. I was accepted at quite a few colleges, but SDSU was the only one I was really interested in."
The staff is great and the programs provided priceless learning opportunities
After his first semester at SDSU, Tucker shut down his pet clean-up service to concentrate on school and other entrepreneurship opportunities. He found his most valuable resources in SDSU's Entrepreneurial Management Center (now the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center) as he was pursuing new business ideas. "The staff is great and the programs provided priceless learning opportunities," said Tucker. "Bernhard Schroeder (Lavin Center program director) was one of the most inspiring mentors to be around."
Tucker was one of the first to apply, and be accepted, at the center's Lavin Entrepreneur Program, which is open to undergraduate students with the intent of preparing them for an entrepreneurial career. During the program, he was given advice and assistance from "extremely helpful and experienced mentors" which he used while starting his new website and marketing consulting business from his dorm room during his freshman year in 2005.
Staying involved in what's going on at SDSU keeps me excited and humbled at the same time. There are so many smart up-and-coming students, so I love staying connected with what's going on at the campus.
That business, Compete Marketing Group, now has 10 employees and operates out of an office in Poway, Calif. Even though Tucker and company are poised for success, he has not strayed far from his SDSU roots especially as a mentor and speaker in SDSU's Entrepreneurship Society and the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center. "Staying involved in what's going on at SDSU keeps me excited and humbled at the same time," he said. "There are so many smart up-and-coming students, so I love staying connected with what's going on at the campus."
It is not easy to leave the security of a full-time job to start your own business.
Yet, that is precisely what Jason Kirby ('10, management) did when he struck out on his own to pursue his passion – photography. He opened his studio, Right Light Studios, in December 2011.
But this is not your typical photography business that earns most of its income from still photos. While he earns some income from taking photos for corporate clients, Kirby earns much of his income by renting out his state-of-the art studio as well as providing online and live photography classes.
"My goal was to build a business that gave me the freedom to live the lifestyle that I chose at any given time in my life," said Kirby. "That is exactly what I have built and will continue to build throughout my life."
The skills I learned as an active participant on executive boards, maintaining good grades and pursuing business competitions […] were incredibly valuable when I first formed the company
Kirby, like all students at SDSU, was encouraged to get involved with organizations and competitions within the university and it is these activities that gave him the foundation he needed to initiate a successful business. "The skills I learned as an active participant on executive boards, maintaining good grades and pursuing business competitions, like the CIBER Case Challenge, Global Enterprise Experience and Lavin VentureStart, were incredibly valuable when I first formed the company," said Kirby, who was also part of the Lavin Entrepreneur Program at SDSU.
I remember Jason very well from several of my classes and even then Jason showed an incredible entrepreneurial driveMartina Musteen, Ph.D.
Kirby was also quick to credit business faculty members like Bernhard Schroeder, Martina Musteen and Jeffrey Glazer for providing him with crucial guidance in making important business decisions.
"I remember Jason very well from several of my classes and even then Jason showed an incredible entrepreneurial drive," said Musteen. "I remember he took advantage of all that our program had to offer. For example, he was a winner of the Global Enterprise Experience contest and performed very strongly in the CIBER case competition. I am very proud of his accomplishments as an entrepreneur."