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Entrepreneurs, students, and supporters celebrated courage and innovation at the 21st Annual Sacramento Entrepreneurship Academy (SEA) Showcase Event. The sold-out event held on Tuesday at the Sacramento State Alumni Center recognized the recent accomplishments of SEA students.
SEA selects budding and future entrepreneurs to participate in their annual entrepreneurship program and business plan competition. Classmates learn about creating a business from successful Sacramento entrepreneurs. They form teams, develop a business plan, present their plan to business leaders in the region, and develop a trade-show like booth at the Showcase event. The program ends with a formal graduation in May.
“There's no better way to get your entrepreneurial juices flowing than to attend 8 months of four-hour Saturday sessions, where you get to engage in an intimate setting with some of the best business minds in the region,” current SEA classman, Eric Ullrich said in an email interview.
This year, two teams competed against each other for the best business plan and showcase booth. A representative from the team has two minutes to pitch their business idea to the audience.
KlickNation co-founder Mark Otero, who recently sold his company in a multimillion dollar deal with Electronic Arts, shared his story with the audience as the keynote speaker.
Otero grew up in South Korea and moved to Sacramento when he was 12. He later graduated from California State University, Sacramento with a degree in Computer Science and University of California, Davis with a Masters in Business Administration. He had a job for six years in corporate America before starting his own business.
He said, “I kept getting promoted. I hoped for an increment of happiness with the promotion increases.”
Instead he dreaded coming to work.
“I knew something had to change,” he said, “It’s fear that stops most people. It is very hard to overcome. It took me a year to condition my mind...once I got over my fear I started building momentum.”
In 2007, he opened Mochii Yogurt in Midtown Sacramento.
“Mochii Yogurt was a smashing success,” he said.
He sought his next entrepreneurial venture—video games. Mark and a few friends decided to start developing Facebook applications after Facebook created a platform for external application developers in 2007. He became obsessed with making KlickNation a success.
It took him 30 online product failures and $300,000 in debt before experiencing his first victory, Superhero City, in July 2009. He said that KlickNation was the first company to develop animated Facebook video games. Otero gave tidbits of advice for the entrepreneurs in the room.
“You have to believe in yourself to go through the process over and over again. You’re either a lunatic or you’re learning,” he said.
SEA classmate, Ashley Douglas, echoed that same notion.
“I guess the main thing that I've learned from this whole experience is that entrepreneurial ventures are derived from what a person is passionate about, and even if the idea doesn't seem like it will work out, you can make those dreams come true with dedication and perseverance. I've truly enjoyed all of the learning opportunities that I've received through the SEA,” she said in an email interview.
The SEA was founded 26 years ago by real estate developer Jim Corbett. The premise of the academy was “entrepreneurs replicate themselves.” A non-profit organization that began with five business professionals has grown to a board of over 15 entrepreneurs and business leaders representing a variety of industries from banking to clean technology.
Chris Chediak, co-owner of Weintraub Genshlea Chediak Tobin & Tobin, has been a Board of Director for 22 years.
“I like helping younger people. I like entrepreneurship so it combines both,” he said, “It is interesting to watch businesses forming and how people think of new businesses.”
Over 600 people have graduated from the SEA.
SEA classmate Tyler Campbell started his business, myCampmate, 2 years ago.
“I feel as an actual entrepreneur and business owner that I have learned from each and every speaker and presenter. I have enjoyed the connections and relationships that I have made, and plan to grow those over time,” he said in an email interview.
The SEA is accepting applications for next year.