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2017 SPARKTank Winners Share 3 Pieces of Advice

The Best Time to be a Brandeis Entrepreneur is Now

SPARKTank winners share three pieces of advice and why now is the best time to take the risk

 Judges and participants from the 2017 SPARTank CompetitionThe idea of becoming an entrepreneur can often conjure feelings of uncertainty and fear. It can seem like a daunting, unknown journey – and one that is hard to embark on alone. Thirteen teams of Brandeis University entrepreneurs recently took the plunge.

In February the teams pitched startups, technologies, applications and platforms at the annual SPARKTank event – a live startup competition. The teams hoped to secure a portion of the $50,000 grant pool in order to further their entrepreneurial dreams. 

We sat down with Donald Son of HerbDx, a company that looks to standardize the regulation and dosing of medicinal and recreational cannabis; the team of WorkAround, a platform designed to provide Syrian refugees with the ability to complete simple data tasks to generate income; and Aaron Cooper of R.E.S.T. – a team that wants to create virtual reality experiences for tourists that will educate and minimize harmful effects on the world’s natural wonders. Participants in these funded ventures weigh in below to share their experience, give advice and tell you why you should also take the plunge now.

Seek a mentor. In fact, seek many mentors. Ask faculty, peers and industry professionals for advice. They can help you hone your great idea and will give you an outsider’s perspective.

“One of the most helpful things was to pitch over and over again to multiple mentors. It helped us understand what was already clear and what we needed to do a better job of explaining.” – WorkAround

“Just being able to meet with a new set of mentors helped us to redesign our pitch to make it punchier and more relevant. It elevated what we were talking about and our team really congealed in the process.” – R.E.S.T.

“The mentors’ suggestions for creating slide decks, pitching ideas and beyond were extremely helpful. All these people contributed to our success.” – HerbDx

Trust your instincts. Remain passionate about your idea. Believe in it and in yourself.

“One of the most valuable things to hear was that we were going to get a lot of advice, and often that the advice might be contrary. We as a team had to be comfortable trusting our own instincts on following or not following certain advice, while not letting it impede our progress.”– WorkAround

Even if your idea doesn’t succeed, the process will shape you. Don’t get hung up on failure. The skills you develop throughout the process will impact other areas of your life and help prepare you for different experiences.

“The skills you learn will translate to your job. It will help you plan and pitch your ideas for advancement and meeting goals. Going through a process and sticking to your plan, all while looking for possible pivots, will prepare you for your professional life as well as any personal challenges you may encounter. The goal is to create a business, but the process is important and fun.” – HerbDx

Don’t wait. Now is the best (and least risky) time to delve into entrepreneurship.

“The SPARKTank event was a very positive experience for our team because it was intimate and supportive. Pitching to a crowd of likeminded entrepreneurs from all areas of Brandeis University – people who share a similar passion for innovation – is an incomparable opportunity to have as an undergraduate. The ability to collaborate with three exceptional women from The Heller School and to compete with and learn from the faculty and staff has opened my eyes to the impact one can have while being a student if one utilizes the resources offered by the university.” – WorkAround

“It's a really great learning experience. I didn't think I would have this opportunity while still in school. It’s amazing to have access to the resources available here, to this networking opportunity and to be able to grow within a school setting. It has opened my eyes to a lot of opportunities that are available. I'm glad I'm doing it now.” – R.E.S.T. 

SPARK, a grant sponsored by the Hassenfeld Family Innovation Center, was designed to encourage and support the thriving entrepreneurial spirit in the Brandeis community. Learn more about HerbDx, R.E.S.T., WorkAround and the other teams who will receive funding this year.