Pomona Sage Tank Kickstarts Student Entrepreneurs

Pomona College students will have the opportunity to pitch their startup companies to a panel of Pomona alumni for funding tomorrow, May 3, at the first annual Sage Tank event. The Sage Tank, hosted by Pomona Ventures, the Office of Alumni Relations, and the Office of Major Gifts, is a part of Alumni Weekend activities. The panel will give students both criticism and advice on their ideas. If alumni find any of the businesses particularly intriguing or promising, participants may receive money to help kickstart their visions further. This year, four student groups are giving presentations. 

STARZYK is a startup focused on making it easier for people to shop for vintage menswear. Founder Jonathan Starzyk PO ’14 knew
he wanted to do something in marketing, whether it be in buying, merchandising,
or other sectors. When studying abroad in Australia at the University of Melbourne, where he experimented in classes unavailable in Claremont, he realized that he was interested in working in menswear retail. A media studies major, Starzyk realized how difficult it can
be to get a job in marketing nowadays, so he decided to provide himself with a job by creating an online retailer. 

“I had the
idea sophomore year,” Starzyk said. “I knew I wanted to do something with clothes. I didn’t know
how or what or where, or how I was going to pay for it, but my media studies
classes really helped me out. Media studies really allows you to do exactly
what you want to. Australia was great for that, too, because people there are
super fashionable and have great taste, especially in menswear.”

Looking at
what was missing from the market, Starzyk decided that his website would sell
vintage menswear. Thrifting clothes is something many find stressful and
unappealing. 

Starzyk himself said that he “hates going into stores and seeing all
that clutter.” 

The online STARZYK shop takes the stress and effort out of
thrifting, allowing customers to shop from the comfort of anywhere with Internet access at shopstarzyk.com. Since the pieces are thrifted, Starzyk sells items on an individual basis, guaranteeing unique merchandise. 

While
Starzyk recognizes the challenge of starting a company, he was eager to start
his website while still in college.

“I could
have waited until after I graduated, but here at school, my friends are like
free marketing,” he said. 

In the age
of social media, this is absolutely true. Starzyk’s classmates and friends not
only advertise for him, but are also his muses and models for the online store.

The Bitcoin Guys is a trio group that provides financial advising for people using Bitcoin, a
digital, peer-to-peer form of payment. Gator Adams CM ’17, Joseph Krug PO ’17, and
Christophe Rimann CM ’17 have been working together since 2011. Bitcoin is
decentralized, meaning it is not regulated by a single entity such as a
central bank. The group helps companies learn about Bitcoin and integrate it into their managements. The consulting is meant to help companies move ahead in electronic currency so that if Bitcoin or other electronic forms
of money take off, they will be prepared.

Amaterasu, or Terasu for short, is a team of four students: Max
Houtzager PO ’16, Nathan Falk CM ’14, Carina Fushimi PO ’17, and Sana Kadri PO ’16.
For their project, they developed a lifestyle Web publisher that draws from Californian, Japanese, and French cultures with an intersection of three core areas—outdoor
sports, food, and health—and an eye for unique design and media. 

“Made for,
and by, young outdoor enthusiasts, Terasu uses original videos and articles to
guide viewers through the cross section of pre-existing international
communities around the core areas to help them make more informed lifestyle
choices,” Houtzager said. 

The team members started successful food blogs and a mountain biking team, worked with the Claremont McKenna College Forum, and worked in VC outdoors sports media and marketing to
jump-start their idea.

“When we found out about Sage Tank, we knew it was an
amazing opportunity to move this project forward with great guidance and
mentorship from experienced people,” Houtzager said. “Despite having formed
this idea a month ago, we’ve come a long way in a short amount of
time. Pomona Ventures has acted as a catalyst to transform a passion
into a strong foundation for the future. We look forward to presenting on
Saturday.”

Succeed America is
a startup that focuses on teaching foreign students what to expect before they
come to the United States. The startup’s goal is to diminish culture shock, give students support, and
get them acclimated sooner; one of Succeed America’s founders, Yi Li PO ’16,
is from China. The blog attracted 600 viewers in its first two weeks on
the Web.

The Sage Tank will take place
from 10 a.m. to noon this Saturday, May 3, in Rose Hill Theatre at Pomona’s Smith Campus Center.

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