T.W. Lewis Center Entrepreneur Bootcamp helps students develop personally and professionally
Are you a Barrett, The Honors College student with entrepreneurial aspirations? Are you interested in creating a business or marketing a product or service?
The T.W. Lewis Entrepreneur Bootcamp may be for you.
The Entrepreneur Bootcamp series exposes students to topics such as design, legalities, customer validation, team building, financial management and fundraising. Participants also develop a business/product pitch with help from entrepreneurs in the for-profit and non-profit sectors and receive one-to-one mentoring. Students with any major may participate in the bootcamp.
The first cohort of seven honors students completed the Entrepreneur Bootcamp this fall. Their ideas included developing wetsuits for adaptive scuba divers, making printer toner from recyclable plastic, creating a collection of candles to be sold online and in boutiques with proceeds benefiting mental health initiatives, and making an app for thrift store sales.
Courtney Klein leads the bootcamp. She is a Barrett, The Honors College alumna who earned bachelor's and master’s degrees in nonprofit management at ASU. She is a former co-founder, board member and CEO of Seed Spot, an organization focused on educating and investing in entrepreneurs who create solutions to social problems.
The Entrepreneur Bootcamp gives honors students the opportunity to try out their ideas and find out if entrepreneurship is a good fit, Klein said.
“The bootcamp helps students at the beginning of the entrepreneur journey and provides a pipeline for them to develop their ideas. Students can suss out their ideas and intentions. They can decide if entrepreneurship is for them and pursue support for their ventures,” she said.
The bootcamp culminates with a pitching session with professional entrepreneurs whose backgrounds complement the students’ ideas and interests, Klein said.
Normally, the pitching session would be in person, but due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the event was recently held via Zoom.
“It was very powerful to see students confidently presenting their ideas and responding positively to critiques,” Klein said.
The next Entrepreneur Bootcamp will be offered in spring 2021.
Students can apply to the Entrepreneur Bootcamp here. All a student needs to apply is a business idea (for-profit or non-profit). The sessions run from 10 a.m. - noon on Fridays, seven times throughout the semester.
The T.W. Lewis Center also will offer multi-disciplinary entrepreneurship courses next spring.
Tallin Speek, a sophomore in Barrett, The Honors College studying mechanical systems engineering at the ASU Polytechnic campus, participated in the inaugural Entrepreneur Bootcamp. He is working on a line of wetsuits for scuba divers with disabilities.
Scuba diving has been a part of Speek’s life since before he was born. His father proposed to his mother underwater while scuba diving and they were married beneath more than 200 hammerhead sharks off the coast of Costa Rica.
Speek was certified to scuba dive at the age of 10 and earned the professional certification of Dive Master at 18. He has dived more than 600 times, with extensive experience in the Caribbean.
“During normal times, I usually work down in Mexico as a Dive Master with this eccentric old fisherman named Oscar and sometimes with my older sister Raiatéa, who is also a professional Dive Master,” Speek said.
Speek’s first experience working with adaptive divers came in 2013 when he helped certify a quadriplegic diver named Topher. He also worked on the film The Current: Explore the Healing Powers of the Ocean, which featured adaptive divers, Jean-Michele Cousteau, son of Jacques Cousteau and Olympic Gold Medalist Missy Franklin. Speek helped with shoots, public relations and post productions on the film, which was co-executive produced by his father.
We asked Speek about his Entrepreneur Bootcamp experience. Here’s what he had to say.
How did you decide to participate in the T.W. Lewis Center Entrepreneur Bootcamp?
I’ve always had a passion for entrepreneurship and have had lots of projects that I struggled to bring to completion because of a lack of structure, knowledge, and mentorship.
I saw this bootcamp as a wonderful opportunity. After attending countless workshops, speaker series, and taking T.W. Lewis Center classes I knew that this program would be of incredible quality, value, and a fantastic opportunity for personal and professional development.
I appreciate the opportunities the Lewis Center offers so much that I am one of the founding student ambassadors as well as president of the T.W. Lewis Center Student Organization.
What is your entrepreneurial idea? How did you come up with it?
My idea is Ascent, a line of wetsuits for adaptive (physically disabled) scuba divers.
I was inspired back in 2013 when I was helping certify a quadriplegic diver named Topher, who like many other adaptive divers was adamant about putting on his own wetsuit. It took him more than 30 minutes.
Since helping certify Topher, I’ve met other adaptive divers, some who wake up two hours early just to get their wetsuits on themselves. This immense amount of extra effort is worth it when they are able to experience the underwater world where they are weightless and free from the gravity which normally amplifies their disabilities.
I want to create equipment that gives these people the same freedom as the experience. In the future, I want to expand this quick on-and-off wetsuit technology to other sports such as triathlons, surfing, and kayaking.
How did the bootcamp help you develop your idea?
The bootcamp connected me to an incredible (entrepreneur) network, brought in speakers with relevant real-world experience, surrounded me with similarly motivated peers, and opened doors to invaluable professional connections that have led to immense progress.
What benefits did you derive from participating in the bootcamp?
I was able to learn directly from proven successful entrepreneurs in a very intimate environment, I learned entrepreneurial skills that I have already applied, I created network connections I never would have without the bootcamp, I created relationships with fascinating peers from different campuses and majors, and I got to practice pitching in front of a panel of very successful people and get access to all of their networks and feedback.
What do you plan to do now to take your idea/product forward? What do you hope to accomplish?
Through the bootcamp I have made connections with mentors, partners, and manufacturers. Currently, I am working with a design team in Western Australia to further advance the physical prototype and eventually go into manufacturing with their connection to the largest wetsuit manufacturer in Taiwan.
In the future, I also wish to expand beyond adaptive scuba diving to other adaptive sports, as well as quick on-and-off wetsuits for able-bodied triathletes.
What would you say to other students who may be considering participating in the bootcamp next semester?
This is an incredible opportunity that is a win-win no matter what you come out with in the end. This course has the potential to shape your future path in life through impressive connections, knowledge, and experiences. I cannot express how fortunate we are to have access to something like this led by such qualified people with practically no barrier of entry. If you’re curious about entrepreneurship and want a lot out of life, what are you waiting for?