SACRAMENTO - You have probably never heard of Sacramento Entrepreneurship Academy, but the 600 students it has graduated since 1986 are a testimony to how hands-on mentoring can shape success.
"You know, we've got branding, we've got logistics help. We've had people pitching our idea to others," said recent U.C. Davis Ph.D. Billy Krimmel, who said he's had tremendous help from Sacramento Entrepreneurship Academy supporters.
Krimmel is trying to get customers and funding for his company Restoration Landscaping that offers water-stingy landscaping with native plants.
"We can offer a real restored wildflower meadow where their yard used to be," Krimmel said, as he pitched his business plan to Academy members at a Sac State gathering on Wednesday.
SEA picks a group of promising local college students each year, mostly from UC Davis and CSU Sacramento, to take the one-year course, which includes intensive Saturday classes and ongoing mentoring and support.
Another business plan incubated by SEA is Eat Simple, which has developed an app to guide people with Type 2 diabetes in creating healthy diets.
"They project that by the year 2050 one in three Americans will actually have diabetes," explained Nate Zanger, who added he and others in his start up hope to tap into a $280 billion market.
Tent Pals, another student project, is focused on low-cost tents that are especially easy to set up. The business plan is counting on the good will of customers -- for each tent they buy, one tent will be donated to the homeless community.
"So the manufacturing cost is low enough to where we are able to make two tents and still be profitable as a business and still have that cause of the homeless," according to project member Dante Wright, who said he already runs another business in the Bay Area.
Those who've graduated from SEA's one-year course often return to mentor a new generation of students once they've achieved success.
Audiovisual entrepreneur Guy Kowarsh said he recently was able to have lunch with Texas high-tech investor Mark Cuban because of his ties to SEA.
"It gives you direct access to the business leaders in the area, and so you become one yourself," Kowarsh said.
The guest speaker at Wednesday's event at Sac State featured Sacramento Republic FC owner Kevin Nagle, who shared his success story with attendees and offered tips on his success.
"When I jumped off and elected to do it, I was in my late 30s," Nagle said. "But I knew at that particular point, once I jumped in, there was no other option, we were gonna be successful."
Would-be entrepreneurs like Wright believe the concept of giving back they see from supporters is guiding their own direction in the business world.
"We've been able to learn how to start a business and we've been able to learn how to give back with our business," Wright said.