Entrepreneurial organizations put students in business

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Biomedical engineering junior Juan Carlos Rodriguez started his own clothing line, Platypus T-shirts, last summer. He said his business is still in the startup stages and he is trying to market his apparel.

The University Entrepreneur’s Association hosted a symposium to help students like Rodriguez with startup ideas realize their goals Monday.

About 50 undergraduates and Austin business leaders networked at the symposium. Rhetoric and writing sophomore Nick Spiller, an event organizer and founder of UThinkTank.com, a social media site for students with entrepreneurial pursuits, said everyone has the opportunity to help each other.

Rodriguez said he wanted to create graphic T-shirts that had the right fit and felt nice. He said it takes initiative and the right connections to start a business.

“We’ll see where it goes,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not something I would do for the rest of my life but it’s something I like doing and seems like a good experience to try out.”

Clayton Christopher, founder of Sweet Leaf Tea, said he started his company on the worst business model in the world. He had no experience in the industry and his product had a two-week shelf life. He said most of the work in the beginning was miserable.

“There were days I thought if I could walk away from the business and not have filed for personal bankruptcy I probably would’ve done it,” Christopher said. “I’m so glad I didn’t do it because challenges build character.”

Christopher said the company started to grow when he started hiring people smarter than himself. For years, he said his ego got in the way of the company’s growth.

“Keep the ego out of the way in business and your personal life,” Christopher said. “It keeps you from reaching lots of joy and happiness.”

International relations sophomore Liuna Fekravar participated in 3 Day Startup, an entrepreneurship program to allow university students to develop a company in three days. She worked on a startup called Socialease, a business social network. Fekravar said she and a team of other students want to pursue another startup idea for 1 Semester Startup, a new course for undergraduates working on startups that engineering professor Bob Metcalfe is teaching in the fall.

“I feel students have lots of potential in terms of changing things with their startup ideas,” Fekravar said. “But without motivation they usually don’t get anywhere. With these entrepreneurial organizations, they motivate you to keep going.”