A Q&A with three BYUH student entrepreneurs

Written by: 
Gosuke Kawano

We did a Q&A with three entrepreneurs who were recommended by former Enactus President Katherine Christensen for their business projects in 2017.

Cameron Van Wagoner

 

A Pacific Island studies alumni from Provo, Utah with an entrepreneurship certificate. He graduated in Feb. 2017.

 

Q: When did you become interested in entrepreneurship?

 

A: “I didn't know what entrepreneurship was before BYUH. During my first semester as an education major, I decided that I wanted to change my major to Pacific Island studies and go back to Tonga to help the young men there. I needed a way to support myself in a developing country so I figured I would have to start a business. When I explained all of this to my wonderful academic advisor, Rowena Reid, it seemed she stuck me into as many entrepreneurship classes as she could. But after attending the first one I was hooked. I loved it, got into it and have never looked back.”

 

Q: What is the project you have been working on?

 

A: “Right now I am in Vava'u Tonga working on a couple businesses, among other things, that will improve the tourism industry here while supporting a youth program that aids and empowers Tonga's at-risk young men.”

 

Q: What do you like about creating your brand or business?

 

A: “It's actually kind of addicting in some ways. I've been an adrenaline junky for most of my life, and coming up with ideas and then making them a reality bit by bit is exciting in a similar way to me. ... It's challenging and takes ages, but if it was easy, it wouldn't really be worth it. So the challenge in itself is something I like.

 

“It's like a big real life video game in some ways. You're on a mission, have objectives, and have to figure out how to get them done.”

 

Q: Who have you become because of what you’ve accomplished with your business this year?

 

A: “To me, all challenges are heat in a refiners fire. The more challenges you have the purer you become, if that makes sense. It's like having all of the damaging or useless aspects of your life stripped away because they're simply not an option for overcoming the challenges you face.

 

“I don't know if any of that makes sense, but that's how I feel. I feel like a purer more refined me.”

 

Q: What is your business goal in 2018?

 

“Survive. … Other than that, get one of my startups off the ground and employ over 10 people with it.”

 

Q: What advice do you have for students who are hesitant to start a business?

 

A: “If you want to learn about it, learn about it. What do you have to lose? BYUH is probably one of the best places in the world to do that.

 

“I know a lot of people who get sold on the entrepreneur hype, but that's as far as they go. They get on the hype for about a year, make some rash decisions - which works out for some people - and then settle for something else.

 

“That doesn't seem like the smartest thing to do, and maybe it's not, but who cares. What do you lose? So what if you "waste" a year of your life? You've probably wasted more than that already. But what if by some chance it actually works out?”

 

 

Elvin Jerome Austria Laceda

 

A sophomore from Pampanga, Philippines studying political science and minoring in entrepreneurship

 

Q: When did you become interested in entrepreneurship?

 

A: “I was raised by industrious and hardworking grandparents. They are my influence in life. When I was in grade school, I helped my grandpa sell chickens, fish, and vegetables. My grandma is a very good cook. She cooks for birthdays, feasts, and she can make anything delicious. She told me that we have the DNA of good cooks. In fact, our province is considered the culinary capital of the Philippines.”

 

Q: What is the project you have been working on?

 

A: “RiceUp for Filipino Farmers is my baby. It is a social enterprise that aims to bridge the economic gap between farmers in the Philippines and the market. We developed a logistical system and an app that farmers can use to directly connect with their consumers. We restore the power back to the farmers by enabling them to become entrepreneurs, by teaching them principles of self-reliance, helping them embrace the advantages of technology, and enriching their lives through integrated family farming. We are also encouraging young people be proactive in agriculture.”

 

Q: What do you like about creating your brand or business?

 

A: “Starting a business is like ‘farming,’ it is similar to planting a seed, identifying which type of fruit you want to harvest, carefully deciding where you plant it, considering the environment and lots of factors for it to grow well and become fruitful. It is not easy, but it is possible! When you see it grow through the challenges, you'll feel satisfied and delighted to do more. Challenges spice the experience as well.”

 

Q: Who have you become because of what you’ve accomplished with your business this year?

 

A: “I always say, I cannot do this without my team. They are the wheels of the business. RiceUp is unique because it is a hybrid enterprise where we incorporate social cause in doing business. We put people first and put passion in it. I am so blessed to have been given an opportunity to lead and serve with amazing students from all over the world, but still I am imperfect, trying to do good. BYU-Hawaii and the Willes Center for International Entrepreneurship, along with hundreds of donors, are our "enablers." Without them this project would not be possible. Salamat for them.”

 

Q: What is your business goal in 2018?

 

A: “Our business goal is to be consistent in our vision, to deliver our promises to the farmers, to help them increase their income by more than 150 percent from the weekly $14 of income. We plan to establish a RiceUp Farm School that will serve as a tech hub and training center for farmers and seedling bank for affordable vegetable seed. This will innovate the rural community. After six months, we will present this to the government and other partners for replication to another 10 more villages. We also plan to fully operate the first ever mobile app that caters to young people and farmers in directly selling their produce in the local market and nearby cities.”

 

Q: What advice do you have for students who are hesitant to start a business?

 

A: “First commit to empower yourself, ask yourself what kind of future you want. Observe your environment and be ‘anxiously engaged in good works.’ I could never start RiceUp without first being aware of the challenges facing my community.”

 

 

Carolina Beristain Cruz

A freshman from Oaxaca, Mexico studying business management


Q: When in your life piqued your interest in entrepreneurship?

A: “I started business when I was in middle school.”

Q: What is the project you have been working on?

A: “The products such as clothing and shoes her team deals with are all handmade and modest. She said she felt the need to study about the topic of what she would like to launch, and she started creating the group of people for her business after she came to BYUH. Her team is now working on creating business website along with social media to sell products on Amazon and their own website. For now, her team is selling only women’s products.”

Q: What do you like about creating your brand or business?

A: “I love it, I love everything about it. When you like something, you are willing to learn everything about it. I love my team, and the spirit they have. They are very motivating. Without my team, I cannot do anything.”

Q: Who have you become because of what you’ve accomplished with your business this year?

A: She said doing business has helped her become “patient.” She said, “Everything is about the Gospel. It’s not about the business, but the Gospel. You have to believe that things will go well.”

Q: What is your business goal in 2018?

A: “Have a website and start selling on the internet.”

Q: What advice do you have for students who are hesitant to start a business?

A: “Go ahead and do it. You might be busy, but if you love it, it’ll be easy.”

Date Published: 
Friday, January 19, 2018
Last Edited: 
Friday, January 19, 2018