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NC State Alumni Named in Forbes 30 Under 30 List

students working on a project in a garage

By: Tahirah Siddiqui

[lead]Having a general knowledge of entrepreneurship allows students to create more and better opportunities in areas they are passionate about.[/lead]

NC State Entrepreneurship serves as a unifying hub for all entrepreneurial endeavors at the university. It brings together 15 campus programs that all share the goal of enhancing NC State’s reputation as leaders in entrepreneurship education and offers students the chance to take big, bold ideas and run with them. NC State’s Entrepreneurship program is ranked 11th in the nation, and the top North Carolina school, for undergraduate entrepreneurship according to The Princeton Review. Recently, the program received other accolades for their distinguished alumni. NC State Entrepreneurship celebrated the naming of several alumni to the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 list.

One student named to the list was former Mechanical Engineering alumnus, Sean Maroni. He has always believed in learning by doing, which served as inspiration for his company BetaBox. Maroni and his team partner with companies like Red Hat and Texas Instruments to bring hands-on experiential learning opportunities to students through his on-site field trip start-up. During his time at NC State, Maroni participated in a number of entrepreneurial experiences, including the Entrepreneurship Garage, which serves as a venture creation and prototyping space designed for student entrepreneurs. Maroni notes, “In the early days of the garage, the student-driven feel of the facility was very empowering.” He explains the facility allowed students to organize clubs, gave them a place to explore their ideas on their own schedule, and even provided opportunities to build bonds with other students which “gave many of us the confidence needed to kickstart entrepreneurial careers.”

Also named to the 30 Under 30 list was International Studies alumna, Leigh-Kathryn Bonner, who in 2014 founded her company, Bee Downtown, which partners with businesses in cities to help save the honey bee populations. She has developed partnerships with many big-name companies such as Burt Bee’s, Delta Airlines, IBM, and Chick-Fil-A. Jennifer Capps, Director of Student Learning and Faculty Development for NC State Entrepreneurship, mentioned, “Bonner was always interested in bees but was trying to figure out a way to execute her ideas during her time in school.” NC State Entrepreneurship provided Bonner with the outlet and knowledge to take her passion to the next level. Bonner believes Bee Downtown is a simple and easy way to get employees of renowned corporations to become involved in a sustainability initiative and make an impact in their communities.

For those students who wish to explore a career in entrepreneurship, Maroni offers some advice. He suggests, while students

work to finish their degrees, they begin developing an understanding of basic personal finance before starting their company. “Starting companies is hard and your first company is always going to be more emotionally taxing. It will feel like your kid and you will want to help even at the expense of your personal well-being. By having a basic understanding of credit, budgeting, investing, and taxes it will be less likely that you’ll find yourself in a negative financial position.” Maroni also notes, courses like EI 201 Exploring Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurial Thinking, provided him with great learning experiences. “I really jumped into the assigned projects, and found that the project-based nature of the class really aligned with the real-world experience of building companies.”

Entrepreneurial skills are highly popular and beneficial in every academic field. Over the years, students across multiple disciplines have come together to participate in entrepreneurial experiences at NC State such as Entrepalooza, the Lulu eGames, and the Albright Entrepreneurs Village. As more students from all majors are becoming increasingly interested in entrepreneurship, NC State’s faculty aim to provide more and better resources to ensure all students are able to pursue their interests. One such avenue is the Undergraduate Certificate in Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship. The certificate allows students to incorporate elements of entrepreneurship into their choice majors and minors and is accessible to all undergraduate students. It provides students with opportunities to get involved in the field while actively pursuing their degrees. In the past “the lack of schedule space for elective courses may have discouraged students from discovering fields like entrepreneurship,” explained Jennifer Capps. Which is exactly why opportunities such as the Certificate in Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship were created. She further explained the field of entrepreneurship is extremely applicable in the real world and encourages students to take introductory entrepreneurship courses, such as EI 201, to gain an understanding of the depth and relevance of field. For more information on Entrepreneurship at NC State, please visit the Entrepreneurship website.

This post was originally published in DASA.