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Budding Entrepreneurs Get an Assist from the Lavin Entrepreneur Program

Leonard Lavin with students

Leonard Lavin (far right) with students from the Lavin Entrepreneur Program. Photo by Dave Siccardi

In 2008, the innovative Lavin Entrepreneur Program was developed for SDSU juniors and seniors with entrepreneurial aspirations regardless of major.

Now in the process of recruiting its seventh class of budding entrepreneurs, the two-year program accepts only 15 to 20 students who apply each year based on their grade point average, communication skills, entrepreneurial predisposition and leadership capacity. Transfer students are also eligible, provided they are SDSU students when fall semester commences.

The program was created by the university's Lavin Entrepreneurship Center to provide students with the resources that allow them to build networking skills, develop business plans, meet and learn from business leaders and gain access to mentoring from industry leaders. For example, students in the program were able to interface one-on-one with the program sponsor and namesake, Leonard Lavin, the successful entrepreneur and founder of the Alberto-Culver Company. Students also met with Stephen Cloobeck, CEO of Diamond Resorts International, as well as Stephan Aarstol, founder of Tower Paddle Boards and contestant on the television show, Shark Tank.

It isn't the talent one has or the idea, but the passion and desire to achieve it and overcome the obstacles with sacrifice.
Michael Gamboa ('09, marketing)

And the students reap the benefits, according to program alumnus Steven Hunt ('12, management), who said: "The Lavin Entrepreneur Program was one of the most rewarding programs I have been a part of at San Diego State. The program has opened the door to many alumni and business men and women who I still keep in contact with and refer business to and from today."

Another Lavin Entrepreneur, Mark Bowden ('11, management) praised the program as inspirational as he moves forward with his gourmet tea business, Tea & Trumpets. "The Lavin Entrepreneur Program nurtured my entrepreneurial spirit which has guided me through my time in the corporate world and, now, as I start my own business," he said.

Stephen Cloobeck in a meeting with students

Stephen Cloobeck, founder and chairman of Diamond Resorts International, talks to the Lavin Scholars.

Like Mark, many of the alumni of the Lavin Entrepreneur Program have gone on to start their own businesses or become founding members of start-up organizations. In many instances, these individuals have turned a hobby or skill that they are passionate about into their career that has been the key to their success. As Michael Gamboa ('09, marketing), inaugural program student and MG Marketing owner noted: "It isn't the talent one has or the idea, but the passion and desire to achieve it and overcome the obstacles with sacrifice."