Apr 23, 2019
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Fresno State’s Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship provides programs to assist and guide students developing their own businesses. Yocelin Gallardo / The Collegian

Lyles Center helps student entrepreneurs

Fresno State graduates and current students aren’t about to let the bad economy stop them from succeeding in the field of business.

According to government studies, the national unemployment rate was 7.8 percent in the past months, but Fresno’s unemployment rate was just more than 13 percent.

Fresno State’s Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship provides assistance and guidance to students to develop their own businesses.

“They are very aware,” said Casey Lamonski, project coordinator for educational outreach at the Lyles Center. “They are aware they are creating jobs. They are creating their job — and jobs for their peers.”

Fresno State provides programs to guide and advise students on the steps to take and the benefits of becoming a business owner.

“If you get over the whole ‘what if I fail,’ you’ll be hugely successful,” Lamonski said. “So what if you fail? You’ll try again.”

The Lyles Center is a nationally ranked innovation and entrepreneurship center. It offers programs that help develop and give assistance to innovators to turn their ideas into businesses.

“You are your own boss. You don’t have to answer to anyone else other than yourself,” Lamonski said. “ You make your own hours. You can be as big as you want it to be or as small as you want it to be. The opportunity to grow and not be hampered by somebody’s corporate stuff is huge.”

Michael Slogget, a current entrepreneur major, is taking advantage of the Lyles Center’s Student Hatchery.

The hatchery program offers students and community members an office of their own to work on their business as students and offers guidance with counselor sessions.

Slogget, along with his childhood friend Brent Verdialez, developed Special Force Fitness, a style of unconventional bodybuilding. It was developed by Verdialez’s experience in the Green Berets. It is one of the most difficult workout regimens available, Slogget said.

“Something I created excites the heck out of me,” Slogget said. “When it’s your own touch and you get to add your spin on things and a collection of things you’ve observed, or things that you think are cool, and it might transcend to a lot of people — that is where my heart is.”

Being a student and an entrepreneur has been a challenge, Slogget said. But he knows it will be worth it in the end.

Slogget had previously dropped out of Fresno State when he discovered he would be a parent, but returned within a few years when he realized a college education was the best path.

“My daughter definitely inspired me. She is an inspiration with everything I do,” Slogget said. “With this business, I just want to grow it just to make her proud of me.”

There are some Fresno State graduates who currently have businesses.

Alana Little graduated from Fresno State in 2004 with a degree in business accounting. After graduation she moved to Los Angeles and received a degree in fashion design from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.

Then, Little moved back to Fresno and got a job in the corporate world. She was an accountant for Univision Radio in Fresno.

“I decided that wasn’t for me. I wasn’t happy,” Little said.  “Too many rules.”

After making jewelry to pass the time, Little discovered her passion for making homemade jewelry could be more than a hobby. In 2007, Make Pie Not War was launched from Little’s home.

Jewelry, made with raw, vintage material and handmade by Little, could be found in online stores.

A mom during the day and a businesswoman during the night, Little not only knows the importance being creative, but also the business side of a company.

“There are so many things you have to do when you are an owner, a one-man band,” Little said. “My advice is if you’re not good at something, hire someone that is good at it.”

Little’s creations have been profiled and sold throughout the country. Being published in some of the biggest magazines, including Lucky Magazine, is one of her biggest achievements, she said.

“I’m very thankful for my education at Fresno State. When you are getting your education, you kind of take it for granted — all this knowledge and wisdom you are getting,” Little said. “But I use my education every day. Creativity is something you naturally have. Business sense, most people have or don’t have. Fresno State fostered both in me.”

Business majors are not the only ones who are taking a jump into entrepreneurship.  History major Thomas Martinez is founder and owner of Reboot Custom Design.

Martinez uses old technology like floppy disks and old records to create bags, clocks and pencil holders.

You can find Martinez walking around campus with his most popular item for sale, his colorful, floppy-disk bag.

“Coming to college, I realized my job was not paying enough. So I needed to think of  an idea to sell,” Martinez said. “My little entrepreneurship came out and wanted to make bags and make other things from there.”

He sells his items through the Internet, which he said is beneficial to reaching international customers. He realizes more urban locations, like New York, are more interested in his products, so he has to adapt to that style.

Martinez has sent his products as far away as New Zealand. Recently, he sent his product to a Google employee who wanted his products.

“Financing has been a struggle, because I am a student, and also time,” Martinez said. “School, work and my actual job — and trying to have a social life all blend together. Seems like there is no time for all of it. So sometimes I have to sacrifice going out with friends to make a bag.”

The Lyles Center offers its services not just to students but also to community members who have the aspiration of becoming entrepreneurs.

“Yes, you do need the money to support the business and support yourself. But if you love what you do, is the money always the root of it?” Lamonski said. “Yes, but if you do what you love, it’s no longer work.”

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