Two graduating biochemistry majors and an international MBA student took the top prizes in CLU's first Business Design Concept competition.July 14, 2014
Travis Domm (left) and Garrett Naumann graduated in May,
and Ying Lu expects to complete her MBA in August. (Brian Stethem)
Photo: Brian Stethem
What appeals to you about becoming entrepreneurs?
Travis: I’ve always liked building things. I’ve always been that way. I chose biochem as my major because I love science, but overall, the more I know about something, the more I can try to find a problem that’s there and come up with a solution to it.
Do you mainly want to pursue the concepts that won the competition, or are you thinking about other business ideas?
Garrett: Pursuing multiple ideas is possible. I think once you get something up and running and self-sustaining, you get that drive and itch to try it all over again.
Ying: The entrepreneurial style here in America is very creative. American people are not afraid to fail. But in China, if you fail, you’re done. We need to switch this idea.
How did you get started on this path?
Ying: I started my own online store that sells Korean-style clothing. I would buy the clothes in [South] Korea and sell in China, because Chinese people like to buy them, especially clothes from some TV shows and Korean movie stars.
I did it when I was an undergraduate, but I quit because now I’m studying abroad, and my partner runs the business. It’s very strongly competitive, because now a lot of people know, “There’s a way to earn some money.”
Have you started other businesses?
Ying: (Laughs.) I’ve had a lot of different businesses. The online store was the biggest one, and there were two other small businesses.
Travis: She’s got a bunch of businesses already!
Ying: Small businesses.
Garrett: That’s more than we’ve done.
How did you two start thinking seriously about starting businesses?
Garrett: I got swept into it with the Future Treps [entrepreneurs] club and talking with Rob Bueschen [’11] and the guys over there. They really helped take it from, “Oh, that would be nice,” to “We could probably actually try this out.”
Travis: The fact that you have the resources to actually do something vastly changes your outlook on it. Here, you have all the pieces of the puzzle, and you can just put it together.
Garrett: Plus the School of Management is willing to sit down and talk with us. The dean’s more than kind enough to take time out of his day, which is nearly impossible anywhere else.
What need does your business idea fill? Garrett?
Garrett: Right now, there’s no cheap and easy, pretty definitive salmonella test out there that gives results in a couple of minutes. My goal is making things safer. Instead of having to trust a lab, you can put the responsibility for safety in the consumer’s hands.
What exactly do you test with a strip? Who will use them?
Garrett: So, that juice that runs off of chicken is something that you could test. Anything that’s moist. I definitely see salmonella being a problem with pet foods. In addition to restaurants.
But when you actually go out to talk to people, you find out exactly what they want. What kind of product would they use? What are they likely to use again and again, as opposed to what theoretically works the best?
It’s fascinating that starting a company could be, in a way, part of a Cal Lutheran education, and not necessarily just for business majors.
Travis: I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for CLU and the connections from the professors and the people who they know from outside. At a small school like this, you become friends with your professor.
Who are you working with on the device you’re making?
Travis: I actually work with Garrett, as well as professors John Tannaci and Michael Quinlan.
Are other Cal Lutheran students approaching their education this way?
Travis: We’re trying to get more people to be entrepreneurs – and not to just go after becoming a doctor. You can have a business on the side. So, we’re trying to set an example.
Garrett: The Central Coast area has a lot of money, but a lot of it goes out and doesn’t get invested into the community. This place is as prime a place as any to make another Silicon Valley or San Diego area.
Ying, who are you hoping will use your secondhand clothing website?
Ying: A lot of people. For example, international students. My friends spend money to purchase a lot of clothes, and when we go back to our country, we need to sell some of them.
What will you do with your cash prizes?
Ying: I want to do some research, to see if there’s a way to trade clothes between America and China.
Travis: Re-engineering the prototype and possibly starting an LLC.
Garrett: For me, it’s money to actually create a prototype.
Help me to understand something. I thought new college graduates looked for job openings.
Garrett: I’ve gone to school for four years as a biochem major, and I’ve worked my butt off, and the best jobs I see out there are starting at $15 to $17 an hour. I feel like I’d much rather take this time in my life to risk it and see if I can make something a lot better.
CLU Business Design Concept Competition Winners
First prize, $1,000
Garrett Naumann ’14
For salmonella detection strips to prevent food poisoning
Second prize, $500
Travis Domm ’14
For a machine to distribute medication in thin film strips that are taken orally
Third prize, $250
Ying Lu, International MBA program
For an online market in women’s secondhand clothes and accessories
Maika Urasaki, Class of 2016
For a mobile hairstyling business serving the elderly in their own homes
The Future Treps student club hosted the event, and the School of Management awarded prizes. For more information on the business concepts, email Garrett, Travis and Ying at gnaumann@, tdomm@ and firstname.lastname@example.org.