Entrepreneur Day 2017: Brandman students rise to the challenge

Nov. 21 is Entrepreneur Day.

Assistant Professor Deb Ferber is among entrepreneurship’s strongest proponents and guides the MBA in Entrepreneurship program. Her recent webinar inspired several people to participate in a “pitch” contest at Cal State Fullerton, among them Alexxis Torres, who is working toward a degree in psychology, and Morais Burge, an MBA student. Burge is perfecting hair extensions. Torres is working on developing a medical detox system, but they share similar concerns. Here’s what they have to say about becoming entrepreneurs:

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

Alexxis Torres
Alexxis Torres

Torres: Life is too short to not follow your dreams.  My mother taught me this after her early death at the age of 46.  I grew up witnessing my mother achieve her dreams by being her own entrepreneur in the real estate industry.  She inspired me to create and live up to my own dreams while having fun and making a difference in the world.

Burge: Mainly, I draw inspiration from wanting to help others. I grew up in a home where my grandparents who were entrepreneurs were always helping people in our neighborhood. They were farmers who consistently provide produce to neighbors free of charge. Additionally, I have three uncles in New York and one in the Bahamas; they are all business owners.

What was the hardest part of becoming an entrepreneur

Morais Burge
Morais Burge

Burge: Identifying the target market for the product being offered and performing market research can be challenging. Even though the data is likely to be correctly defining trends, second-guessing or over-think the approach to successfully attract customers. Ideally, it is making decisions and knowing when they are correct or not.

Torres: Conquering internal and external fears.  In my own experience, I have run across multiple people that have advised me to take the easy way and not follow my dreams of creating my own business. At times, these “naysayers,” would create internal conflict that I would have to overcome and I would have to push myself to continue pursuing my dreams

How did you overcome those challenges?

Torres: Practicing gratitude. Being grateful helps me realize and appreciate the steps and growth that I have taken, and keeps things in perspective.  I practice the art of self-affirmation to replace my negative and fearful thoughts.  I also meditate and write down my visions to reaffirm what it is that I want to achieve.

Burge: I draw inspirations from others, especially, my wife is my biggest critic. She asks the toughest or most significant questions ensuring my theories are battle tested and well thought out.

What advice would you have for others interested in becoming entrepreneurs?

Hair by Vera
The webite for Morais Burge's company.

Burge: The world needs more people to solve our gravest issues. Be bold and bring your ideas to the forefront. Brainstorm with others … mind mapping is very useful tool to use to get your ideation flowing. Also, be sure to conduct in-depth market research; preferably sourcing government websites.

Torres: There is no straight line to success. Having a plan is great but also being flexible and open-minded is necessary.  There will be many lessons and curveballs, and the worst thing you can do is give in to your fearful and negative thoughts about where you think you should be, or how things should be going.

What do you see as the benefit of becoming an entrepreneur?

Torres: Being able to envision an idea or product that will make a difference and being able to offer that to the public is my passion.  Being a part of the growing economy and providing a safe and healthy workplace is what drives me.  Working your own hours, working for yourself, and living a creative life are all bonuses.

Burge: Helping others by innovatively bringing forward-thinking products and services to the marketplace to make people’s lives better, while ensuring it is not to the detriment of the environment.

 I always say entrepreneurs get into the business of bringing a product or service they deemed lacking in the marketplace with the intent of making a profit. However, this statement was missing “people” aspect and importantly the environment. Social responsibility and triple bottom line (a framework of social, environmental and financial costs and benefits) are important factors to consider as an entrepreneur.  

Do you think there’s an “entrepreneur” personality and do you fit the description? How so?

Burge: Yes, I believe there’s an entrepreneur personality. I have an optimistic mindset, drive to succeed or seen my ideas through to fruition, being tenacious, and most of all or equally important being persistent. I have been told on more than one occasion that exude all of these traits.

New Age Concept website
Alexxis Torres' website.

Torres: Being able to handle stress and our own limitations requires a lot of humility, a growth mindset, perseverance, and courage.  These are all characteristics we can all acquire if we want it bad enough, and are eager enough to learn. 

I believe I do fit this description.  Growing up with two parents who suffered from substance abuse and were in and out of my life, and experiencing traumatic events growing up, have prepared me to have these characteristics.  I have had to have a lot of humility as an adult, as I have had to battle my own PTSD and memories of a painful past, but it has all made me stronger, smarter and courageous. 



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