The first day Esteban da Cruz, a School of Management senior, walked into the College of Arts and Sciences classroom that was holding the bi-weekly meeting for the Entrepreneurship Club, he was surprised to see two things: its incredibly small membership and its remarkable potential. He had heard about the club from his friend and fraternity brother who was the president at the time, two years ago when da Cruz was a sophomore. Recognizing what the club could be one day, da Cruz waited, observed and got ready to implement change when the time came for the club to have a new president.
Fast-forward two years. Da Cruz is both the proud president of the club and a student about to graduate, ready to enter the bitter business industry as well as to pass the club on to someone else’s leadership. The club now has a total of around 25 members on the executive board, with new faces joining every week. The club also has a website in the works and a social media presence growing rapidly.
“This semester, I see a lot more direction in what we’re doing,” da Cruz said. “I’m trying to implement a semester long, on-going program of mentoring, funding and access for students to be able to create a start-up.”
The Entrepreneurship Club was started in 2004 by Dave Bisceglia, with a focus on giving students an outlet for advice and mentorship in the realm of start-up businesses. The club’s main event is the “Start-Up Weekend,” which is their biggest and most successful occasion. It is a three-day affair in the ballroom of the School of Management where students have the ability to create prototypes for businesses, share ideas and converse with business owners and creators. Over the course of the three days, students are given the tools and the knowledge for creating a start-up company on their own.
In addition to the “Start-Up Weekend,” the club has a speaker series twice a month where students can learn about creating and running a business. Every other Thursday, the club holds a networking event at a local coffee shop, Venture Café, where students have access to share their ideas with professionals.
Aside from its bi-weekly meetings, the club has a large presence in the George Sherman Union as well as at campus job fairs and SPLASH, Boston University’s largest on-campus club fair. In addition, the club is constantly improving its virtual presence with a Facebook page, Twitter account and even an Instagram. The club’s new website should be completed by the Fall 2014 semester.
On Feb. 18, the club held an event called “The Entrepreneurial Experience,” where the co-founder and CEO of CustomMade, Mike Salguero, spoke to the members about raising capital and building a brand. CustomMade is a custom, online marketplace devoted to connecting each buyer with unique and one of a kind items.
The majority of the club’s members have one start-up in the works. But even if the members simply have an idea, the club’s purpose is to function as a way to communicate those ideas and turn them into something greater, something tangible. One of the club’s leaders works for a local company called Dorm Room Fund, a great example of student venture capitalism. The club’s Facebook page states that it is a “student organization that focuses on growing the entrepreneurial community at Boston University.” Its Twitter page stresses the slogan, “Empowering you to make your visions reality.”
Blair Lineham, a School of Management senior, joined the Entrepreneurship Club as a freshman, inspired by fellow students’ unique start-up ideas. In his freshman year, the club went through periods of ups and downs and was more focused on a handful of bigger events, rather than including mentorship and a speaker series.
“Early on when I started BU, joining clubs was a great way to meet people,” Lineham said. “Ideas slowly started coming to me and I loved the concept of having the freedom to create my own destiny.”
By his sophomore year, the club had more structure and Lineham became more involved. In his senior year, he became the Vice President of Operations and was in charge of organizing this semester’s speaker series. This past semester while Lineham was studying abroad in New Zealand, he moderated a panel called Company Culture and worked closely with the CEO of Boloco, a popular burrito restaurant franchise throughout Boston. In addition, he advises fellow club members on how to transform their ideas into a company.
There are three main criteria for choosing a speaker to participate in the club’s speaker series. These include being BU alum, having experience creating a start-up company and being young, energetic and inspirational.
“We choose speakers who can empower people,” said Lineham. “We want speakers on the younger side who are more motivated and who can inspire students.”
This past semester the speakers included Arian Radmand, the founder of CoachUp, which connects athletes to coaches as well as Bisceglia, the founder of both the Entrepreneurship Club and The Tap Lab, a social, mobile gaming company.
The club’s main goal is to act as a networking organization, advancing dreams of entrepreneurship for undergraduates. From meeting with successful entrepreneurs to sharing ideas with one another, the club is an easy way to build relationships with those in the small business world and start new business adventures. It is a completely student-based club organization, aimed at inspiring entrepreneurship across BU’s campus.
Da Cruz says he is committed to stepping up the club’s marketing and spreading the word about the melting pot that is the Entrepreneurship Club. As the president, da Cruz has a lot of responsibilities: acting as a mentor for the members, giving them advice, even holding office hours where they can get one-on-one help with him. However, da Cruz urges the members to seek help in one another.
“I like to keep it decentralized,” da Cruz said. “I encourage other members of the club to help each other so everyone can be learning new things and bouncing ideas off of each other.”
As da Cruz prepares to graduate, he is readying himself to enter the business world, gearing up to create his own start-up company. He has become more in touch with the business eco-system of Boston, mesmerized by the city’s rich supply of entrepreneurial talent.
“The people who are entrepreneurs in Boston have an energy about them,” da Cruz said. “You’ll have a hard time finding that elsewhere.”
Da Cruz currently works part time at a yoga studio as well as at local start-up company as an intern. In addition, he just went out on an interview for a start-up in Boston.
“I’m very interested in sustainability,” da Cruz said. “I don’t want to compromise the ability to improve the world. All I want to do is fix it.”
Lineham, like da Cruz, plans on graduating and remaining in Boston in hopes of working for a local start-up company. In the future, he plans on creating a business of his own, but he’s not sure what field he wants to explore yet. What he does know is that the club gave him an outlet to share ideas, get advice and become motivated to make change, he said. What really stuck out to Lineham about his four years in the club is the drive and charisma that all the members have.
“The enthusiasm and the energy stands out to me way more than an actual idea,” Lineham said. “People are so driven. It is incredible to watch.”